Friday, June 15, 2007

Dead Letters

Part of our recent move was to clear out and pack up my old writing shed. I didn't build this shed--it was prefab, from a place on the road to Ithaca called Midway Sales--but I did lots of work in it, insulating and adding a woodstove and bookcases. When I got a job last year, I started doing most of my writing in my office at work, and the shed went unused for a while.

Long story short, I had forgotten that I left some birdseed out there, and mice got in. When I cleaned it all out last week, I discovered two dead mice, several nests, and mountains of mouse shit. A lot of stuff was ruined, including copies of my old books, some reference works, and, tragically, all my old correspondence. I'm talking about twenty years of letters--from family, friends, girlfriends, other writers*. There was no way to save them--the letters were packed tightly into a cardboard box, and the mice had mined the box for nesting material, and just pissed all over the place. It was thoroughly revolting. I briefly considered taking everything out that was remotely intact, photocopying it all, and keeping the copies--but we had to be out of the house in a few days, and I just did not see myself hauling the reeking bundle to work for the day. So out it went.

I can't say I regret this, but wow, I wish to hell I'd been more attentive and nipped this mouse thing in the bud. (I think I posted about it once before--I had noticed it earlier, but underestimated its severity.) Correspondence--it's a rare thing these days, you have to admit, and it's one of the few things I owned that was basically irreplacable. Someday I would have read those letters, but not anymore.

That said, I am pretty unsentimental, and don't even keep a journal, so the past, for me, is little more than what I can manage to remember. And there were a few letters in there I would probably have regretted rereading. At any rate they're all in the landfill by now, for better or worse, and I'm back to square one. Dang.

*One saving grace in all this is that I had all of Ed's letters and poems in a separate folder, which the mice didn't touch. Hope this doesn't disappoint you, Skoog--you are unpopular among rodents.


Anonymous said...

"photocopying it all, and keeping the copies"

What? Like Mailman?

That aside, there's something particularly toe-curling about reading letters that were sent to an earlier version of yourself. Probably best to have done.

jrlennon said...

Yeah, perhaps the whole move was little more than an ego-preserving measure. I wouldn't put it past me.