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.