I unpack my suitcase, finally, slowly, after a week of avoiding this last admission that the trip is done. As each item emerges, I try to remember if it was worn in those last few days, after that last batch of laundry, before arriving in Chicago. What comes back to me are smells of dust, hotel, honey, airplane, memories.

This shirt smells like the coffee beans it was packed next to, and the fresh Ugandan air where it last hung to dry on a line out back of my parents’ house.

These pants are still rolled up at the ankles from the last walk through Kampala.

This skirt  – the one I wore every other day – is clean but wrinkled.

These jeans are crisp from the air of Istanbul.

My individual baggies of soap, headphones, socks, cough drops, and breakfast bars remind me of another reason I like to travel. Everything is compact, available. Everything you need is in a compartment with a zipper – and if it isn’t, you’re fine without it. No searching through files or dresser drawers or stacks of bills. No clutter. You head out for the day, knowing that there is a place to go and something will happen, and you have everything you might need for that day in a 3-foot radius.

This shirt: the drums.
This shirt: the river.
This shirt: the pineapple.

It’s like a treasure chest from the past – the past of only a week ago, but time has been strange lately. It feels like months.

This scarf: the spice market.
This sweater: the tea.
These gloves: the mosque.
This skirt: the hike, the flowers, the trees.

I don’t want to wash anything.

I want to fold everything back up and put it in the suitcase, so it’s packed again and ready to go.


3 thoughts on “Unpacking

  1. Michelle,

    Thank you for this. I too am just a few days home from a trip and finding it difficult to return to my day to day routine. I too am attempting to create new habits within the familiar landscape of home. I did not travel as far as Uganda, but to the desert spaces of West Texas. The skies were vast and the light exquisite.

    Great to know you are still working, exploring, writing, being.

    Love to you,


  2. So nice to hear from you, Temple! I’m in love, totally in love, with all the things skies can do. I’m glad you got to be under some big, open ones for a while. Would love to hear more about what you’re up to!

    Love back to you in your corner of the world,


  3. From an interview with Laurie Anderson in “The Believer” (http://www.believermag.com/issues/201201/?read=interview_anderson):
    LA: … When I was four, I was a kind of sky worshipper. I would look at the sky, and I wanted to evaporate into the sky—I loved the sky. I loved looking at the trees, just because they touched the sky. I’d think, I am that—

    BLVR: You were that. You are that.

    LA: I was that and I am that. And we’re all that. I knew that as a kid really clearly, and I never forgot that.

    BLVR: See—you are a theoretical physicist.

    LA: [Laughs] No, I’m a Midwesterner. That was our perfect landscape: 180-degree sky. There was not some big crashing ocean or big majestic mountains, just this flat thing made of sky, and it’s always been my absolute—my most comfort of anything…

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