Saturday, 25 May 2013

A5: S7 - The Annual Fire Purge

It's a weird time of year.

All classes are finished, and due to the Summer Ball being anything more than lacklustre, with nothing else for them here, 80% of the population have vanished back to their home counties, leaving the place a ghost town.

It's also rapidly approaching the day in which we have to move out.

This means tackling the monumental task of sifting through all the memories, hard work and  paraphernalia that have accumulated over a whole year's worth of living, and deciding what is worth bringing back home, and what just doesn't quite make the cut.

I've always been a hoarder, I suppose.

Because I've always built phases around my life, so as to remember with clarity the things which are important to me, I've always collected things that serve as memory queues. Flyers, napkins, posters, business cards, dried flowers. And anything with any form of associated memory, I've never been able to throw away.

That's why, before I came to University, I promised myself that at the end of every year, I'd have a massive purge, and be ruthless with these decisions. I don't want to be the same person as I was the year before, clutching at memories of long-stale friendships and incredible nights I don't ever want to forget, dragging forward the same problems and troubles. Pardon the melodrama, but I'd rather start over each year with absolutely nothing, and see what I can go forth to create from there.

But just 'throwing away' doesn't feel like a good enough fate for some of the memories. It may seem a little drastic, but the only real catharsis I can get from laying these memories to rest, is to watch them burn.

Last night began The Annual Fire Purge, the first stage of moving out.

It was a long and arduous process, and by the end I managed to produce 3 bags full of things for the fire. My house was empty as the rest of my housemates were elsewhere, putting their plans to place of returning home, so I took the bags over to next door where they'd already begun the fire.

The thing which fascinates me about fire, is its multi-sensory intoxicatingness.

There's something about the smell, the sound, the animalistic light it casts across people's faces as they surround it, and the way it consumes and consumes, eating away at anything near it, transforming it into an almost inexpiable golden blaze, that just captivates anyone in it's presence.

I pulled out notepad after notepad filled with now useless essay notes and powerpoint presentations full of lecture slides, watching at the flames curled the edges of the pages, my handwriting of such painstakingly thought-out words eaten slowly by the impending glowing orange. I found some Polish leaflets from when I went to Poland for the weekend with The Interesting Boys, and too watched them burn. I found endless print-outs of ukulele chords, songs I said I'd learn for Alex. Train tickets were a big thing. I didn't realise how many times and on just how many adventures I'd been on, and looking down at the bounty of little orange tickets, I could account for almost every single adventure. But they too, were given to the flames. Somehow, a photo of me had found its way into the bag. I looked at my face for a moment, then slowly let it slip through my fingers and spiral into the pyre, and watched as the flames crept across the melting paper and consumed me.

I emptied the bags and watched my past burn.

The fire burned on into the night, and it was almost dawn when we were done.

I didn't feel sad, as I thought perhaps I would.

I felt free.

Because collecting up these memories, bagging and binning them, waiting for them to be taken away and left to rot in a landfill or churned up in some recycling plant, doesn't seem a just enough end to what these things signify.

Burning them is final, finite. These memories are semi-immortalised as they lay on my walls or blue-tacked around my mirror. Everyday I look at them and smile, and remember. But one cannot dwell in the past forever, otherwise there is no time to be made for the present. Taking them to the fire is the next step toward their true immortalisation, within my head.

So as each material item, which has served as a memory queue for the past year, meet's it's inevitable death in the bright burning flames of The Annual Fire Purge, they are not lost. As the memory queue burns, the memory itself becomes burned within my memory, never to be forgotten, but only rarely now to be revisited.

Then with scarce a material possession to my name, but a whole lifetime's worth of knowledge, experience and memories firmly imprinted in my head, I can wipe away the ashes of the former life, and start with a blank slate, ready to build another year.



  1. I completely understand what you mean. I'm kind of the complete opposite of a hoarder as I do this kind of thing on a monthly basis. I can't bear to have things cluttering my environment because I feel like it's cluttering my head! But I can entirely relate to that feeling you get when you set it all on fire - it's freeing isn't it.
    Love your attitude and approach to live - so motivating!

    Flora x

    1. Thank you :)

      I've always had so many....things, so much so that when I find them again, I didn't even know I *did* have them until I re-discover them ! Then I guess there's just no point.

      I'm really trying to live a more minimalist life. Besides, I think richness of life comes from the fundamental value of few things, instead of the halfhearted value of a multitude of things :)

  2. That's beautiful! :) Once I read an article in NYTimes about someone that had lost everything off of her computer and hadn't had anything backed up. As awful as it kind of sounds, I sometimes wonder what it would be like. I get rid of a ton of my stuff every couple of months anyway though.
    xoxo Aimee

    1. That actually happened to me recently - our house got broken into whilst we were out and amongst other things my laptop got stolen... and I never had the forethought to back it up before...

      To be honest, I wasn't really that gutted. Before, the thought of losing it all was a tragedy, but just like family photo albums that line dust-covered bookshelfs... I didn't miss any of it because I was rarely aware that it was all actually there.

      The only thing which did suck though, was I lost 20,000 words of a novel I'd started :(

      Thanks for reading!

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