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Day -31 ~ Purging August 15, 2010

We were asking $30 for the old caribou hide based on the tag that was still affixed to the once proud nostril. Like a lonely Laplander, she locked in on the skin on a misty mid-morning, day two of our moving sale. She stroked it, gazing longingly into it's sanguine beauty. Then she saw the price. Crestfallen eyes, hands jammed into pockets, walking slowly out.

She was followed out. Hushed discussion with the older man she came with.

"Excuse me" he said a moment later. "My granddaughter really likes that caribou skin, would you consider taking less for it."

I glance past him and see her gauging our every expression. I think of myself as a nice person, but I guess to a 10 year old, I would look pretty imposing, especially when I am the guy keeping her from her trophy.

I pause -- for effect. In reality, I just want this fur to fly, a feat I figured not even Santa could pull off.

"Sure, how about $7" I reply.

He brightens and walks back to his buyer for consultation, only to return smiling to himself but also a bit sheepish.

"I am afraid she only has $5."


Her hungry eyes peep out under parted, uncombed hair. They are, as yet, unaware of boys, or life's other temptations. Right here, right now it's all caribou. I can feel the scrutiny, even at 30 feet.

"Sure", I say in a low voice and with a neutral to negative expression. Why not let him deliver the good news?

He smiles, "thanks, it will make her day".

I see her brighten as he turns and the smile registers and beckons her to come over. Out comes the tightened hand, the crumpled bill extended from as far away as possible. No eye contact, she's focused on the prize.

As soon as money leaves her grasp, she scoops up the old skin, brings it to her face and sucks in a full breath through the oily fibers. Ahhh, satisfaction.

Load after load, stranger after stranger, enters our domain and leaves a little heavier, us a little lighter. Freedom by degrees, like a glacier receding leaves rich soul for new growth. I am not going to let this accumulation happen again, I keep telling myself. Like a drunk at another meeting, I know I'll succomb. But is it treasure, or trap?

When the a round of Oakland fires raged through a ritzy neighborhood a decade or more ago, the TV crews were quick to follow. Finding a man standing outside the burned out hull of a mac-mansion, they stuck a mic in his face and fired the proverbial, "how does it feel" question. Funny they never ask what anyone thinks. I guess that tells us something about the producer, or the audience.

But they didn't get what they expected. He replied:

"My dad used to always tell me. 'Son, be careful or your possessions will own you.' I'd just like to tell him that today I am a free man".

Perhaps freedom isn't what people fight for in war after war.  Based on the evidence, people really don't want freedom, they want the right to build their own prison, and to die there by degrees.