Letting There Be Emptiness

A popular adage says when we let go of something we create space for something else. It is a simplistic saying for a dynamic, complex process.  Letting go, like grief, and usually involving grief, has many stages of releasing and holding on.  It’s a process of emptying, and sometimes it results in finding or creating something new, but often we learn to live with the void.

There’s been a lot of letting go for me this past year.  When both you and your life mate are diagnosed with cancer and other health challenges, you let go of many ideas about your life together in the near and distant future as your days shift around appointments, treatments, changes in abilities, income, and routines. I’ve witnessed this in the lives of many friends, too many.  Mike and I have been through this before, but Mike was not so much a participant as a witness.  In one respect this shifting and letting go is what life is about. No one is exempt, we all experience it on many levels.

On the material level, as I waded through the mucky process of emptying my parents’ house of 41 years, getting it ready for sale, there was the letting go of a lots of “stuff’! Not only did the treasures and everyday items from two lives have to go, but things here at home had to be gotten rid of to make room for items hauled home…as I said, letting go is a process, and sometimes we hold on!

a house once full of the collections of two lives, sits empty, waiting for new owners.

a house once full of the collections of two lives, sits empty, waiting for new owners.

Watching friends go through this house emptying process, I notice that how a person experiences it has as much to do with their relationship to their own past as with their relationship to their parents.  For me it was an uncovering of forgotten stories and learning of new ones. Some stories came through discovered letters, diaries, saved articles, etc. Knowing I was dismantling her material life, but unable to participate in it directly, Mom would occasionally remember something, ask about it, then tell me the story the item recalled.  Though there was much I wanted to ask, and sometimes I would, I learned to wait and see what might surface, for in her mind, she has already let go of many things, and many stories.

Like many parents, over the years mine unloaded on my brothers and me most of our own paraphernalia and memorabilia, but there were still bits and pieces of our pasts tucked away in the attic, or found in drawers and closets.  One such item was my doll house.

IMG_0683One time I brought my doll house home and set it up. I don’t remember why, as an adult, with no children, I did that, but it lived in a corner for a while. I enjoyed the process of setting it up, but after a few months realized it was taking up valuable space and collecting dust, so I hauled it back to my parents’ attic, to be mostly forgotten.


So there it was, in the attic. I kept moving it around mom’s house as I emptied rooms. I could not bring myself to haul it off to a thrift store and listing it on Craig’s list brought only mild interest, and no buyers. This is a very well furnished house from the 1950s! Besides the little molded plastic easy chairs, a couch, beds, pink bathroom fixtures, and red and white kitchen set, it includes a small vacuum, tiny stools, a card table that folds, (as card tables should), lamps, a telephone, and other tiny household items. Not fancy, but very utilitarian was my doll house! Ebay has several collections of the same little hard plastic furniture for sale, but few of the sets I looked at were as intact as mine!

IMG_0679Today I mailed all the furnishings of my doll house to Enterprise, Oregon to become part of a little girl’s life I hope to meet someday, the daughter of a ‘virtual’ friend, Jody of Wild Carrot Herbals (maker of our favorite body care products!).

The house, built by my dad, will go to another friend for her granddaughter.

Mom’s house sale closed two weeks ago.


After sending the boxes of little plastic furniture off at the post office, I drove to a favorite trail at Dosewallips State Park. As I walked out to the beach, the almost-solstice sun was disappearing behind the trees, the low light transforming brown, dried up beach grass into a field of gold. I felt exhilarated, I love the openness of this particular trail, the feeling you are walking out into the water. It is a sparse place, not barren, but only the beach grass grows there. The emptiness allows fluidity – birds fly through, resting on the beach, the tide comes and goes, filling and emptying the river estuary. A place where the emptiness allows a peaceful, simple beauty.

As I looked off in the distance a singular ‘honk’ a few feet from me caused me to turn and see a swan flying by at eye level.

I am enjoying this letting go.

Happy Solstice to you all!  May there be spaces in your life for new the light!

7 thoughts on “Letting There Be Emptiness

  1. Penney, this could not have been more timely (and the photo of the trail at Dosewallips made my heart ache. There is nothing like the autumnal light in the northern hemisphere. As I write we are experiencing a day where the current temperature is around 100f.) Today is the anniversary of the death of my friend Sarah, who took her own life two years ago. A friend dropped in to see how I am doing and I am doing. My way is to keep going, try and not dwell. My friend suggested I write to Sarah … I think this would be too painful and totally my undoing. As I sat at my laptop to do some work, there was your email and I opened it. I continue to struggle with the loss of my dear Michael and recently have been finding a home for some of his belongings. As I ’empty’ out his life, his business I become more a void and I avoid by keeping so very busy. But it seems everyone has a limit and I am reaching mine as I realise my energy is diminished and so I am gradually (fighting it all the way) being forced to deal with my grief, my loss, to be ‘in’ it. Perhaps I do have the strength to write to Sarah. I feel there is alreay an emptiness that is becoming more and more unbearable and so perhaps I need to fill the void with memories, with writing and in that way release.
    Penney, thank you. I frequently think of you and Mike and wonder how you are doing.


  2. Thank you Susan, I’m glad you enjoyed this, and it brought up thoughts of your own letting-go-times. Letting go can be messy! Often it is hard to know what to let go off and what to hold on to, both materially and on other levels as well. Hopefully letting go of some of your holiday traditions in the absence of your daughter will free you to do something new, or just enjoy a less busy holiday time. Have a very Merry Christmas. Penney


  3. Penney,
    What a lovely story, told so beautifully. My daughter’s had a similar doll house that we passed on to Salvation Army a few years back. I wish we had kept it to pass on to a friend. Such is letting go- we were moving to a smaller house and the girls had outgrown it. I’m letting go of some of my holiday traditions this year as my 2nd daughter is in Benin, West Africa, 5 months into her 2 years of service . It’s hard, but necessary. Life is full of changes, isn’t it? Hope you are feeling well. All the best! Susan


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