The Big Sort

The third thing that’s hard about life on the road for two years is what I call “The Big Sort.” These are days at the conclusion of one residency and on the cusp of the next. Logistically speaking, there are myriad details to take into account before The Big Sort day even arrives. But inevitably, the time comes to hunker down and pack, sort, and repack according to my next location.
The first Big Sort happened December 2009 as I prepared to move off Roan Mountain and into my parent’s house for the holidays. Thanks to their support, I have access to one side of their small attic above the guest room. Here I store 17 boxes of books, my grandmother’s chairs, my banjo, free weights, a bag of bags, a bag of linens/quilts, skis, snowshoes, a bike, and other miscellaneous things. These things fill roughly 125 square feet of space with a steeply angled roof:
The next Big Sort happened when I had to fit everything I would need for the next 2 years into my Volvo station wagon. Handy bins, clever packing, and a few trips to Goodwill later, Big Sort #2 was complete and I was bound for my first Writer-in-Residence gig in snowy Interlochen:
Other Big Sorts have happened along the way, challenging me to arrange my belongings into 1 internal frame backpack (Alaska for 6 weeks), 1 carload of whatever I wanted (Weymouth Center for 1 month—it’s pretty easy to pack for a mansion), and now 2 suitcases for 1 month in the high deserts of Wyoming.
[Our confused family dog, Gus, who awoke from a midday nap to find himself surrounded by The Big Sort.]
By and large, everything I own has stayed on my back, in my car, or miles away in my parent’s attic for the last 11 months. I have 13 months to go and countless Big Sorts ahead of me. The most important part of each Big Sort is selecting the right books (and finding them in the attic) for the next leg of my journey. Other than swapping books out, most everything else stays in my car or the attic and I shuffle around with suitcases for shorter journeys. I might be an expert packer, but these days still turn out to be some of the most overwhelming days on my journey. Not too bad of a trade off for life on the road…and here’s hoping I’m clearly prepared this next leg of my journey.
Next post: Heading into Big Sky Country and the Jentel Artist Residency Program!

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