Anna-Leena Harkonen



Ed Robertson


Our Earthly Belongings

The astronaut Jack Swigert participated in the dramatic Apollo 13 spaceflight in 1970. In 2014, his toothbrush sold at auction for nearly $12,000 dollars. I wonder why the new owner wanted his toothbrush. To clean their teeth? Perhaps it is kept in a safe, or in a dedicated display case.

WE HAVE A STRANGE relationship with material things.

A friend of mine sometimes takes a sedative at the mall to be able to decide which stores they should visit. Otherwise, they can’t think clearly and end up walking in circles, not knowing where to go.

As I understand it, sedatives are intended for severe states of anxiety. Then again, if someone is overcome by a severe state of anxiety in a mall, I don’t see why they couldn’t take a sedative. Supply meets demand.

I GAVE A GREAT DEAL of thought to the meaning of amassing money and material things when I was writing a novel about lottery winners. It was an interesting journey.

When I described the main character’s obsessive spending, I was overcome by an irresistible urge to go shopping. But the further my novel progressed, the less compelled I felt to splurge. Reveling in the joys of shopping in writing was enough—which was good, because I never won the lottery.

Sometimes shopping brings consolation. Then again, we should not worship material things. I occasionally find myself with a guilty conscience when fingering things longingly in a store.

ACCORDING TO STUDIES, the moment of purchase is an even more fulfilling experience than owning and using what you have bought. Not so sure about that—wearing jewelry that I bought twenty years ago still gives me enormous joy.

Two-for-one deals are hard for me to resist, no matter what they are selling. I have been trying to wean myself off of such offers. Previously, I was ready to buy just about anything, touched and moved by the selfless generosity. What? Delivered to my door!

SOMETIMES WE SHOULD stop and appreciate what we already have. We all have items that we refuse to give away.

My most precious belonging is a blue teddy bear my grandmother and grandfather gave me when I was two. The teddy has lost most of his fur and half of an eye—but the things he has seen on our journey!

My fabric doll on her chaise longue from the 1940s is also precious. She reminds me of the importance of taking the occasional breather.

Our books are important too, of course. I feel restless when someone has borrowed one of my books. It feels as though my child has not come home for the night.

ON MY LIVING ROOM wall, I have a painting I bought with my first husband to celebrate new beginnings. In the painting, a man flies from a dark forest into light and colors. 

We broke up. I still have the painting, and I will never give it away. It is always good to believe in new beginnings.

By Anna-Leena Harkonen

Published with permission from Rights & Brands

New Terrain Press 2024. All rights reserved.

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