What do you carry daily?

By Caitlin Kelly

Are any of you fans of the HBO series Game of Thrones?


As someone who was for four years a nationally-ranked saber fencer, I do love the idea of a freshly-forged Valyrian steel sword, personally.

How powerful men must have felt in the days when your skills with a rapier, dagger and sword mattered more than…whether you had the latest Ipad or smartphone. When damascene steel or a trusty musket were of highest value.

I’m nostalgic for the days when women carried a chatelaine attached to their clothing; (Canada’s largest and oldest women’s magazine is named for it.)

When men carried, and consulted, a pocket watch or spyglass, a compass or astrolabe.

When a kid’s most prized carry-everywhere item was a set of baseball cards or a bag full of marbles.

Stuff that worked.

Stuff that engaged you with the physical world — even if it was a duel at dawn.

I loved carting my fencing weapons on the Manhattan subway in their big, saggy bag slung over my shoulder. People were always trying to guess what what was in it — an oud? Um, no.

I dislike cellphones and hate carrying much of anything with me even though, instead of sensibly putting things into a purse or bag, I usually leave home with my arms overflowing: magazines, books, the dreaded phone, wallet.

During our recent working trip in Nicaragua, the greatest luxury of all was not carrying a damn thing  — beyond a notebook and pen — for the entire eight days. Meals were provided and we literally didn’t have to touch money until we got back to the U.S.

Such a relief not to have to think about any of it.

As soon as I got home, I promptly lost my driver’s license.

One of the best books ever written about the Viet Nam war is called The Things They Carried.

Now that cellphones are apparently dangerous for us, what status signifier will we substitute?



21 thoughts on “What do you carry daily?

    1. I like it!

      I only used my notebook and pen in Nicaragua and my camera. We had very little time for computers and little access to wifi or internet, and it was a great break. I know it allowed us to truly focus on the place and be present.

      Not sure if (?) you also sketch or draw, but taking a small (pocket sized) sketchbook and a few sharpies can bring back some powerful memories as well.

    1. Wow. That’s a different perspective!

      After 9/11, we (Americans) were urged to pack a “go bag” and Jose and I discussed what would be in it. I do know, at all times, where to immediately find my passport and green card and we’ve agreed, if something like that happens again, I’m to head to the nearest airport and get to Canada stat, to be safe. It is a scary way to think. I’m legally supposed to be carrying my green card (proof of legal residency) with me at all times or face a $1,000 fine. I’ll take the fine — I’ve never been stopped or asked, and replacing it is no fun.

  1. Jonathan

    Great post. I have just been introduced to your blog and am a big fan.

    I have four things in my pockets: flip phone, wallet, house keys, and a neck wallet where I keep my ID and library card (I love being able to pull the wallet out of my collar with one hand, flip it open, and have the circulation clerk scan it through the cellophane). The advantage of sticking with four is that I can easily remember the number four, and what those four things are supposed to be.

    1. Thanks! And welcome…

      I love how simple and easy-to-remember yours is.

      I made the error of sticking my driver’s license in a pocket recently (so I could leave my wallet at home and carry even less) — and lost it. Gah. I bet in a few decades we’ll all be implanted with some sort of microchip or use retinal scanners — and won’t have to carry anything. I look forward to it, if I’m still around to enjoy it!

  2. Love GoT. I’m currently reading the most recent book and watching the new season.

    I have found it interesting since having a kid how what I carry has changed. I used to carry a large purse and would have wallet, keys, a few make up items, a book, possibly a notebook, etc. now I have the same sized bag but the only things that are mine are the wallet, keys, and phone. The rest is for the kid.

    I must admit, especially given the present circumstances of streamlining my personal belongings, I love my iphone. I keep track of the kid’s schedule, I read books, I google a million different baby questions each day. I’m addicted. In fact, I’m typing this response on my phone right now, while the kid sleeps across my lap. As much as I hate feeling so reliant, my phone keeps me connected to the world beyond baby-land.

    But I do love disconnecting and lightening the load for a spell here and there. It’s refreshing and freeing.

    And yes–I thought of “The Things they Carries” as soon as I saw your title!

    1. Thanks for weighing in…I do not have children, but am aware the sheer amount of STUFF you need to keep handy to keep them safe, clean and fed, esp. infants. I can barely tolerate the little I do carry…:-)

  3. Ha! I am constantly thinking about GoT and the ASoIaF book series upon which it’s based but I never considered if I would like life better in Westeros… but, if you’re interested in the things people carry, you might like Everyday-Carry (EDC). It’s like looking in the pockets of people all over the world. http://everyday-carry.com/

  4. Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried” is an incredible book; O’Brien actually grew up in my neck of the woods. Mark Baker’s “Nam” is also a great collection of soldier stories. As to what I carry daily? Notebook and pen, migraine meds and a ring of keys that would put a jailer to shame.

  5. The Things They Carried is incredibly powerful. So much metaphorical weight compressed into ounces. I too dream of simpler times, horse saddles and sunsets.

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