Things that hang from my ceiling

by Nic Olson

The things that hang from my ceiling are plentiful. They are colourful. They are trash. The heralded lattice ceiling that I have often mentioned has never let me down. Besides the time that a glass of water was spilt in the living room upstairs and it directly poured through the floorboards into my room. But I am uncertain how I lived without it before. Spackled ceiling has had me befuddled since childhood. Such a useless, aesthetically questionable detail of a home, whereas latticed ceiling knows exactly what it is: ugly and useful, two things I would be glad to consider myself. The following is a comprehensive list of the things hanging from my ceiling:

  • thirty-feet of yellow rope, used as a clothesline
  • the rainbow horse/donkey head of a piñata that I drunkenly wore home on my head from a recent wedding. The ears of the donkey fit perfectly into the holes of the lattice for an adhesive-free hang job
  • my button-up shirts on hangers. The walls of room are unpainted, patchy and smeared, I hang my shirts there to cover the wall and to keep the shirts wrinkle free
  • a bare lightbulb, now burnt out, hanging from a piece of thread over my desk, my source of inspiration, or object to blame when ideas do not surface, undecided thus far

Things hanging from my wall very near the ceiling include a pizza box from Vancouver (Fatih’s!), a plastic bag from India (found blowing down the street in Regina), a feel-good Christian pamphlet called ‘Nick’s Discovery’ about a man in a wheelchair who found God (the premise and title for my new book), a plastic Montreal Canadiens mini hockey stick (a gift), this poster (my brother always swore it was a lady in the photo) and more garbage. Actual garbage, yes.

Throughout the summer I have been toiling over an old wooden chair I found in the dumpster. The refurbishing of chairs has become a bit of a hobby for my grandparents in their massive wood shop in North Weyburn. And as I walked through the house, this time with a new appreciation for old chairs, they told me exactly when and where they found the furniture, what they did to repair it, where it had been poorly repaired before, how much it cost, and the history they knew of it from before they owned it. Not once did they reach a desk and say, “This desk is made of glue and sawdust from a million shaved 2x4s from the boreal forest. Oh, and this lovely table we bought from the Wal-Mart when it first opened in 2001, it was made by a Vietnamese woman about our age in a factory of aluminum pipes and plastic pieces used as tops. Great workmanship, that table really means a lot.” The story of the things we own should include more than the place we bought it and the vehicle we used to drive it home, just as the story of ourselves should include more than a list of the place we were born, and the places we have worked, and the place we sit while people more powerful than us use us as something to sit on.

Like our attitude towards food, we have grown so disconnected with the objects that we own that owning a billion things seems to matter none, and throwing them out seems to matter even less. Our wallets, our environment and our identity will suffer if we continue down such a road. My burnt-out-lightbulb of an idea, inspired by this damned bulb hovering above me, is that as long as we have an understanding of the process of our food, of our household items, of the trash that we hang from our ceilings and the stories behind them, we might become wise enough to own less, to consume less and to have a story of our own that is different than one taken from the gentrified pages of a home improvement magazine.