Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Jagged Grain

I got to thinking about some of the artifacts I've kept over the years.  It's always a bit of a surprise when I open a drawer or lift the top off a storage box and find something that has followed me around for a few decades. Even thought I've been through spurts of downsizing and and purging, there are nevertheless some items that I can't seem to part with for an unknown reason or two.
Items that remind me of the people I knew or of places lived.  Items that bring back a particular day or night.
In many ways, I consciously save something for the sole purpose of looking back on it and the emotions embedded within.
I have a woman's hair scarf worn the night I picked up a girlfriend at the airport.  I was 22, a college graduate with the draft lurking over my head and a partner who was willing to go the distance with me on this issue whatever and wherever that meant.  The blue/green checkered scarf seemed a beacon that night.  I never felt more alive, scared, and hopeful.
I have a phone book from a small Texas town that shows how far we've come in the area of race relations. Jim Crow, in the form of the inserted phrase (Colored) in some adds.  It's a reminder that tis was in my lifetime, not the distant past. There is a belt buckle from a "peg belt" I bought while wandering the California coast on my first venture from home. Eighteen, hitching from Monterey to San Francisco, seeing North Beach and City Lights bookstore, Haight Ashbury.  Something happening here.
I have cards, notes from former students, a hoof pick to remind me I once owned a horse, and a few illustrated journals of watercolor poem/paintings.  Such intense emotion in my younger days.
I marvel at how some of these things have followed me.  Can't really remember packing them up or re-discovering them after I've moved, but here they are.  My Jr. Fire Dept. badge from 4th grade, an accidental collection of U.S. postage stamps because they have either people or places I admire pictured.  Matchbooks from restaurants, race tracks, bars and country stores; business cards from people I can't recall.  Somehow they all made the cut.

There is a corner I will soon turn.  I'd like to find new homes for any of these items that matter and make sure the rest moves on in some form or another.  One of my favorite phrases comes from an essay on blues music that the great writer Ralph Ellison once used.  To "finger the jagged grain," Ellison wrote of the blues performer.  We all do this in one way or another.  I like to finger the grain that these items represent.  Jagged or not, it's worthwhile.

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