Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Friday, May 30, 2008

A Piece of Paper

"A man's real possession is his memory. In nothing else is he rich, in nothing else is he poor."
-Alexander Smith (Scottish poet, 1830-1867)

Sometimes Spouse and I are content to lose things. It happens occasionally along the way that our task of reducing possessions is made easier.
During our last move a lot of furniture was smashed to pieces, including the cabinet on which we normally positioned our television.
We did not mourn those things; they had served us well and in their unexpected absence we found a simplicity crucial to our well-being. As we unpacked and dismantled, we discovered that we were accepting that certain things would be out of our lives, either by being mislaid in transit or from damage caused by carelessness.
If our television stand was broken- and the various splinters gave strong indication that it was- then so be it. We would learn to not need such a thing.
I did, however, note right away that I was unable to find one item in particular.
In Ireland years ago, while rooting through a favourite store in a seaside town, I found a most intriguing poster. It bore the entire text of Chief Seattle's 1854 speech in which he turned down, with the utmost eloquence, an offer to buy the land on which he lived.
The poster's headline: This Earth is Precious.
"How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land?" Chief Seattle's speech says; "the idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?"
The poster mattered a great deal to me because of the happy days in which I bought it and for the words that always humbled me as they hung on the wall in our enormous new house.
That was the very last time I saw it.
One would have to reasonably assume that the new owners unintentionally acquired the beloved paper along with the house.
I thought at first that it might be buried among the mass of papers and objects we own, but the clutter of which I write has long since been diluted and reduced to a number of organised boxes. The poster is not in any of them.
Yet, how can I complain? How can I resent the loss of a piece of paper which I cherished for its reminder that material things are transient and complicate our lives more than we could know?
Chief Seattle praised a world in which humans cared to "hear the unfurling of leaves of spring, or the rustle of an insect's wing..."
"And what is there to life if a man cannot hear the lonely cry of the whippoorwill or the arguments of the frogs around a pond at night?"
With that, I suspect that my anguish for the lost poster has been put to rest, with only a mild scattering of wonder as to why the new occupants of our house never saw fit to do as I and many people would have done, to send it along to the previous owners.


polona said...

it's an interesting phenomenon that 'things' sometimes seem to disappear o their own accord.
perhaps they have fulfilled their purpose, perhaps it's time to move on... who knows?
but sometimes, but not always, they reappear at the most unexpected moments...
a wonderful thought-provoking post... thank you

Pappy said...

Thanks for keying me to that photo of Mater. I always like to see family photos, especially since we communicate through you from time to time. I now have a face to put with the stories. My mother said she is sure some of her relatives did more than kiss the blarney stone. :)

Beth said...

what a lovely post and reminder that the things we treasure are the memories and emotions that they invoke more than their utility. I appreciate the reminder.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Polona, it is very interesting indeed. I really like what you've said here. I do now think that I didn't quite need it anymore, but I didn't think of it quite like that until you said it. Thank you!

Texican, Well I didn't want you to miss that particular post. I know you enjoy photos and faces.
I would have awarded you that Five Blogs Award, but since you nominated me I couldn't really give it back to you ;)

Beth, it just struck me like that- to consider the thing I was mourning! It goes beyond paper, as long as you take the words to heart.

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