Monday, May 30, 2016

Reminders of Magic

Strewn about the perimeters of your small-but-comfortable studio, is a scattering of small pebbles here, a succession of tall, thin, and squat bottles standing on the kitchen window sill, a cadre of postcard-sized picture frames with photos of persons, places, and things, mounted as sentries atop your book shelves, and to complete the thereness begun with the previous here, likenesses of Hopi, Navajo, and Hindu ur-beings peer at you from wall spaces selected at whim.

To add spice, a window sill overlooking a commodious and well-trimmed garden contains a group of Big Little Books, relics from your childhood reading tastes, along with a brass menorah of uncertain provenance, a pencil sharpener in the form of a miniature Remington upright typewriter, given you as a birthday present by a group of students some thirty years ago, and a ceramic medallion made by Percingula R. Tosa, an artist of the Jemez Pueblo.

These are your equivalents of the Roman householod goods, the Lares and Penates, displayed in Roman homes to keep the inhabitants safe and, according to some legends, well fed. If you look with sharp focus at actual Lares and Penates or, indeed, any fetish, such as a Zuni fetish in one of your drawers, or the Hindu rosary in one of the drawers of the Queen Ann secretary behind you, or if you wish instead to consider the quite secular Queen Ann secretary itself, you will discern traces of magic, invested by the cultures whence they came or, better still, invested by that most secular you.

Almost forgot the carved raven totem hanging from one of the supporting beams dividing your living room in half. No magic you can see, only a stately raven, one with gravitas, exuding a contributing presence to your living area and thus being a prototype raven as well as the embodiment of a living spirit.

No wonder you find no trouble sleeping in such surroundings, you are protected by magic you aren't even aware of. The absolute smugness in your attitude as you note these presences comes from your recognition of the books in the bookcases and additional titles without shelving, piled in an equivalent of the Dewey Decimal System only you can interpret. 

In these stacks of books, your defenses are piled in ways that represent even greater magical significance because each one contains the forceful narrative presence of at least one other voice.

Well before your current interest in things and the nature of things, and such distinctions as things, objects, and stuff, you were responding to some inner drive to collect things, most of which you liked to store in your father's empty cigar boxes, two of which you still have, both of them filled with fountain pens.

You recall a conversation now, at least forty years old, in which your late wife approached you with great tact to suggest that your collection of cereal boxes was taking over the kitchen cabinetry, two shelves in the garage, and the entire rear of a closet in the bedroom that had become a study. 

You recall another time when a sharp financial downturn caused you to transport one of your most valuable collections, a near complete run of the iconic mystery magazine Black Mask, to a rare book dealer whom you knew would see their value.

In fact, none of the things you collected or wished to surround yourself with were collected for any possible financial return; they were acquired because they possessed (and in many cases still contain) qualities you associate with beauty, sometimes their function conveying to you their inner beauty.

All right then, say it, things talk to you. They tell you how much more comfortable or educated or protected or confident you will be with them in your life, how they are at work 24/7 to guard, protect, and otherwise endow your surroundings with a sense of protection against such dread invaders as boredom and lack of awareness about the world about you.

The equation is perfect in its balance: You are your things; your things are you.

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