Thursday, January 11, 2007

Print Box

After years of avoiding cleaning the print box, I opted to combine a memory jaunt along with my dust rag. Each item triggered a story:

I picked up my mother's maj jong tile. Each summer, or whenever the new cards came out, my mother and her friends memorized the new hands.

I bought the wood and metal type over a period of five years. A couple had collected antique type for many years, retired and settled in Bernard, Maine. They opened a small store, hung buoys outside, and filled wood boxes with type. All sizes and faces. I remember the man telling me that if I wanted wood Hebrew letters to buy them then because there were few left in the open marketplace. The couple filled shadow boxes with letters and sold empty boxes to customers so that they could wander about and create their own pieces of art. Each summer I visited their store. As time went on the hours became spotty. The man developed hearing problems and his gait wasn't steady. His wife seemed the healthier one. They owned the house across from the store and faced a working harbor. Two years ago the Type store and its boxes of letters disappeared— replaced by a telescope and an astronomer who taught school children to view the stars and planets with both awe and scientific objectivity. "What happened?" I asked. "The woman died and the man moved." And last year the astronomer was gone —replaced by a bookstore. The sea air had already curled the covers of some softbacks.

The Southwest spreads across the print box,—fetishes, Story Tellers, rocks from Hickman's Bridge in Capital Reef, Fairyland Trail at Bryce, the Grand Canyon, Moab, Emerald pool in Zion, and red rocks from forgotten hikes.

I won the yellow convertable in a golf game. The real car went to the person who managed a hole-in-one. My convertible simply meant that my ball landed closest to the hole—in a foursome.

Small boxes display shells and sea glass from Cape Cod's Coast Guard Beach, the Bay of Fundy, and Crane's Beach. A set of bleached white fish teeth balance on a flat end.

On the top shelf an old fashioned perfume bottle contains a drop of salt—all that's left of the poured water of seven friends. We gathered together fifteen years ago to explore spirituality and we each brought water to pour into small containers. Each friend carried home the combined waters of all. In time we all moved in different directions. One became a Unitarian minister, another left a way of life and became a Sufi, another moved away, one found a new partner, one left the group because she felt different, and the other two stayed until the group no longer had a direction.

Hearts fill several boxes.

A locomotive and a caboose fill two boxes, a Christmas gift from a student.

Three rocks from Colorado fill three niches: one is " a small, finger-shaped speciman of fossilized baculite, a squid-like animal that had tentacles. A nearby mesa is named after the baculite whose fossiles are abundant in surrounding areas." I don't know all that. The rocks were given to me with an explanation written on yellow graph paper—"These rocks are from Cretaceous sedimentary strata northeast of Pueblo, Colorado. Ages are about seventy million years." Both rocks were hand polished, a gift.


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