Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The Spelunker's Rope

Cave explorers often tie themselves to a rope affixed near the entrance to keep themselves from becoming lost or disoriented as they move deeper into the unknown. I’ve always done essentially the same thing, except that my rope is a string of belongings which anchor me to the past and keep me from feeling too alone or afraid of the dark. Each one has its own story, and all I have to do is look at the item, close my eyes, and hear (and see) the story told again.

Aside from large framed photos of my grandmother, grandfather, uncle Buck, and a painting of my mom I had done in Naples (that one’s a double-link: to my mom and to my Navy days), there is a large framed picture of mom when she was around 2 years old. The glass was broken when I moved to Chicago, but I still keep the picture behind the sofa, planning to have the glass replaced one day. I have no wall space to hang it, but....

In my living room I have a comfortable chair which my mom bought when she moved to California in 1970, plus two wooden end tables she got at the same time. They came as an unfinished kit, so she varnished them and put them together herself.

In my bedroom is a dresser Norm and I bought at Goodwill and refinished shortly after we moved in together in 1958. On the wall directly beside me as I write is a copy of a large Etruscan fresco I bought around the same time. After Norm died, I took a small sculpture of a faun's head I gave him while we were together.

I have pocket watches belonging to my grandmother and grandfather, a cocoa set belonging to my grandmother, a 100-plus-year-old fruit bowl belonging to my step grandmother, my mom’s set of Fostoria crystal goblets, a set of cordial glasses she bought in the 1930s, a small carved wooden head Dad bought for Mom while we were in Hawaii in 1960; two carved wooden buddhas I bought for Dad in Gibraltar; a beautiful fired clay head made by a hustler friend of my dear friend "Uncle Bob" from Los Angeles..... I have a pair of sweat pants with “Margason” stenciled across the rear end from my NavCad days, and a monogrammed vermouth glass I stole from the Istanbul Hilton hotel. And near my bed are two small Chinese figurines I hand painted while I was in high school, and stuffed animals from my days with Ray. (Hmmm...does the word “obsessive” ring a bell?)

I’m sure many people view all this as foolish. That’s their right. My right is to ignore them. Everything I have has a history and a story which tie me to it and therefore to the past, and I find great comfort in that.

I know there are entire philosophies which believe putting too much importance on “things” is unhealthy, not to mention extremely cumbersome and confining. I suppose they have a valid point, and can in fact agree with the latter two objections.

My dear Uncle Bob, in his later years, held to the philosophy that having nothing is the key to true freedom---which is one of the reasons he gave me the clay head mentioned above. I always stood in something akin to awe of Uncle Bob, but while I could respect his belief, and others who share it, it is totally incomprehensible to me. He often would say “Well, Roggie, when you’re dead it won’t matter, will it?” And he had an indisputable point. But I ain’t dead yet.
Oh, look: there’s that fossilized snail shell I found while walking along a railroad track in Chatsworth, California. I was working with Keith and Iris at the porn mill at the time, and I just decided to go out for a walk one day during lunch. And…

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs ( ).

1 comment:

Kage Alan said...

It seems to me what you've done is simply create a nest of sorts where you feel completely at home with the past and the present living together as one. I actually you ought to take pictures of each item and write the story behind it.

Do you remember last Christmas when I was missing pieces of the Christmas tree that had been in our family for the past 40 years? I went ape snot trying to find them and couldn't. It took nearly a week+ to find a tree I liked. It's still nothing like my original one, but I finally came to the understanding that we'd be building new memories with it.

It felt like a piece of me had been ripped off my body letting that original tree go.