Forget Me Not 1918
These pressed flowers were in a book I bought many years ago at a garage sale. I have kept the worm eaten book and these flowers for many years because they are special. I don’t know the story, I don’t know if this was a funeral bouquet for a fallen soldier, or an influenza victim, they may have been grown on the front and sent home to loved-ones, they may have nothing to do with the war: they might be a lovers bouquet, or just some flowers gathered in the springtime….
But I know that they have survived the years and were waiting for me to discover them. What years have passed into the dust of history, great men have risen through the ranks, to command despotic empires that have fallen crumbling into forgetfulness, and these small blooms have waited pressed between the mouldering leaves of a novel on a shelf.
Nations have risen in hope from the turmoil of revolution and then dissolved in chaos back again to rust and neglect, all while these little fragile spots of color waited for someone to notice them. What secrets could they tell us about the frailty of human lives and the short sharp pain of loss, if we would only listen? Someone picked these little springtime flowers and carefully tied them with string, and dated them. They pressed them between the pages of this book, and then time came swirling by and took all the meaning and memory away slowly and with gnawing blunt teeth.
No one knows now why they were picked and preserved, no one knows their story. What whispered lovers secrets were told in their presence? What fleeting kisses stolen on a secluded hillside awash with verdant springtime rainbows? These little flowers have a story to tell, but no lips to speak them with.
I will keep them so that they will outlive me, and their next discoverer can ponder the abyss of time also.
This is my Cuneiform Epitaph.
Scratches on clay the remnants of lives, tiny sparks that winked brightly and then went out; time consuming the present moment by moment, Langoliers following closely behind, watching for scraps and pouncing on wasted time.
When flesh grows cold, and entropy consumes blood, bones, and essence leaving nothing for the dusty shrines in the desert. Perhaps some would-be excavator will unearth or draw up from the bog and weedy rushes some ancient oxygen deprived preserved mystery. Some brine soaked encrusted memory devoid of identity. What sharpened flint points of logic and rhetoric will be discussed in papers of those learned and versed in the unknowable?
As Ötzi mulled over pre-stoic ideals and post-grazing utopias while munching roots and mushrooms, I am hunched before this scrap of plant fibers mashed down, boiled over and pressed out. I grasp my blunt tool and bleed dark Voynician prayers to the Old Ones still hidden in deep cold abysses of time and dark water.
My daughter Scarlette is 6, she is smart and observant, and sometimes the things she comes up with are really amazing. A few weeks ago she had a small splinter and after we removed it, we put a band-aid over the area, and Scarlette thought for a moment, and told me that she knew why band-aids worked.
I asked her to tell me why, and she said: “They work because they are like stickers”
At first I didnt realize what she meant, and then I remebered that when she was little we used to give her stickers whenever she bumped her head or scraped her knee or whatever. They were a placebo to take her mind off the pain, and so we would kiss the bump and give her a sticker to put on the sore spot. She remembered that, and deduced that band-aids were like stickers becuase stickers also worked and made her feel better.
That made me smile.
I saw an old red leather bound book in the .25 section of a local Book sellers’ rack. The published date was 1907, and the title: Little Rivers by Henry Van Dyke. It was in rough shape, the edges were torn, the cover was held on with a rubber band.
It was a small book, once bound in red leather, with gold gilt lettering. I thumbed the cover open, and found this inscription: “Essays on profitable idleness” That cinched it for me, and since $0.25 is not much to gamble on a good book; I bought it (along with a Latin reader, and one of Fredrick Nietzsche’s works.)
Henry van Dyke (1852-1933) was an American clergyman, (Presbyterian) Ambassador and Author. Though much of his writings are related to his work, this little gem is not. It tells of his fishing trips in Europe and in New-England, and Canada. With a few pieces of outdoor poetry thrown in for good measure. I made the point of reading outdoors, it reminded me of my childhood, and it inspired in me a lust of the wild.The english is a bit dated, but that is due to it’s age. But that can be a shining point. Van Dyke uses the language to bring the reader down to the stream where he is casting his rod. But this is not just a book about fishing; no, there are many tid-bits of wisdom woven though the narrative. I particularly like this one:
There is such a thing as taking ourselves too seriously, or at any rate, too anxiously. Half the secular unrest and dismal, profane sadness of modern society comes from the vain idea that every man is bound to be a critic of life, and to let no day pass without finding some fault with the general order of things, or projecting some plan for it’s improvement.
I have a thing for old books, something about the idea that this book went though 100 years of history is intriguing to me. I wonder who held it, how many people read it, what influence it had on the lives of it’s owner..
I would recomend it for the outdoors person, it is worth the read.
That is the cause that drives all of us; we meat-puppets, bio-piles, self-motivated obsessed carbon life forms that we are. The reason we do everything that we do is because we die. The meaning of life is that it ends.
The scrawled hearts on the park bench, the scratched names under your desk are cries from the past; reaching yearning, calling from that abyss where all things must go. We build cities and businesses, and lives because they are graffiti to the gods, and we want them to be hard to scrub off the walls.
Think about laborers under the beating sun dragging blocks for the great pyramids, think about the lives that were spent to turn great blocks of stone into a massive tomb for the ruler of a sand patch at the end of a muddy river. Thousands and thousands of hours of back breaking work, of lives spent like devalued currency, and for what? So one man could have a glorious tomb and take his riches into the after-life? Yet ten thousand, thousand men and women and children were buried in shallow graves in the sand. No embalming for them, no hope for an afterlife for them.
You think we are any different today? We work and sweat and labor to build high-rises that will be used, and then neglected, and then dilapidated, and then razed. Gone. Cities rise, cities fall, ruins fill the landscape and the flesh-toned tide of humanity rises and falls, ebbs and recoils, fades and though it is always dying, always being born, it is a continuous thread that stretches back into history, one meager life at a time.
Do you really think you are going to make your mark on the world?
Time is death, death is time. Eventually I will be gone, you will be gone, and perhaps if we are fortunate, we may be remembered by our descendants, or if we have done something famous or infamous we may be remembered long into the future, though that future does not really matter much to those still trapped like a fly in amber locked in the past.
I look at those scratchings on a park bench, and wonder at our own mortality, the great mystery that is death. What deep scratches are you trying to leave behind?
I love looking down into a valley where I can see the curve of a river, or the shape of a town, and then compare that mental image to a map of the state or country to get an idea of my size relative to the earth, or the natural formations around me.
This image was taken by an astronaut on the ISS, and shows Florida at night. I can see the shape of Cape Canaveral, and even the tiny tiny little tip of light (just below the tip of the arrow) where the bridge from Titusville to Cape Canaveral is, and where I often go to sit and watch the yachts on the Indian River. I see formations of light that I recognize as towns and areas where I have driven and walked, and ridden my bike. I can imagine how it must feel to be up in the ISS looking down and seeing familiar places, and think about the memories shared on those small specks of light. It must be an amazing feeling to be high above the earth, but close enough to recognize land-forms and visualize your place on the little blue jewel that is the earth.
I will probably never go to space, commercial space-flight is far enough out that I probably will be too old to go, but I love looking at images like this, and thinking of myself and others like little specks on a small ball of rock spinning through the cold depths of space. We are in a peculiar place, half way between the atoms and the stars, small enough to be insignificant, and yet large enough to comprehend the laws governing the heavens.