And these photographs keep me alive
This quote has been following me around all day:
When you can’t make sense of someone leaving, you sometimes try to make sense of what they left behind. And it makes it a whole lot easier when what they left you was beautiful.
It’s a nicely composed set of words, it hits at the aesthetic. People come, people go, we only have these things that they leave behind to carry them in our hearts. The last line, though, is the most interesting; that the pain of leaving is appeased by the beautiful. And it gets me to thinking about human beings as gatherers: of places and things and people. Does holding on to the nice bits make it easier? I’m not sure.
We undeniably collect things. We say that life is lived in the moments we make, but we’re more tied to the tangible reminders that keep the memories alive. Experience is the neatly packaged bits and baubles that we accumulate to make stories to tell: movie tickets from a first date; a map scrawled on a post-it note; the carefully-composed vacation photographs and dried-up rose petals and seashells from the seashore; news cuttings for births and deaths and graduations and in memoriams that rotate behind the same old fridge magnets.
Beautiful is one of those strange words. As I take stock of my little hole with people and memories buried away, I realize that none of what’s left is beautiful by some objective standard. An old tattered book and a shiny steel peppermill and a bent photograph and some shredded raffia tucked in a shoebox aren’t beautiful, but together they compose a narrative that’s long past, one that’s otherwise out of mind. And that carefully recreated nostalgia is probably better than the real thing.
I guess what puzzles me is: why do we work so hard to make sure we have these hard copies of the coming and the going? What makes the pieces beautiful? And why does accumulating and purging artifacts – as the case may be – help us carry on?