Artifacts

pictures, pamphletI’ve been thinking a lot about artifacts. Partly because of the Artefakta Pahmphlet Series from Ravenna Press (“because it is music and elusive”) and the idea of ephemera. (It made me want to write about trains.)

Partly because I was reading about measurement and the movement toward using light waves instead of artifacts, which are considered unreliable over time.

Partly because my mom recently moved out of the house she’d lived in for 49 years. So many things saved. An entire bag filled with every ticket stub and receipt from our trip to Scandinavia in the 1970s. Plus all the things that were sent to our house after my grandmother died. Much handwork by various relatives–mostly people we never knew.

My sister and I started out wanting to save everything, because each piece is a part of that past. If it wasn’t the past we remembered, it was still a part of it, a precursor. It was an artifact, resonating with our personal history. But that was a lot of stuff. We learned to say no and tried to remind ourselves that we were saying no to things, not to our past.

I still brought home a lot of things, including two pieces of artwork–a charcoal drawing and some calligraphy–that I’d given to my grandmother. And looking at them now, they make me sad. They’re artifacts of a time when I thought I’d be an artist–and they aren’t very good. I was just learning, and I never really got any better at those crafts. But they’re also artifacts of my grandmother’s home. I remember where they hung–the drawing in the hallway between the kitchen and the breakfast nook (a dark room filled with things and not used for breakfast), the calligraphy in the living room corner near the fire place, just past the French doors hung with burgundy curtains (with a large floral print–maybe dahlias?) that led to the dark little bedroom. I keep moving them around and hoping the cat doesn’t knock them down and break them. The frames are nice.

The nice thing about writing is that it’s easy to keep stuff around for ages. Pull it out again. (Let it grow on you, like that rosa rubrifola.)

What memories or images, histories or history’s remnants, come back in your writing again and again–your artifacts? How do they change over time? What do you let go? What do you keep for now or later? And how do you decide?