The Power of People, Place, and Time

A friend of thetompostpile recently wrote some eloquent eloquent words about “stuff”.

Someone told me once, which I tried to politely explain my reasons for not doing so, that I should just throw out everything in the never ending piles of death and bacteria infested stuff my grandfather hoarded away. Where I could appreciate their point, they could not understand mine. Beneath my grandfather’s collection of seemingly random and forgotten things, there is this history of how a century old existence was worked and lived. Too much of that bygone life has been discarded in this modern world and there is still so much value in learning those skills, retaining that knowledge. It is still important.

His stuff, piled head high, is like a marathon game of memory, for one reason or another. One being, much like pieces to a puzzle that depicts life of over a century ago, the pieces are scattered amongst the nooks and crannies across his farm; one primitive wrought iron thumb latch found in the cellar could be the match for the odd handle found in the workshop. When I find odd parts with questionable importance, I set them aside until I find what I think is it’s sibling or cousin. Eventually, as the parts are reunited, mysteries are solved, broken things become whole, hope is restored that the puzzle will be complete again one day. Or at the very least, saved from modern history’s disposable ideals.

Another is, my memory is jogged by the bits, of where they belong, what they were and how they worked. There is purpose for what gets reunited, those things scattered between the four corners of his barn. All still useful, they teach lessons in how work used to be done, perhaps how work should still be done; by hand and chisel, by the strength of one’s own back, with the sense and determination to think out how to accomplish the task at hand.

I worry that I may unearth anthrax one day, digging my way through the unfathomable filth, to the point I’ve set my daily limit of death to unearthing no more than 5 dead things in one picking spree. Then I will call it quits for the day and run to shower off the ancient bacteria imbedded in my being. Today I hit that marker in 10 minutes.

“Eh. Let’s push through a few more zombies. Most were tiny baby mummy rats anyway.” This is how I talk to myself when feeling a little buggery while sorting though the filth. I go ahead and pull the next rat urine stained box out of the milking station that’s been packed tightly over 70 or so years. Slowly I open it up, standing back with one eye closed just in case the anthrax is in there. When I look inside with my one opened eye, I see the this color, the blue green of a stormy summer sea, the color of the four hinges from my great grandfather’s barn. A long sing song sigh escapes my mouth, as if I’ve just seen a Monet for the first time. A sound from within my soul, one I did not consciously summon. I am left breathless and in awe. I forget about anthrax just long enough to find 90% of the hardware, including the lock for the doors.

This is why I don’t just throw everything all out. Because of these. Because they are authentic, 115 years old and not one bit of corrosion. I bet they still work. And if they don’t, I’m going to figure out how to fix them. If the parts aren’t all there, I’ll continue to look for the rest of the pieces. If I can’t find all of the pieces, I’ll find out how to make them, or someone who can. I’m not giving up on them until they’re working and mounted back on the barn where they belong, and not in the bottom of some dumpster waiting to be forgotten.

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