Friday, May 20, 2005

The Party's Over

What we leave behind, what every creature, every culture leaves behind. What the rocks themselves leave behind. Paleontology, Archeology, Geology. All these sciences study the remains of something that happened in time, something that left a mark. We cannot see sub-atomic particles, but only know them by the shadows they cast in their swift passing. History itself looks into the archives of politics, art, literature; what was left. C├ęzanne's apples, Mozart's Magic Flute. The fossilized bones of the Archaeopteryx— the Ur bird. Strata of rock telling the tale of mountains in motion. The columns of Persopolis standing stark against the empty Persian Plain.

And now here, found once as a bright curiosity picked out of the buff strand the little popped things full of color once signifying transitions, birthdays mostly but you see 'em at weddings, at New Year's and most recently at the funerals of kids bumped off in car wrecks and fall guys from the AIDS plague, both dying too soon with a send-off that speaks of hope for a future never realized. As we kept finding them over the years of beachcombing, we couldn't help but think of these little things as marker buoys for the most acute passages that shape each life.

Joyous or grief struck, the limpid floppy remains are hardly mute. That they last a long time belies their notoriety for flimsy ephemerality. They sit, many with their ribbons still knotted on saying yes that was gone, and that was gone too. Finding all of them on one isolated beach- strangely fraught with the thrill of discovery. With a connoisseur’s eye, avaricious for the next and the next, collecting talismans of the tiny moments profound only by the very commonness of their token, little beacons of the life lived.