Tuesday, June 9, 2020


I must distract myself from heartache.

This particular idea came to me in December or January, during a period of time I was processing a great deal of childhood trauma by spending hours each day at one of the local thrift shops. That may seem strange except that, at 45, the finds in second-hand stores are often right out of the 70s and 80s when I was a kid; some of them identical to items found in the home where I grew up. They were interesting confrontations. Especially the ceramic chickens. I can’t get them out of my head. My mother had a set— one blue, the other red, with checkered indentations I used to press against my fingertips for their satisfying texture. She positioned these on the kitchen counter just below the “see-through” that looked in on our family room. But enough about that memory.

My idea is a simple one: essays on my possessions. I live at poverty level; most of what I own I found second-hand or was gifted to me. And then there are my “finds”—objects I’ve collected from hikes, urban, rural, and mountain. Like the kid that I was, I have a mass of precious treasure that most would designate as refuse. But each item has a story, and each story is part of the wealth of being human in a poor, simple life of survival.

With that introduction, the first corner of my apartment. This morning, I’m listening to indie house as selected by Google Play. I guess it supposes this is what I listen to when I’m feeling lucky.

Let me start with the bookshelf. It is the first item of furniture that I bought retail. Knotty pine, natural finish, four individual shelves, sturdy. I believe I made the purchase in 1995 while I was living in a studio apartment above a bookstore in Logan, Utah. The shelf was the crowning center of my life and my d├ęcor. I still think it’s lovely.

On the wall, just to the left of the shelf, I’ve hung a photograph detail of train graffiti I took in 2014. It made an appearance in one of UVU’s Touchstones volumes. The composition includes the black steel of the train car amplified to midnight blue, a stamp from Union Pacific stenciled in blurred white paint, a triangle of yellow, pink, and green graffiti strokes, and the mottled texture of rust and corrosion.

On the top of the bookshelf I have a framed print of medieval Christian art featuring Jesus on resurrection and Mary Magdalene kneeling at his feet. This piece was gifted to me about twenty years ago by a friend who converted from our childhood Mormonism to Catholicism. The yellow graffiti in the photograph ties into the yellow sky and tomb in the religious art, which ties into the heavy egg-yolk oil strokes that contrast the purple in an original abstract Blaire Ostler painting gifted to me by my ex-girlfriend last year for Christmas. 

Between the two paintings I’ve a porcelain bowl painted in geometric patterns of blue and white. There’s no question the bowl is Chinese, but I am unfamiliar with the figures stamped on the base. This is a second-hand acquisition. I’ve long been fond of this style of pottery, but didn’t find this piece until two years ago. The China blue stretches out pulling the amplified steel blue of the photograph into the combination. It works. 

(At this point I’ve realized that this essay could become ten. And since I only require myself to write a page or two a day, I either need to find a wrapping up point, or a juncture that could lead into the remaining contents of this shelf. I’m leaning toward the latter. “It works” works.)

1 comment:

  1. I emerge from my silence and obscurity because I am thankful to read that the icon is still traveling with you after all these years. I had a similar thought to your about the thrift store. My Facebook post ended "... discover anew a piece of my abandoned past. Sifting through the random refuse at the thrift store is the archaeology of my own life." Since I abandoned Facebook I am out of touch with people. I might have more to say in a more private means of communication, so please try and contact me through email and I'll let you know the best way for us to chat.