I was in junior high school when a house three houses down from mine burned to the ground. I remember coming home from school and our usually quiet block was chaotic, unsettled. Neighbors were standing in their yards, and firetrucks, with red lights flashing, lined our street. A rubble of blackened bricks, charred wood and mountains of ash stood where once had stood a home to one of my childhood friends. I remember, after the fire trucks left, the commotion died down, and the parents retreated back into their homes, I walked through some of the remains that had been cast into the front yard. I saw little things that were of no value to anyone, but I knew my friend, and I knew these seemingly insignificant items held important value to her. I thought, how very sad to have things that were meaningful, able to be so easily tossed aside, left in a pile of rubble that would be hauled away as trash.
Perhaps having experienced this destruction as a young girl, I find I still have a sentimental nature concerning nondescript items from my childhood, from my children’s childhood, things that I still hold on to and want to keep close.
I have and still use an old wooden clown head bottle opener. It has been in my family as long as I can remember, and while the paint has flaked off his face and he no longer looks much like a clown, he will always have a permanent home in my kitchen drawer. I have a photograph of my mother wearing a light blue flannel robe. I am pictured standing beside her blowing out the candles of my second birthday cake. I was amazed to find that robe still hanging in my mother’s closet fifty years later. This now soft faded robe held such a sweet memory, that it has been hanging in my closet for well over ten years, and I smile each time I come across it. There are other things I have kept over the years, small things, reminders of tender moments. Most people likely would have tossed these relics years ago, but to me, they are remnants of my past, something to hold on to and not leave behind.
In Santa Fe this summer, we shopped the art galleries of Canyon Road, there I spotted this very funky sculpted piece that captured my attention. We gathered around this delightful sculpture and the gallery owner told us about the artist and about “Red Earth.”
An abstract earthy lady wore a waxen silk threaded memory skirt. The gallery owner encouraged us to run our fingers through the contents of her skirt. Dangling from many of the hundreds of strands were “treasures” that had at one time been lost or forgotten. The threads of her skirt are filled with such things as: a broken wrist watch, a shell, a child’s small toy, buttons and beads, a chess knight, a small crystal rocking horse, a dog tag, keys, a child’s small cross necklace…her skirt is full of memories of others.
I learned, it is Native American lore that it is felt memories are often housed within life’s maze of artifacts. Each artifact that comes into our path holds a story, and that story holds a memory. The artist, being a Blackfoot descendant, found this tradition inspiring and began creating his pieces “to reflect memories which invoke choices we make. Raising the question of what’s important or what needs to be left behind?” Each item he attached to her memory skirt “contains relics of outworn fantasies, fragments of disconnected dreams, and the quietest whispers of intuitive perception.”
I waited a few days before going back to the gallery. I wanted to think about this piece and decide if she was right for me. On my second visit to the gallery, the owner explained that many of the strands of her skirt had been left unfilled. It was the artist desire that who ever chose to purchase this piece would add their own memories to the skirt. Well, that sealed the deal for me, I knew then, she was mine.
I have had “Red Earth” for a few weeks now. The first thing I tied to her skirt was Steve’s wedding ring, then a very old well-worn high school ring of my mother’s. I have since tied the children’s silver rattle to a strand, a miniature antique perfume vial because it reminds me of Psalms 58:6 (a scripture that I hold close to my heart), and a silver cross bookmark that I have always loved.
Explaining “Red Earth” to Harper and Harris, I asked what treasures they would like to add to the memory skirt. Harris quickly ran to grab his beloved two inch batman figure from his superhero stash, and Harper carefully chose her favorite of all the dinosaurs, a tiny T-rex as her treasure.
I’m sure I will continue to add precious mementoes to Red Earth’s memory skirt. Someday, I might tie a swatch of my mother’s frayed blue flannel robe, a small corner of one of my grandmother’s lace handkerchiefs, or whatever else I come across in my treasure trove of relics from the quietest whispers of my memories.
For what it’s worth,
Ezra 9:8 "But now, for a brief moment, the LORD our God has been gracious in leaving us a remnant and giving us a firm place in his sanctuary, and so our God gives light to our eyes and a little relief in our bondage.”