20 January 2010

Curios and the Man

Spiny Norman peers down at me, the same Mona Lisa grin he has held for years plastered on his face. I say plastered, and its quite the joke. He is made of plaster, you see.

Spiny Norman is a little plaster gargoyle that occupies the top right hand corner position on my bookshelf-entertainment center combo unit. A cute little thing, he was given to me many, many years ago as a gift. He had no name when I came to possess him. Reckoning that this lack could not remain unaddressed, I cast about for a suitable moniker. Inspiration came in the form of Monty Python's Piranha Brothers' sketch, featuring 'Spiny Norman' the hedgehog. Eureka! 

As I said, Spiny Norman has been with for years, through four job changes, one layoff and intense personal turmoil. He even survived a fall from the desk, losing only few small chips and having one chunk glued back in place. The lines are faint, and the smile is intact. Hmm...not unlike myself, methinks.

He also shares the shelf with a few other artifacts sifted from the sands of my life. As of this writing, from right to left, the other occupants are: small ceramic sake bottle; antique clear glass bottle, also small; antique folding ruler with brass hinges; one rubber stamp of my architects' license seal; leather bound hip flask; small ceramic pot with lid; a photo of my daughter at one year old; and a photo of my first son, days old in the NICU. The shelf below all that is occupied by more photos of family and a small amount of books. These artifacts, they comfort me.

The sake bottle is speckled light gray, painted with a stalk of bamboo and leaves rendered in blue. A former colleague of mine gave it to me as a parting gift, upon finding out he had been let go from the company. A nice man, he was. I wished him well.

The glass bottle I found on a building site I was inspecting. It was uncovered during the excavation of some foundations. It appears to have been hand-blown, with bubbles in the glass and a slightly crooked neck. There was even a tiny bit of cork remaining in the top. My best guess is that it contained medicine, or perhaps liquor.

The folding rule belonged to my paternal grandfather, and was given to me by my father. It has brass pivots and a deep honey brown patina from years of use and old shellac. My dad remembers his dad using this tool, and it was well cared for I can see. My grandfather could make a lot of things with his hands, the by-product of having learned about five different trades in five decades of service to the railroad that employed him. I wish I had even a fraction of that ability, and seeing that rule gives me inspiration.

The flask is stainless steel, and it is engraved with my initials. I was given this as a parting gift, also by a former colleague, but this time I was the one leaving. Fortunately, it was by my own volition, and it touched me to know that someone cared enough to mark the occasion with a gift. I have yet to put whisky in it...it looks too nice for me to use!

The small ceramic pot I acquired at a crafts fair, some years ago. It was made by a potter/ceramicist from the Seattle, Washington area. The exterior is slightly rough, blackish-gray in color, and has a lid. The inside is glazed a deep, brilliant red (Chinese red? Vermillion? Not sure.) and I have been meaning to fill it with pebbles. The potter also made some exquisite vases, but the pot was what I could afford. I find its quiet humbleness to be attractive. I would have liked to buy another, but is a small shame that I misplaced the potter's business card and cannot recall his name.

The photographs speak very well for themselves. Family members, some still of this earth and others off the mortal coil, I find it very comforting now to have them with me. Pictures like these used to weird me out. I could never shake that feeling of being watched, and I have always been a creature of solitary inclinations.

Things do change, as we cannot escape the dynamics of a universe in motion. With all the terrible tragedies and magnificent joys I have experienced in the past few years I have also come to like having the company of the people and things that contribute to the work-in-progress that is Me. My ego is finally letting go of the notion that I am a rock and island. I do know for sure that I cannot make all of this life by my own energies. The pictures, the objects and artifacts serve as touchstones imparting their own invigorating vibrations. When I need regeneration or a reminder of the love that built me*, I fill my cup at the curio cabinet, and know that love and strength are found in many places.

Relics. Artifacts. Mementos. What contains the love that built you?

*Paraphrased from "I Should Be Born" by Jets Overhead. A song most excellent!


  1. Spiny Norman! The best Python skit ever. The little gargoyle that stands before my Charles Dickens collection is named Little Ugly Fella. The two skulls (one with a pirate hat) on my short bookshelf are named This One and The One With the Pirate Hat. The little Marvin Martian that stands one shelf below them is named Marvin the Martian. The sea captain in the rowboat on that same shelf is named Mike, and the two wind-up nuns on the shelf below them are named The Sisters. All of the thousands of hotei scattered about the house and along the lower shelf of my altar are called Little Fat Fellas. The Buddha head that sits at the top of my altar is named Oh Great One Who Stabs the Heck Out of Me With His Pointy Topknot Every Time I Dust Him.

  2. I would watch out. One day Spiny Norman will decide that he's had enough falls and will run off with the rest of your trinkets.

  3. Jeez man ... you could have taken photos of the artifacts!!! Although your descriptions are phenom. Now ... the photos ... I talk to the photos strewn around my house, well the ones that have the people that have left this mortal coil anyway, all the others I can just phone up!


  4. I try not to keep knick knacks around unless I can attach meaning and memories to them.
    Thoughtful post, Gumby

  5. Spiny sounds like a very affable companion! I would like him. You're right about the power of artifacts to lend us serenity, strength, any number of positive things. I like the artifacts that reach back through time, like your grandfather's rule. Somehow very comforting.

    I love artifacts too. Love letters. Photographs. Trinkets. Dishes.

  6. Could be my living room...

    trinkets are the planets that orbit our worlds, and never open doors
    some dead, redder than sand
    some cold, but wouldn't rattle my teeth
    some bleed, colorless dreams that demand
    leaving dust lines like bodies on a crime scene floors

  7. We have a cabinet which contains so many "things" that hold special meaning. I think you may have inspired a post!

  8. The entire house here is filled with antiques that have been passed down from generation to generation. I suppose I most identify with the furniture that I grew up with--strong, sturdy,solid, with that patina that comes from many hands having touched it. I feel connected to those that came before through those things.


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...