Sunday, July 1, 2018

memento mori

Dear Contemplating,

I am ruminating today on a red abalone dish with three little Lucite legs setting on the coffee table.  It isn't quite right on my coffee table; last year I painted the top of the table an orchid violet color.  It had previously been a sort of muted sage-pine color.  Before that, it was a 20 dollar table with a bright (meaning varnish over wood) top from a college student who sold it on Craigslist after he graduated.  It's a bit clunky, cheap, and rock solid, the way hotel or college furniture can be, but the more delicate, mid-century modern, walnut veneer table doesn't have enough space for the potted succulents, books, pencils, letters, coasters, and frequent projects that the table must accommodate.

The red abalone dish used to be on the round, white marble coffee table of our friends home.  The marble was very cool to touch, and yet soft, in that way that marble is, because of the way the stone diffuses light, the way you can see down into the surface of the marble, like a sheet of ice.  The marble had some fine, pale gray streaks in it, too, which always looked a little blurry; comfortingly out of focus. 

The red abalone dish sat on the marble table for years, until last year, when our friends began a move they are making to another country.  The dish sat there with books, two exemplary kaleidoscopes, and a set of coasters with illustrations of Great Authors on them.  When you would sit down around this table you would pull James Joyce over to you and set your coffee or prosecco on him and admire the red abalone dish, and see what was being read lately.  You would also probably take a look into the kaleidoscopes, because the view in them is never the same twice.

It's very lovely to have the red abalone dish, as you can imagine, but you can also see how much is missing when I look into its concave emptiness.

Several years ago artist Maira Kalman re-presented some objects in the collection of the Cooper Hewitt museum - please enjoy her thoughtful consideration of objects and stories.