February 9, 2008

NIBEM 9: Digging Up Life

The local newspaper had a front page article this morning about an archaeological dig at the Santa Barbara Mission. Evidence of a Chumash Indian village from the 1790's had been discovered. Small shards of glass and white English pearl ware, as well as the stone foundation of a house confirmed the long held supposition that a thriving Chumash village existed just yards away from the mission.

This got me thinking about what future archaeologists might discover in a dig at the site of my current home. Imagine a cataclysmic earthquake or worse, a earthquake/tsunami combo (Nora's worst nightmare), wiped out Goleta. Centuries later, I imagine most of our possessions would have decomposed except maybe some of the AA batteries we knew we bought but could never seem to find when we needed them, and probably a few of K-Mart's indestructible plastic storage bins. But I'd like to think that there would also be a few essential remnants to reveal a more personal side of our lives.

China and pottery seem to be popular archaeological finds, and we do have an abundance of that. Our collection of blue-green pottery would leave eye-catching shards in the layers of brown soil. Evidence of my many teapots would probably be unearthed as well. I would hope at least one earnest seeker might uncover a bit of my favorite one, a small brown pot, made in England, and hand-painted with blue, yellow and orange flowers. I bought this pot with Mom sometime in the 1960's at Hink's, a long-gone oak-floored department store in Berkeley. Since bringing it home a few years ago, I use it almost every day.

Of course some of our favorite collections wouldn't survive. The colorful grouping of Eastern European nesting dolls presently lining one shelf in the living room bookcase would have rotted by the time any dig occurred, and our books would be long gone as well. They would have provided the clearest representation of our family culture. Without the numerous children's books, Paul's eclectic personal library, the heavy and beautifully illustrated art books, and my own cookbooks with stained pages and penciled notations it would be hard for anyone to get a true sense of our lives.

Some of our "collections" have very few tangible artifacts, even now. No archaeologist could find evidence of the highly embellished family stories that live only in our memories (and now this blog, I suppose). Our witty collection of potential book titles, great opening lines for novels, and random snippets of dialogue is even more abstract. The products of our clever bantering exist only for a few seconds. We can't seem to remember them any longer than that. I always say I'm going to write them down, but never do. I've been waiting to hear the perfect book title for my Emelia story, but nothing so far. I'll keep listening.

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