The archive

I know for certain now how long a half-century is, for I have lived more than that and remember. I know how long 30 seconds are — long enough to tell you what I have to sell, long enough to trash a reputation. 

I could do the figures and find out how many 30-second intervals there are in the waking hours of 50 years. Is the time wasted if nothing lasting emerges from the effort? We live, we pass the baton, we go our way. Our footprints wash away or are eroded by the wind. 

We leave behind momentos of what struck our fancy in, well, the moment. Why did I keep this, and that, is forgotten even by the keeper, each object someone’s effort to please, or preserve, or build, now here in the museum/archive of a lifetime. Shared moments, memories of ancestors, are all here willy-nilly in this space. 

Pick something up, anything, and examine it. There was a reason to buy and keep this. Remember? It had/has a purpose. Is it junk now? Or is there still untapped value to be recaptured and celebrated? Turn the light back on and rummage — not for sale, but for the sake of rummaging and remembering and finding long-ago smiles and impressions.

Later, others will come and pick over and salvage what delights them. At some point, of course, each of these items delighted me in some way, or at least it whispered, “Take me for now, and examine at your leisure” — and if leisure never came, that was my loss. But I don’t come to regret or chastise myself (although I certainly could — look at these disorganized piles of treasures past!) — I come to find out what I have found and recognize its potential all over again.

Ah, now I feel I’m rambling in no direction, and sometimes I come home with stuff for seemingly no reason — or for a wish — “Someday I will create a radio program and play these tunes and these sounds — these are the building blocks of my sound archive. Someday I will organize displays of these trinkets on shelves. I will show new generations how to play with these old toys. I will admire the workmanship, I will read and revive these long-forgotten words.” I am an archivist with piles of works I need to put in order, to retrieve for my own and others’ enjoyment. Let’s see what I find today when I open a drawer or move a pile or take something off the shelf at random. “Someday” just happened to arrive today.

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