Saturday, April 14, 2007

the catalogue of glass

St. George children's room
New York Public Library Visual Materials > Photograph albums. (created ca. 191--ca.
Humanities and Social Sciences Library / New York Public Library Archives
gelatin silver, 4 x 6 in. or smaller

Many years ago I dreamed that I had died and was being guided from this world to the next by my dear friend, Sibyl, who has guided me in many ways in this life as well. In this dream, the world had been destroyed, and the place where I found myself was some type of floating bubble in space, a giant room with a dome of glass on to which were projected images of the most exceedingly beautiful things that whoever remained recalled about the lovely, precious earth--pods of whales swimming in the ocean, trees blowing in the wind, flocks of birds passing in great arcs overhead. Tears came to my eyes as I watched these images, and a pang of exquisite longing for the physicality of these images that would now forever be only that.

In the large room beneath the dome, a dozen or so people stood in white coats at high tables, on which were placed trays and trays of fragments, shards of what remained of the world that no longer existed. My guide informed me that this would be my work, to piece together from the fragments of the destroyed world, something beautiful.

Just now I was reading my friend Deborah’s post about a postcard sent from Venice by her great Aunt, Puppy, in 1906, and her beautiful musings about what that moment meant in Puppy’s life. I was touched, and it occurred to me that all along what we have needed is a memorial museum that enshrines one unutterably poignant, or utterly mundane, or tragically heroic moment from every life that has passed across this earth. It would be a magnificent catalogue of glass, and you or I could go there, open a drawer, and witness the exquisite fragile moment, a sight, a smell, a memory, of every life for all time. It would be a monolithic and burdensome undertaking, but would it serve to call to mind the fleeting exhalation that is each individual life? I see us all there, in little puddles weeping on the floor, immersed.

It reminds me in a way, of a story of a friend who had visited the Holocaust Memorial Museum, and as she passed through its halls she happened to hear the name of one of her relatives called out, a child, who had perished at Dachau. Out of the millions of moments and the millions of names perpetually repeated, she had been there just at the moment of that utterance, and it moved her to tears.