WHEN GOOD SHELVES GO BAD

THE WEDNESDAY MASSACRE

Yesterday, while cleaning, I stood up and my shoulder connected with the glass-fronted curio cabinet. I knocked a shelf and the aforementioned cabinet entirely off the wall. There was a loud crash. It wasn’t the noise that distressed me. It was what that noise meant … that I was about to incur serious losses.


I used to collect things. Pottery — Navajo, antique Chinese and Japanese — and antique sacred Asian art (mostly statues ranging from pretty big to very tiny).

Hard-plastic strung dolls of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s with a smattering of newer girls from the sixties. Tiny stuffed bears. Native American carved fetishes with a strong leaning towards Corn Maidens.

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And art. Paintings, photographs (not just mine, but other artists). Musical instruments. Wind chimes. Teapots.

Survivor!

Survivor of the massacre

There’s more. My husband’s baseball with autographs of the entire Red Sox organization of the 1970s, including Ted Williams.

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A Russian Matryoshka doll (the kind with all the little dolls inside each other).

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The glass-fronted cabinet and one shelf in the living room contain many of my favorite small pieces.

With all that we gave away or sold, the house is too full. At least most of it is on shelves and (presumably) out of the way. And safe, isn’t it? We put up a LOT of shelves, pretty much anywhere they would fit. The dolls are on shelves as is pottery, fetishes, and the small bronzes.

When those two shelves crashed to the ground, first bouncing off a small table and smashing some lovely Italian glass, I could only imagine the carnage. I’m surprised anything survived. Of the two Navajo pots, one came through without harm while the other was reduced to shards.

Gone, but not forgotten

Gone, but not forgotten

Two very old Chinese porcelain vases– one little black one from the 12th century and another from the Jian dynasty (probably 16th century), plus a lovely little “story” dish, probably 15th century, were smashed beyond saving.

The bronzes were unaffected, though the shelf barely survived the fall.

It was my fault. Entirely. No one else did anything to cause the massacre.

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It got me to pondering the transitory nature of things. Antiques would not be so valuable if they didn’t get broken, destroyed, lost through the years. If everything survived through the generations, there’s be no scarcity of ancient artifacts. This line of thought is actually not very comforting.

On the shelf, I thought they were safe. Out of harm’s way. My only enemy was the eternal, unavoidable dust settling on everything.

It turns out, I am time’s enemy.

GIBBS – FREEDOM ROAD

Gibbs, our Scottish Terrier, was rescued from a breeder’s auction in Kansas. It was a long road for him to land with us in Uxbridge, Massachusetts.

Today, he discovered freedom. It took him about 24 hours to figure out how to go in and out the doggy door … and go safely and sure-footed up and down stairs. During his first couple of days, it rained nonstop. Not today.

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From sunrise this morning, sunshine has been streaming in the windows. It was early … just around seven … when I went to shoo the dogs outside. This time, Gibbs only needed a gentle nudge and he was on his paws and down the stairs. Outside with the other kids. Then, back inside and into the kitchen for his treat. Bold as Bonnie and doing a Scottie happy dance.

After three days of continuous rain and ensuing muddy paw prints, the house was a mess. We had to clean. Bonnie and Bishop know from experience that they should make themselves scarce. As soon as they spy the bucket and mop, they hightail it to the yard and stay there until we’re done pushing around furniture, vacuuming, sweeping, and mopping up mud.

It took Gibbs perhaps 20 minutes to realize he might want to head for the hills, too.

At which point, with the sun shining and the mercury around 60, he discovered running. And barking, rolling in the dirt. Then running more.

He didn’t stop for seven hours. Barely did he pause to catch a breath. Barking, running, running, barking. Bonnie and Bishop charged out the doggy door to join him a few times an hour, but mostly, he was just as happy to bark and run without a supporting cast. He was so happy you could feel it coming off him in waves. Very nice to see.

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I tried to cajole him inside a couple of times. My son came over and tried too. Gibbs was happy enough to come over, get petted, but then he rocketed off again. Leaping with joy as he ran. I am having trouble believing he’s really 9-years-old. He acts like a pup.

When we finally corralled him at dinner time, I think he realized he was tired because he hit the sofa and hasn’t twitched an ear since. I’m not surprised. I wonder how many times in his life he has had the opportunity to run and bark with nothing in his way. It’s a big yard and I’m sure he covered every single inch of it … more than once.

How did a dog a great dog like him wind up in rescue? What happened? Who would give up a wonderful boy like Gibbs?

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He’s sweet. Peaceful. He gets along with everyone, two and four-legged. He’s not nippy, nor fearful of people or noise. Not only not nervous, he is downright calm. Laid back. Happy to hang with Bonnie, Bishop, us … or whoever happens to show up. And more than content to sleep on the sofa (though he has not yet tried to jump up on his own).

What happened to him to land in rescue? And what lucky star was shining that he found his way out to us when we needed a Scottie and he needed a home!

If he could talk, what could he tell us? I can’t help but wonder what roads he traveled to get here.

ORIGINS AND FAMILY

A few years ago, I briefly had access to Ancestry.com. I traced my family back to the census of 1910, at which point, it ended. I could have pursued it further using other Jewish ancestry sites, but I knew where they would take me.

On my father’s side, the trail would end in Minsk around the turn of the 19th century. On my mother’s side, the trail would go cold in Tarnow, Poland at approximately the same time.

Bonnie and friend on the dirt path

We were neither important nor prominent. Not rich, famous, or especially learned. Regular people, trying to stay alive and out of the Czar’s army. Put food on the table. Occasionally have a belly laugh with friends and family.

Even if I could trace back another hundred years, it wouldn’t answer the real questions about where we began.

When Genghis Khan invaded what is now Russia and eastern Europe, how many babies were left in the wake of the Golden Horde? How many were left by Crusaders as they pillaged, raped, and plundered all the way from Britain to Jerusalem?

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So many invasions, ejections, wars, migrations. How can anyone with even a trace of European or Asian ancestry think they are pure anything — other than human? Assuming current thinking on the origins of mankind are at all accurate, we all came from somewhere else in the beginning. Asia or Africa. Both, perhaps.

Or, somewhere else entirely?

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Thinking about this brings me back to the current sad state of geopolitical mass hysteria and stupidity. We are — all of us — family. If we could trace our roots far enough into the mists of time, we would find each other. Cousins, even though many times removed.

We are one people. Despite skin color, eye-shape, and other “race” and “ethnicity” surface markers, we are enormously more the same than different.

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So how come we hate each other so much? Why? What makes us want to hate one another? Why build walls instead of bridges?