Unfortunately, while I knew I had tucked away two draft blog posts, I opened this one, meaning to embark with a philosophical update, but realized I'd forgotten what my intent with this topic was to be.
The origin of the name.
I'm sure I had some deep itinerary for this, but, in a beautiful spin of irony, I am rendered as breathless and bare as you, looking at this picture. The stamp of humanity, screaming its worth even long ago as then.
The picture, whether consciously or subconsciously, inspired this latest excerpt from my current work, the sequel to Emporium.
Once enveloped in the reddish stone, once trapped in the surreal earthen realm, I breathed, almost inaudible, “Oh my God.”
It was small, worlds and worlds infinite, voids into thousands of lives. Aborignal artwork surged up the wall, domed us like Xander’s favorite ocean tube – beneath the wave he surfed. Vibrant patterns; natural colors, swirls of tan and brown, boomerang images, kangaroos, all outlined in bold, precise white. And between everything, filling up every space, handprints. Each like a name. A brave statement. A daring stamp to say they existed, were here before us; a life lingering as it fades into somewhere else.
Xander studied them all. Hands on his belt. Quiet. That sensitivity, the depth often overlooked touched his face. This place was important to him.
He turned to me, slowly, taking me in. But I was speechless. Really. I was.
“Xander…” was all I could whisper.
Rather than replying, Xander stared at a handprint for an immeasurable amount of time, as if trying to see right through time the flesh that once covered it and the fingertips as they pulled away. Then, a peaceful, decided expression softening his face, he undid the canteen at his side, still not speaking, and wrenched off the cap.
He crouched again, and all I could do was watch as the water gurgled down into the rouge, clay-like soil before him, puddling. He was disciplined, pulling the water up to allow it to sink in and then adding more, pulling up just as it would pool.
Soon, he had a sloppy patch of raw, slimy mud and he shoveled in his hand, coating it. Entirely gleaming tan, he found a free space upon the cave wall and pressed his palm against it, holding it there for far too long, as if trying to feel more.
I am a lover of history.
It was never a move of advantage, of stealth, to approach in the hall my then-future history teacher and Breakers editor, Mrs. Williams, and tell her history was my favorite subject. I remember, in the school library, Mr. Bauer -- blonde-grey hair, kind blue eyes -- stood flipping through the pages of an enormous history book on its plinth, and I expressed the same sentiment to him, a teacher I was never to have.
"What kind of history do you like?" he'd said in his caring, kind voice.
At the time, I knew he taught ancient history, and may have been a bit influenced when saying, "Ancient history."
"I like American history," he admitted, turning to me with a sincere, warm regard before looking back at the book.
Looking back now, however, I realize I wasn't lying at all. Ancient history is my favorite to study, although I connect with it all.
I love history because of what I don't know.
We see the effects of man, but we do not see man. We see the disastrous, the grand, and, occasionally, the frightening. What we don't see is the father pulling the blanket up the ill child, the legionnaire kissing a lover's token in tears. And it baffles me. That there is even the slightest perception that these people were one bit less intelligent than us. Given their accomplishments with what little they had to work with, they may have ever been smarter. A shower, a shave, and a tie and the homo sapien-sapien caveman will have looked like anyone we see walking head-down over the pavement of Manhattan.
I love history because it is God's story. How humanity has lived with him, without him, lived in pain and in sobbing prayer, lived with the same desires and fears we do to this day. I am amazed at how He has caught all of our last breaths as they sigh from our bodies.
is in the spirit of Emporium, but the photos...
I don't have an enormous amount of money. My only real job was with a vet's office, where a dog bit me on my first day because I was nuzzling it affectionately. And I only spend my own. But to me, besides spending it on my friends and family unexpectedly, almost nothing is more worth the price than these old photos. I will sit there for hours, collectively, with a magnifying glass studying the photos, wondering their names. In my hand I hold a piece of history no one will ever see. A window into the eyes of those who are almost certainly not with us any more. That is also why I collect antiques. Not for the oddity of the item itself, but for the fact that someone actually touched it. A glimpse into someone's life no one will ever know.
So, what is the origin of the name? What inspired us, before we could even forge a sword in flame, to christen a calling to someone? To recognize the worth in a soul and give it a name?
I believe this phenomenon was more than convenience of achieving someone's attention. I believe humanity craved names. When we were first aware of ourselves on the earth, just like every other natural thing, we had no REASON to question the wind and the rain and sun, despite the fact that we are intellectually complex creatures. As I said in my previous post, animals don't. But yet we still felt a calling of a Purpose. Still felt a desire for spirit. Before we even knew of God, we knew Him. Just like before we were born He knew us. We knew there was more. Worth.
Maybe that's why those hands were stamped to the cavern wall. Because they deserve to have been.
But like I said. I love what I do not know.
P.S. The last of the photos which I could not elegantly drizzle throughout my post: