The traces we leave behind

Posted: September 18, 2014 in Uncategorized

We went meandering through an old antiques shop yesterday. It was filled with a breathtaking amount of stuff, seemingly haphazardly scattered throughout the premises, crowded with colourful memories and the smell of old furniture. You can while away hours in a place like this, picking at this and that and marvelling at the way things used to be. But something arrested my wandering eye.

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A portrait of a middle aged man sat carelessly placed on a cupboard, surrounded by an arbitrary collection of paraphernalia – some cloudy old bottles, a rusting fan, an arbitrary painting of flowers. It had no name, this painting. There was a time it wouldn’t have needed one, because it would have been placed where everyone knew who it was that was in it. “Oh”, they would have said in recognising tones, “there he is. It looks just like him!” But no one says those words now. The knowing voices and the figure in the portrait are gone. Now he sits, a figure among clutter without context, a memory without voice or meaning.


What are the traces we leave behind, I wondered? I’m sure that whoever was in the painting didn’t think of it lingering behind long after he’d gone; certainly, he didn’t imagine it ending up in a place like this. Yet we will all leave traces of ourselves that remain in silence after our brief and noisy time here. I was driven suddenly to try to ensure that my traces would not be wordless, not abandoned to no context. But even now, trying to describe all that I thought and felt when I saw that portrait, my words fail me and the memory of its impact runs away as if written in the wind. In the end, making sure my impact remains is not all up to me.


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