Monday, February 28, 2011

the room

Walking though the dark building, lit only by his flashlight, he thought he felt the air chill. Reaching into his vest of many pockets, Phil pulled out his antiquated BlackBerry and pushed the touch screen. No bars, nothing, not a trace of a signal. He'd find the circuit box somewhere before long. He strolled down one of the old hospital's many basement corridors, checking each room for the main power box. He came to the last door in the line. Oddly, he thought he saw a slight puff of dust blow out from under the door as he swung his light around. Almost like a breath and he wondered where that came from. It turned out not to be the power room. No circuit box in there. Which is not to say there were no boxes. As he panned the light around the crowded interior he saw shelves filled with what appeared to be squat dusty plastic boxes, black with some kind of paper labels, as well as older tin cans, some heavily corroded. He started as he heard a whisper, right behind his left ear. Nothing there. As he walked back out of the room, he could have sworn he heard the whisper again.

In the old hospital, down in the basement, in that room, nothing moved that you could tell, but that didn't mean nothing moved. Dust. And ashes. And, a whisper, as though of some long forgotten memory. Forgotten, but not truly gone. At first, for long decades, there was nothing of awareness. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, they began to remember, to feel, and feeling knew loss. They knew not what they had lost. But they whispered among themselves. They whispered confusion, and darkness, and light. They whispered of bygone days out in the sun, and then of endless times confined within. but within what.

Plans were underway for demolition to begin within a few months, after all the channels had been gone through, paperwork signed, bids taken, more paperwork, then more again.

The phone rang at the Institute for Studies of the Unseen. There was something perhaps of interest down in Salem. Could they come to the old State Hospital? Yes, the one where they made that famous movie. Well, It was no big deal, really, just that they were getting ready to tear it down. No, of course demolition was not ISU's thing, but there were the whisperings. In the Room of Forgotten Souls. Where they kept the cremated remains of patients from the last sixty years. Sure, they could come today, today would be great.

The emf meter went wild, even though the wires had already been stripped out, and not a watt of power in the place. Likewise the Sub and Ultra sonic recorders. Mary and her tech team had to have new apps written to sort it all out. Five thousand voices, all trying to say their names, or the names of living relatives, all at once. The ISU team had tried to bring in a medium to talk to the voices, get them to take turns speaking. They wouldn't shut up long enough to hear the happy medium, overjoyed as he was to be there, for the Great Speaking, as he called it.

Eventually, temporary employees were hired to make the thousands of calls. No one told them where the information they gave had really come from. "We found some old data hidden away". People came from all over the country, and some even from overseas. All came to claim their long lost crazy relatives' ashes. They made great conversation pieces for one's mantle. And if you were quiet, after your dinner guests had all gone home they would whisper, happily, of freedom and release.

Note: The Room of Forgotten Souls is a real place within the old Oregon State Hospital, in Salem Oregon, where the movie "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" was filmed.

kptv-fox12, in Portland recently did a story on the room, but that link has since been removed from their site.

This Oregon State site, does however have listings of the names of the "Cremains" for those who think they may have relatives there.

Photographer David Maisel has done a fine series of photos of some of the old Cremains cans in his collection Library of Dust. I did not include them in the story because I don't have rights to them. However, you can see them Here.

For further reading on the Oregon State Hospital in Salem, you can start with the Wiki here.

Monday, February 21, 2011

It's not my hammer

I recently found this old hammer half buried under a rhododendron in my back yard.

It's not my hammer.

I was raised better than that. We don't treat tools that way in my family. But why does it still stand there, rusty and unused in the weather?

It's not my hammer.

It's a remnant of some previous tenant, some prior existence there, in my back yard.  I don't have to take charge of it's care if I don't want to. That was someone Else's responsibility.  I'm leaving it out there for a reason, several really. I like the way it looks by the blue box.  It has some meaning there, beyond that of a discarded hand tool, unused and uncared for.

It's not my hammer.

I could take it inside, try to clean it up & make it whole. It may not even be safe to use. Structural integrity and all that. I've had a chip off an old tired hammer break off and stick in my arm before. Yeah, really.  Part of me wants to feel guilty about not making the effort to bring it back to usefulness.

I have been fascinated by this forgotten object though.  It seems to be trying to tell me things. I've been visiting it out on the patio, watching it, listening for what things it might have to tell me, or to teach me.

Whoever left it out there in the first place is probably not a bad person. Sometimes one might forget, regardless of a proper upbringing, as regards the care of one's tools. One might be a young child, or easily distracted, or just plain forgetful. Not everyone recognizes or considers the value of a tool. Or perhaps they were just really busy, too busy to deal with one more thing. Life can be that way some times.

It has been said that we all live in a world of symbols and I believe that's true on a number of levels.  I've also read and heard that we Native Americans have always lived in worlds of symbols and I feel that to certainly be true of myself and those close to me.

A hammer is a tool. It is also a symbol, an overall abstraction of a thing you can use to make something else, repair something else, Create new things in the world. Having a hammer and exploring what a hammer can do changes the way one perceives the world around them and the possibilities therein.  It gives us a new way to relate to the world and those in it.

A talent is a tool.

For too long I have let some of my talents, some of my tools, lie rusting under the bushes so to speak. I was raised better than that. Here on this page I've been working on some of that.  There are a couple of other talents I also need to get back to.  It can be difficult to make the time. There are a lot of other things in my life that require my time, energy and attention.  It's a work  in progress, my life.

It's not my hammer.

But they're my talents, wherever they came from. I have sometimes tried to deny that. If  a talent is not mine, not there in sufficient strength to be of use, then I'm not responsible to it, right?  Ok, I see that's weak.  We all have more than one talent. No, really. Some are shiny and bright. Easy for us and for others to see their strength, their beauty, their usefulness. Other talents, not so much. 

It's not my hammer. Or is it?

So we have to pick and choose. Which talent to nuture and use, which to let go. Which tool to pick up and use,  which to let go of, at least for a while. But I see some tools, some talents won't let you go. So work on the writing, let the  knife throwing go.  Work on the guitar playing, let the painting go.  And on and on and on. Little talents. Big talents. Useful, or not.

They're all my tools to use, to be responsible for and to enjoy as I choose. 

I'll work in some more writing, more guitar and some visual art, photography - yes, knife throwing - not so much.  And, of course, that weak talent, that rusty tool,  for making money - that's in need of some pretty big work I see also.

In all of that it's important to not forget, not neglect what may not be a talent, but is certainly important.  The taking care of others - family, friends or to some extent, whomever I might come in contact with.  Sometimes Kind is more important than Competent.

I guess the hammer is mine now. I think I'll go bring it in and put it in the garage, maybe see if I can clean it up a bit, even if it's not my best hammer, it's my hammer now.