Monday, September 28, 2009

DAngerous Book - Episode 14

Thursday, April 19

Peter and I picnicked this afternoon on the Gorgas Library steps overlooking the Archeology department’s dig. We met there to watch Kate boss her undergraduate volunteers as they picked their way through ground on which had once stood Madison Hall, a dormitory burned to the ground by Union soldiers five days short of Lee’s surrender.

“Can you imagine burning down a dormitory?” she asked.

They both looked at me in the accusing way of native Southerners.

“Hey,” I said, “my people were at Andersonville, thank you.” This kind of remark always clears the room, but I’ve learned not to care. Kate actually laughed.

“Then we won’t have to worry about you!” she said and ran back to the dig leaving her notebook and Coke behind. If I didn’t know better I’d say she was chaperoning us. But why would she need to do that?

How close did we get today? Peter and I? Well. I am getting what I’ve asked for. Unhurried wooing. If, indeed, one is wooed by hot dog lunches on library steps. Not when you put it that way, Nora. Put it this way: wooed by knees that touch, by the careful shifting of bodies so that knees are only the first of parts to touch. Voices touch. Thighs touch. And rebound as Kate returns. A little like a dance. Enter self-consciousness. Enter blushes coupled with clean irritation. "I’m going now, " I said after her third interruption. "Got a meeting."

But later, as I was leaving Clark Hall at five, who was waiting for me? Drinks at the Lullwater?

“Will any of your friends be there?”


“Let’s go.”

My own digging for information about Peter’s current state was as delicate as Kate’s search for the remains of Madison Hall. And I know less about what I will find than she does. Here are three archaeological digs going on. My garden, I realize, was one. Unintentional. I chose a space to make a garden so that I could bury my sadness and plant new life. Raise some green girl-ness in myself. A Lazarus activity. And I do this, but in doing it I find a bracelet and a bead. I don’t know what to make of these objects. They have meaning to someone, but not to me. Maybe Ed Dowling buried them when he planted his azaleas. In addition to the bracelet and the blue bead, I also pulled up rotten bulbs. How many people have lived in these fifteen separate apartments over the last fifty years?

When Kate gets down to the particulars of her site, she will (she hopes) uncover objects and parts of objects. Artifacts. (noun: an object produced or shaped by human workmanship; especially, a simple tool, weapon, or ornament of archaeological or historical interest. 2. Biology. A structure or substance not normally present, but produced by some external agency or action.) Unlike the objects I’ve uncovered, she will unearth objects with the potential for historic meaning. She will not polish the blue bead and leave it on her desk. She will not wear the bracelet. She will photograph her finds and set them aside like the pieces of a puzzle. And then what? When do digs end? How do you know when you’ve uncovered everything there is to uncover?

The third dig of course is the one for the human heart. Peter's heart. Nora's heart. Is there a connection between the two? Will there be objects raised from our experiences that will bring us together or will we be two people who spent time digging and found nothing, but got some sun and some much needed exercise?

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