Sunday, November 6, 2011

A periodic table of the experiences

All 92 elements, attractively
displayed, available at
Worried about the radium,
uranium and thorium? They also
sell a radiation monitor.
All this collecting talk reminds me of a brilliant freelance physicist I once knew who was assembling a collection of all the natural elements in the periodic table. I sent an email to ask about his motives and methods. He answered within minutes with a firm "No comment." 

Nobody's required to answer random importunate questions from near-strangers, but I was disappointed. Otherwise, I would never mention the time that he accidentally inhaled a snootful of tellurium powder and had to be rushed to the hospital for chelation therapy. Tellurium, if it does not kill you, gives a distinctive garlic odor to the breath that has been known to last for months. I'm sure it's gone by now.

But objects aren't the only thing you can collect. You can collect experiences, you can make a bucket list and go fill your bucket with your heart's desire. Wikipedia, a staggeringly vast collection in its own right, says “An alternative to collecting physical objects is collecting experiences of some kind, through observation or photography. Examples include bird-watching; transportation, e.g. train spotting, aircraft spotting, metrophiles, bus spotting, see also I-Spy; and visiting continents, countries, states, counties, and national parks....”

                    OF SOME KIND

All the trains spotted, every state stepped in,
all the birds you have seen, did they see you?

And now think of all the girls you have kissed,
through observation or photography,

or boys, and exactly how they tasted,
and how few wanted even one more kiss.

Experience collects us, brings us back
to be stored dry, neat in a wide flat drawer,

but when the drawers are full, piles us up
in closets, in stacks of old wine cartons,

in a clutter in his heart, in a horde
of life to be relived.
                                 I don’t talk this way.

This is something new for me, this sounding
like epitaphs, like sermons on gray stone.

Sunday they pointed out where I’ll be buried
in Waitsfield, just up from the Mad River,

with all the rest of the family, all.
It didn’t seem to bother them a bit.

1 comment:

  1. David: In line 11 - did you mean "horde" or "hoard" or both?


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