Colonial BERL

Being an archeologist, I should be a collector of stuff. I study objects that belonged to people thousands of years ago– things loved, disliked, broken, fixed again, thrown away, gifted, wanted, bought, exchanged for, lost, found, or hidden.

But when I moved across the ocean for a job, I only took my books, my clothes, some papers. No useless stuff, no memorabilia, no mawkishness. And somewhere, in a purse, a small glass shard.

This is its story:

A few years ago, a friend showed me the rivers and lands of his ancestors in upstate New York. We went fishing, standing totally still in deep green water. Birds of prey circled the forested hilltops. Age old trees swayed behind us, creaking.

The silence of a landscape pierced by colonial wounds.

B-E-R-L.

The shard that washed right at my feet is probably a piece of an old bottle. (I think, Made in BERLin.) Battered, useless, timeless. But its presence recalls to me, in very profound ways, my entanglement in the colonial intrusions that make up the history of this stolen land.

– mailed from Germany

Exchange Story

After college I moved to Latin America for a year and a half. My former professor and longtime mentor gave me a small rock with a tiny green crystal at one side. “It will protect you,” she told me. And it did. That little Rock came all over the world with me– to Guatemala, Mexico, Australia, London, Paris, Norway, and finally to Brooklyn (and later to Manhattan) for five years. It was with me always in my bag or pocket. When I moved home to the US, I stopped carrying it with me, not sure why. This shard of glass reminded me of the rock, so smooth on one side, comforting in my hand. Perhaps more fitting for my current, more urban lifestyle.

Thanks.

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