The Slow-Cooked Sentence

Soupçon or sounds of collecting

Rachael Conlin Levy

soop-sawn /noun/ A slight trace, as of a particular taste or flavor.

I heard, more than saw, Jen’s actions: The crackling of tissue paper as it was pulled away to reveal a folded kimono, and the hush of spilled silk as she lifted it up to show me the delicate brush strokes. A kimono’s image can tell a story, and the color of the cloth might reveal something about the wearer, she said, or sometimes it’s nothing but beautiful artwork to wrap around a beautiful woman.

Should you be wearing gloves to protect the fabric?

No, these have been worn. Look, some of the seams are unraveling.

Do you ever wear them?

I collect them, she said.

What is this desire that manifests itself in holding? If the collections are the outer manifestation of an inner craving — a life wished for, a skill lacking, a person lost, a feeling that will fade — what, then, is revealed about the collector?

Collecting, reversed

When I turned thirteen, my mother gave me a bracelet tinkling with silver charms gathered from states visited and milestones commemorated (graduation from eighth grade, the birth of a baby sister). Over the years, I soldered my own memories to the bracelet, and this summer — with my own daughter turned thirteen — I passed it to her, a collection not as much owned as held for the next generation.

Collecting, reversed

What else do I collect? Children (although I stopped at four), seeds in late summer, and words, which I gather from conversations, roadside signs and books. I pick up new words like my children gather rocks along the paths they’ve hiked, the rivers waded, the shores walked. They bring them home, tuck them into the corners of their drawers, while I stash mine in notebooks, hoping to remember the tale, a mood, a message, a life, copying the sentences to feel what it’s like to physically write the words, reading them aloud, shaping my mouth around their foreignness.

Later I disperse what I gather — children to the world, seeds to the soil and my words into new sentences — but in the act of collecting these loved objects we risk diminishing them until they’re but a soupçon of what they once were, and drawers are emptied of stones that have lost their meaning, and notebooks hold words but no story.

Do you collect something? Does it carry risk?

One response to “Soupçon or sounds of collecting”

  1. I collect possibilities, both good and bad, incessantly. Risk? Yes. Definitely.

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