Monday, March 7, 2011

remember is the daughter of linger

photo: jetheriot

In summertime, when Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop’s fig tree was producing, so many figs would fall to the ground and rot in the hot July sun that a heavy stench of death would hover thickly above them, sickly sweet and putrid, circling with menacing wasps: the freshly plucked figs were heavenly. All living things eventually die, trailing a path of decay across the sky, some things more elegantly than others.

When a sprig of rosemary is plucked, for example, the air around it becomes perfumed by fragrance shaken from the leaves of the plant. Holding fresh rosemary in your bare hands, you understand why it is known as the herb of remembrance. Its feathery leaves are sticky and pungent with oils that cling to the fingers you brush against them. When you drop the sprig to the ground, a part of it stays behind. You can smell it on your fingers. Even as its velvety leaves shrivel into brittle needles and crumble into rosemary dust, a pleasant aroma echoes warmly around the rosemary like a halo slowly dimming into oblivion. Rosemary pleasantly lingers.

Once plucked, humans are more like figs. Left out in the hot July sun, they attract insects just as quickly. Fruit and people don’t decay as elegantly as rosemary, exuding more stench than perfume, but treated with the appropriate preservatives their brief shelf lives can be extended. A human corpse salted dry, anointed with herbs and oils and wrapped in lengths of scissored fabrics will linger longer and more antiseptically than a corpse left to decompose in more natural conditions. Similarly, figs are preserved in a soup of sugar and water. The pleasantness of figs – and the memory of humans – can be stretched and spread across time.