Since sand and dirt pile up on everything, why does it look fresh for each new crowd? As natural and human debris raises the continents, vegetation grows on the piles. It is all a stage set—we know this—a temporary stage on top of many layers of stages…every year a new crop of sand, grass, and tree leaves freshens the set and perfects the illusion that ours is the new and urgent world now.

—Annie Dillard, For the Time Being

In Geology 230, we memorized Steno’s principles of stratigraphy—a set of rules devised in the mid-1600s outlining pretty basic concepts: the ground beneath us is made up of layers of horizontal rock. The rock closest to the surface is newer than the layers below. When rock isn’t horizontal, some past event (say, an earthquake) caused things to shift. We pick apart these layers, inferring what happened millions of years ago based on the physical evidence.

My order-oriented mind appreciates that we can summarize global geologic happenings with a tidy set of rules. But there’s also intrigue in the transition from inference-to-fact: we compose a textbook history of time before time was ever recorded. Here on our “temporary stage,” we look at a cross section of layers and piece together our vision of what was.

Following is a stratigraphic analysis of the Reminders app on my iPhone—my August 2017 recollections of three past years of reminders that were once “new and urgent”:   words hurriedly thumbed in, typically mid-conversation, mid-podcast, mid-meeting: a movie to watch, a song to listen to, an address to visit—bits of information that at the time were apparently important enough to warrant recording. Here on my “temporary stage,” I look at a cross section of layered information and piece together my vision of what was.

  • Crooked still: A music recommendation from my friend Betsy, collected during an open studio art night at Calvin’s downtown gallery. I’ve still not listened to them.
  • Hall and oates: Another suggestion from Betsy. I recall asking her to spell this out for me…In my mind’s eye, I saw haulin’ oats. (Also, how did I not know Hall & Oates?)
  • Mirando 🙂 : A song overheard on the radio, recorded at a stoplight. I recognized it again because it was overplayed during the summer of 2012, while I was working on an archaeological site in Italy. The smiley face, I’m guessing, denotes warm, happy feelings of being re-reminded of my time there.
  • Rear Window, north by northwest,Harvey, Philadelphia story, how to marry a millionaire, white Christmas, it’s a wonderful life, roman holiday: A string of films recommended to me by either Anna or Joanna. Both women are good listeners, creative minds, and dress with beautiful, timeless confidence. (We should all probably watch these films.)
  • Morning is tops: A phrase from my then-boyfriend’s favorite childhood storybook. I recall recording this phrase because I wanted to bring it up again—perhaps in a cheery “hello, good morning” text. I don’t remember if I ever did.
  • Nan goldin: A portrait photographer, recommended to me by the aforementioned boyfriend, probably on the same day as “morning is tops,” as we paged through books from his built-in shelves. I knew who she was, but typed in a reminder anyhow.
  • Obvious child: I have no idea here. A movie, perhaps? Clearly, not so obvious…
  • The national gallery: A documentary suggested by Veda. We only had an hour to catch up, and she brought cheese, a berry pie, and canned whipped cream to share.  
  • Cloud line and there’s a light that never goes out: Song lyrics? The film 500 Days of Summer comes to mind when I read this phrase, but my thoughts are fuzzy and I’m afraid I’ve lost why this was important.
  • Wet, boards, …: First thought: water sports, though I’m pretty sure these were groups suggested to me by Lindsey—music she thought I’d like. Looking at this now, I wonder: why the ellipses? What thought did I have then that filled the time it took to type a space and three dots?
  • Odessa: Sounds like another band name. Apparently I have a lot to listen to.
  • 1405 wealthy street se: A house for sale that caught my eye while on a walk—the address recorded to pass on to friends looking to buy in Eastown. Alternatively—and I’m not quite sure—this could be Layne’s home address. (If so, Layne likes beer and those styrofoammy pink wafer cookies. You can leave treats on his porch.)
  • 5 by 5 by 2.5 feet. 4 shelves; minimal rust spots: Measurements from the metal shelving unit in the new storage closet at work. A faculty member requested to have her unit replaced because of the rust.  
  • Becoming wise: The title of a favorite book, added to this list to remind myself to put it on my birthday list (Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living, by Krista Tippett. Read this book.)
  • Aj to Joelle coffee: A reminder to introduce these two friends. AJ works in coffee, Joelle moved back to town and is hoping to work in coffee.
  • Shimmery: Joanna: The just-right word to describe this friend, who I’ve been trying to write a blog post about for nearly a month. Joanna proves difficult to capture in words. Shimmery: perhaps something to revisit.
  • Rhea: A name to add to my aptly-titled “List of Names that I Like.” Rhea’s mom delivered a forgotten folder of sheet music to my desk; I waded through middle school summer music campers to reunite Rhea with her flute scores.

These times of ours are ordinary times, a slice of life like any other.
…every year a new crop of sand, grass, and tree leaves freshens the set and perfects the illusion that ours is the new and urgent world now.  

–Annie Dillard, For the Time Being

Paula Manni

Paula Manni (‘13) works as Arts Programming Coordinator and is an arts advocate for the Calvin College community. She enjoys throwing parties on the side, and fills in the gaps with wine making, music listening, museum visiting, and Michigan exploring.

post calvin direct

Get new posts from Paula Manni delivered straight to your inbox.

Comments