On the wall of our new house hang the nails the previous owners put up for their pictures. The other day, standing among the boxes filling the dining room, I reached down and unpacked a plate that had hung in my old house—an antique porcelain plate, cool white with magenta roses on part of the rim. It was still dusty from our comings and goings in the old house, from the ashes of the fires we lit there, from the fine, yellowish dirt that got whipped up and about in that windy place.
I hung it on a nail, admiring it, enjoying its shape, the brushwork of the roses, its translucent rim. I remembered finding it at an antique fair among similar but slightly bulkier or brighter or darker plates that I would never have bought. I thought about the moment in which the previous owner had hung whatever he had hung on that nail, twenty or thirty or fifty years earlier, and I glimpsed, too, the cliché of my children packing the plate and the rest of it back up again one day. Still, I would decorate this room and the rest of the house as I had the old one, with plates and chairs and rugs chosen by me for their particular look and feel. The items would lend our lives grace, warmth, a certain hue. We would eat supper with this plate, maybe, hanging near us, for years to come. The dust would collect again. Something was descending through the ages, I felt, and we would be a part of it.
There was a certain hilarity to my cherishing these objects, I knew, to the joy I found in those pretty, senseless things, in the feeling of plucking them out of oblivion, bringing them into my warm home, giving them a place.
I felt sharply the ridiculousness of my actions. Like that of the owners before me, my creation would live for a mere instant, relative to the life of the house and the rest. I did not, for that moment, fear death, but I felt deeply sad that the evenings together, that our moments in this house would some day be cut short, that I could not go on enjoying it all, go on enjoying what I felt I had just started to savor, that it—or rather, I—would end.