Friday, January 09, 2009

Galveston, Oh Galveston

The old year finished in the perfect place - a place in recovery, buffeted by calamity, yet hopeful. Galveston is a favorite retreat of ours, anchored by old friends from Houston. We mourned to see the wreckage of so many homes, the upending of so many boats; we rejoiced that our friends' home survived, though bruised. On the first day of the new year, we walked along the sea wall and I began collecting rusted rebar, flic-flac, and such things that no one else would want: pieces of our memories left on the jetty.

The kids joined in, filled their hands with fishing line and other bits, and a curious Russian stopped us with his thick accent and inquiries. "Why do you do this thing?" he said, standing on the seawall in front of our car. "I make things," I said, doing such injustice to all the times we'd spent there building sandcastles, watching dolphins, catching crabs and fist-sized dragonflies, while all around us the wounds from hurricane Ike lay exposed and in decay. Why do I do this? My Chinese mother-in-law struggles to understand why I pick up rusted trash on our walks at home but give away useful clothes and shoes. Why do I find such beauty in rust, and peeling paint, and heaps of discarded metal? Why does Wayne like cardboard and Allison like broken dolls? Why do my children love rocks and dirt?

Back at the house on Tiki Island, the other guests, a Chinese family attending seminary in St Louis, turns soft floury dough into thin discs for dumplings. They are from Beijing, where the people love to laugh and talk and the conversation is spirited and loud. I settle in the warmth of these friends new and old. Outside, the balmy breeze echoes distant sounds of reconstruction and a new year is born.

What the end of the jetty used to look like (03/07)

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