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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 7, Number 4, December 2013


Salisbury, Wiltshire, England


20 x 5 cm. A thick walled cylinder of lead crystal fused solidly at its base for balance; heavy in the hand despite its size. A simple vase that might be used to hold a single flower: a red rose perhaps, or brazen orange gerbera to metaphor the sun. Instead it holds a coarse, pale-flecked reddish-brown sand, out of which protrudes a frond of withered seaweed and a piece of broken razor shell.

One afternoon last summer, some friends dropped in for coffee and chat. When they told me that they were going away for a holiday in Devon, I ran upstairs to fetch an old scrapbook. Where you are staying, I said, was where my family often used to go when I was young. I bet it’s changed now. I showed them several photos: me making sand-castles with my father; me staring open-mouthed in horror at a Punch and Judy show; me riding a donkey, and so on. I was a platinum blonde then; now I am much in need of hair extensions. I recounted how I was weaned on Somerset cider, and how I remembered traveling down on The Cornish Riviera Express, seeing an early morning sea washing in where the line ran along the coast. But there was much I had forgotten, never having been back there for 70 odd years.

When my friends returned, they brought an inexpensive but imaginative gift which they had labeled ‘reminiscence of childhood’: a used margarine carton containing red sand, quartz-crossed pebbles, whole and broken shells, and pieces of seaweed; the red sand being the continuous product of several miles of the 400 million years old Devonian Sandstone cliffs that try to hold back the sea.

The sand-filled vase now stands at one end of a shelf holding cards and ornaments. At the other end, an identical vase holds, when available, sometimes a red rose, sometimes an orange gerbera. I spend much idle time holding the sand vase pondering the almost infinitesimal chance that it holds even one grain of sand that has touched my consciousness before. My friends also brought me ¼ lb Devon cream toffees; but they were soon gone.

feeling my lifetime / shared by fish and dinosaurs / through these grains of sand



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