Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Palimpsest Oven

“And each time it heated up, it smelled of a thousand meals”, my brother said to describe his oven, which had not been cleaned in almost forever. He then went on to describe the lengths that he had gone to to clean it, resorting to a humble straight edged blade as the most effective tool. This got me thinking, and not about cleaning my oven, but about this concept of layers over time.

I learned this word Palimpsest, which describes a manuscript that is written on and then scraped away and then written on again. These manuscripts were often made of parchment and were used as far back as the sixth century. There is residue over time of the thousand words that it once said. I have never seen one of these in person, although I imagine them rich, muddled, and interesting.

I love this idea of layers, of re-use of the same surface, of accumulation, of transformation, of stories told.

This week I went to have a blood test and as they were taking my blood I wondered what story my blood would tell. It made me uneasy that my blood knows stories about me that I will never know. But then I felt comfort in this idea of it retaining information that it has gathered over time and I thought again of the oven, maybe he should not have cleaned it. Maybe the smells it emitted could have solved a mystery or something.

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