Today I am in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, working my way through a writer's fellowship I was awarded last year. I have two essays I'm working on-- one a repurposing of my last blog post about cameras, the other a repurposing of an essay about funerals in Ghana. Here's an excerpt of what I am editing: This room was the Fantasy Casket workshop, where a local man had made a fortune for himself carving coffins. At my feet were commissioned tombs, pine sarcophagi with carefully carved beer bottle caps or chicken feet. They were painted with cheap paint, the words GHANA AIRWAYS or THE HOLY BIBLE singing citizens to their rest. This thirsty carpenter over in the corner might be buried in the likeness of that coke bottle, which stood behind me, almost dry from its final coat of shellac. Some of the caskets were open, so you could see how one might place a body under the snail shell, or into the tail of a fish.
Originally I had this section about fantasy caskets as an introduction to a completely different story, but a publication that I love asked me to lop off 90% of the essay and continue working on the Fantasy Casket aspect. Therefore, I am spending my afternoon wondering what object or animal I might want to be buried in, if forced to pick. Book? Blue whale? What does it mean that my top two totems are currently considered endangered species?
The idea of a more mundane object-- a cup of coffee, a cell phone, a computer, a pen or a coin or a toothbrush or even a cat-- these seem embarrassing, and yet these are the objects that preoccupy me day to day. It feels like having your ashes scattered in your driveway rather than at the ocean.
I'm going to save the rest of my thoughts for the essay, but please-- use this strange idea to meditate on materialism. Then, if you're feeling like I am at the moment, vow to live your life today with grander themes. Bury yourself in something you'd be proud of.