In Situ

Most people clean up from the evening’s activities before turning in for the night, but I’ve always preferred to leave things where they are, the better to reconnect with them, and with a slightly younger version of myself, on the morning after. Waking up bright and early to last night’s tea mug, with the damp bag of Sleepytime still in the bottom, reminds me that I was, just a few hours ago, in a mellow world, very different from the up-and-at-‘em condition in which I now find myself. If the Kind of Blue album jacket is still on the floor in front of the stereo, the lesson is all the more powerful. It’s like I’m looking back in time, to a yesterday that is psychologically ages ago.

Sunday night to Monday morning transitions are the most striking, and if the detritus of the weekend is still in place, I find I’m beside myself in a time-traveling sense. Cards and poker chips, beer and pretzels stare up at me from the table, stare forward at me, through time, from the weekend. If today is the first day of the school year, and last night’s Uno game is still in situ, then it calls to me across an even greater distance, from my carefree to my care-burdened self.

The just-passed hurricane reaches out to me too, from flashlights and candles gathered in the dining room, now bathed in the ironic light, and the silence, of the morning after. Of course, I don’t long for the storm as I would for the summer, but I long even so.

Once, in fact, I was able to commune, not just with my late self but with a late friend, through the medium of leftover spaghetti sauce.  She’d cooked a batch of it before going home to hang herself, and we ladled it onto our plates for weeks.

Author: Harry Miller

I have traveled and lived in Taiwan, China, and Japan and am now a professor of Asian history and author of Southern Rain, a novel of seventeenth-century China.

13 thoughts on “In Situ”

  1. This is, literally, hauntingly beautiful, sad, and true. There is much to ponder here. The personal archeology of small artifacts that reveal who we were and who we may become, then capped with an actual communion of sad finality. Those of us who have nearly lost ourselves or a loved one to suicide know both the long accretion of despair and the small fulcrum of the moment involved. Those who have actually lost friends and loved ones to that grief know it all the more. There is a sacramental remembrance in the acceptance and use of the gift given , this is my body, take, eat.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Lona. I wasn’t sure I was even going to write about the spaghetti sauce until…I did.

      In my view, there’s no such thing a a purely material object, at least not after someone has touched it; then it becomes associated with him or her, kind of sacred.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, sacred. And food objects are so intimate and miraculous. Inanimate objects are taken into ourselves and becomes animate neural activity- conscious thoughts feelings memories. A tribute to your friend who had the pain to take such a desperate measure. This post was very emotional for me, having all too nearly succeeded at suicide in the past. I am glad you wrote about her gift to you, and am saddened she is not with us, but to be remembered is sacred.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I understand “like” is restrictive acknowledgment, we don’t like the sad truths that might be in a post or a comment, but still see it as meaningful. I wish WordPress allowed a click that said “appreciate.” That is closer to the mark.


  2. I had not known the phrase ‘in situ’ before. I now have a way to describe something I had no words for in the past. Your writing took me on a journey, starting there, with something very familiar. I remembered how we left everything from a happy Christmas with the children there, left them there for months. I was ashamed later, and could not invite anyone over. Who has a Christmas tree up in March?
    Then you took me to the recent storms, frightening, and wondering who I know that is there, people online that don’t always say where they live, with a slight wander past Miles Davis.
    Then the end, the big punch in the gut and I was so sad for you losing your friend, and yet glad she had left this gift behind.
    I was going to write that I had no words, but I see I have written many. Allbest, and thank you for sharing this–

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comments and for adding your experience to mine…although, unfortunately, the Christmas tree is the exception that proves the rule, in my case. I find that, after January 2, it reminds me only of what is past and unrecoverable. Unlike the Uno game from last night, the January Christmas tree just makes me sad. Maybe it becomes an example of what the Japanese call mono no aware.

      Of course, I don’t mean to discourage you in your prolonged Christmases. If you leave yours up until April this time, more power to you! I’ll know I’m on Pleasant Street when I see the Christmas lights through the windows in spring.


      1. Oh no, actually I relate to what you are saying. I was ashamed of leaving everything out as it was, collecting dust.
        I wrote a poem about it as well, if I can find it.

        I appreciate your thoughts, thank you—

        Liked by 1 person

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