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A little while ago my husband’s mother brought to me an exquisite bronze pot.

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She knows I have a taste for things old and worn but well proportioned; it is rather like inviting the past still living into one’s home.

My husband’s mother did not know the story behind the pot, only that it is clearly quite old, perhaps ancient, was in her husband’s family for awhile, and came from a farm in Spain. It was probably used to gather water from a well.

I spent days staring at the pot. It has seams running down its sides, and its handle is the perfect combination of utility and delicacy. I imagine it was used primarily by women, generations and generations of women. How much water was gathered to dampen the thirst of how many mouths? How many times over how many miles was this pot carried? What did the hands look like of the people who carried it?

Bronze, of course, is an ancient material. Originally it was mixed with arsenic, and then tin; I wonder at the unfortunate effects upon those who drank and ate from the former substance.


This pot sits upon an old table in my front hall. The table itself was a gift: originally it was used in a dining hall in a Sicilian monastery in the 18th Century. One can still see the grooves in the wood where the monks wiped their knives.

I think of myself not as owner of these objects but instead as lucky temporary guardian. To receive such things is a gift. To be able to give such things, later in life when the children are grown and begin the ritual of true caring, is a gift as well.

Laying one’s hands on the same things so many other thousands of hands, now gone, have also touched, handled, used is a great gift: I love thinking of these ghostly fingers and palms inhabiting my home. They make for good company.

One day, hundreds of years from now, there perhaps might be a woman who wonders, wonders, wonders, at all the hands who have touched this bronze pot. I am already, I think, friends with her.