My daughter Morgan is in Rome right now on a college study trip. She sends me emails each day about her travels, and in the latest one she included an excerpt from a paper she’s writing about how the past and present collide. The excerpt is below; it made me cry to see how eloquently she writes about respecting craft.
“I wrote about how what we’re really recognizing when we look at monuments is craft. The patterns carved into the columns, the people sculpted on the sides, the monument itself–those were all created by laborers and craftspeople. We only know about the emperors in an abstract way with facts about dates and wars fought and who they married. But the things we actually look at and touch and still functionally use today are the things created by everyday people.
The broken piece of column I got to touch had a pattern of square blocks with a bit of rounded column between them. Was that a pattern meant to be serious and regal? Was it just a generic pattern slapped on to fill up space? Did the person who carved it listen to music or sing it in their mind while they worked? I choose the genre I listen to based on the character I’m writing. The woman I’m writing right now likes old country music and her favorite song is “If We Make it Through December.” I also think of you singing it and the boots you named after that song when I listen to it. Did the craftsperson have a song like that? Did they have a kid they took with them to work, who arranged the little discarded chips of stone to make houses the way I arranged your scraps of leather to make dolphins?”