It’s gotten to the point that I linger over my box of earrings every morning in a state of anxious premonition: Does it feel likely that I’ll lose one of this pair today? Should I wear these others that I care less about? I am an inveterate earring loser. They fall out underfoot indoors and along sidewalks, between cushions, and under bookcases, and I feel successions of shock, frustration, and sadness when I find one missing. Then I put the orphaned, remaining earring away in a box where it rattles around, itself in danger of being lost or forgotten.
Over years of this happening, adding orphan earrings to the pile, I have thought about how each earring lost has histories of receiving, wearing, and missing attached to them. They remind me of the people I was with and where and when I wore them. They collect among themselves premonitions of further losses more significant than a stone suspended from a silver french wire.
I started writing these essay stories in a book as an act of reclamation, to create a place where physical objects literally rest beside the words they call up. By using the earrings themselves to create a small, private archive of remembrances I preserve them and spend time actively meditating on experiences through the lens of such small but symbolically significant objects. Happily, this project gives my bereft earrings, the mates of those I have lost, a new vocation as illustrations and objects of reflection that spur and ground writing. They are useful again. And, both sewn into the pages of a book and photographed, they are in much less danger of being lost themselves.
Yet in writing these stories, I have found myself not just sifting through memories. Instead, I seem to always end up meditating on how concerned I am with outwardly manifesting and shaping my identity through the earrings’ cues of ornament, material, and symbol. They represent pieces of myself, and I will them to symbolize some aspect of myself to the world. Through them, I find myself contemplating how I relate to the people I love, the literal and nonliteral aspects of partnership.
I hope that you approach this archive as a continuous, unfinished, unresolvable thing, like listening to half a conversation. There is no narrative arc, but there are small stories, symbols, pangs of guilt, remembrances of gifts, and talismans of memory. I hope these objects that have stayed while their matches have been lost inspires you to think about what stays for a shorter or longer time, how all of this writing, arguably a great proportion of writing, gathers objects into an archive to stay loss.
If you would like to contribute to the Lost Earring Archive, check out the submission guidelines here.