My left hand felt unbearably, unusually light. I looked. My wedding ring was gone.
Maybe you’ve seen me wearing it. It’s thin with rounded edges, dark gray, semi-shiny. As jewelry, it’s unremarkable; as a symbol, it’s the anchor of my life. Yet even a symbol shouldn’t necessarily hurt if it hits you, hence a ring made of a light metal, titanium.
In a month my wife and I will celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary, my first without a ring to wear, because I’ve lost it. It’s somewhere in our rented garden plot at the Amby volkstuin. I’m certain it came off my finger while I was re-planting dahlia bulbs back in May.
What does it mean to live in a place? We commonly think a place is made from what we take of it, both the tangible (the food, the weather, the landscape) and the intangible (the mood, the resonances of history). Yet places also take from us. Small things, mostly. A coin, a sock. Sometimes just time, sometimes blood. A place will take your innocence.
Sometimes it tries to eat your symbols.
That day I had caught the volkstuin soil trying to take my ring - in fact, I had already rescued the ring from the bottom of one dahlia bulb hole. “How odd”, I thought, “it’s never slipped off like that before”. I should have put it in my pocket, because another hole succeeded.
Get a metal detector, you might suggest. A neighbor tried that - nothing. Titanium has low magnetism, which makes it difficult to detect. How very Greek tragedy of my ring, for its essential character to be both asset and flaw.
For now, the ring is lost. But it’s titanium - I can shine it up nicely, once I wrest it back from the Limburgian earth.
Michael Erard, Funding Advisor, Faculty of Law