Yesterday after dropping my son off for his morning class at community college I swung by an old, hoarded-up property that someone seems to be in the process of emptying out and refurbishing, leaving a number of furniture castoffs on the curb in the process. I don't pick up a lot of items left on the curb because I don't have a lot of storage room, but I do love to look, so when some unfamiliar items caught my eye, I pulled over to check it out thoroughly.
People rarely place antiques on the curb--though it happens more often than I would expect. This time I rescued two battered but very interesting antiques from the curb. The first, an old RCA radio-phonograph cabinet, was empty and revealed nothing of its history except that it had been roughly treated at some point.
The other item, an old metal trunk, proved to be quite a rich find, in terms of history. An inner calling card as well as tags taped to the outside revealed that it had belonged to John Spofford Morgan. The wonders of the internet turned up several interesting stories about Morgan and his storied family and personal history.
John Spofford Morgan, who died earlier this year at the age of ninety-seven, turned out to be a great-grandson of a long-serving librarian of Congress appointed by President Lincoln. Part of an old and distinguished family, he was nevertheless a World War II Naval Vet and a survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Perhaps most interesting of all was the story of his love life. In 2011, Morgan finally married his life partner Louis Halsey after sixty-four years together. Halsey died in October of 2014, and Morgan followed him several months later.
Our original thought, upon finding the trunk, was that we would tear off the hand-lettered tags and possibly re-paint it and use it as a coffee table. Now we plan to leave it untouched, and possibly to display some of the the ephemera we found within the trunk under glass.
Some of the items found in the cast-off trunk.
I assume that John Spofford Morgan's surviving family has kept any number fine possessions as a memento of his long life well lived, and these items, for all their character, are just leftover scraps. To me and my husband and son, they are precious and valuable. Although we never knew the owner of these items, we love their character and history, stains, rust, and all.
In one of the last songs he released, John Lennon observed that "life is what happens while you're busy making other plans." This is true of the spiritual life as well. Some of the most significant spiritual journeys I've undertaken happened because something I heard or saw in passing caught my attention and I stopped to explore further. Oddly enough, John's mother Barbara Spofford Morgan turned out to be a prolific author whose subjects included a book about her own spiritual journey.
During the weeks leading up to Christmas people can become focused on checking off items on their to-do list. This is deadly to a meaningful spiritual life. If you are super-scheduled and your to-do list is too full to allow for spontaneous detours such as the one I took yesterday, spend some time prioritizing your life differently, and do it TODAY. You will not regret it, I promise.
A closeup of an embroidered handkerchief belonging to John Spofford Morgan. It says "Plenty of fish in the sea," perhaps a wry reference to his service in the Navy, as he was well-known as part of a couple who were together for nearly seventy years.