From the Editor

One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor...

Houses are made of many things: wood and glass and copper and steel, to name a few. Plaster and plastic, fiberglass and strange foams that expand to fill in the cracks and crannies not filled by something else. 

Most of all they are constructed out of time. No sooner do the summer folk leave the Island than the parking spots are once again filled with work vans and pickup trucks that unload masters of every craft imaginable, men and women who devote their hours and days and years to the care and feeding of roofs and basements, walls and windows. These friends and neighbors in the trades, who make up the bulk of the year-round population of the Island, are just the tip of the labor iceberg. The wood arrives from somewhere on a truck driven by someone who rode the ferry that was welded together by someone else somewhere else. All ate food grown by yet another. On and on it goes: touch the brass knob to open the door and enter even the humblest of Vineyard dwellings and you are shaking hands with a copper miner who is probably in Peru and a zinc miner who, chances are, is in Korea.

By extension, you are also shaking hands back through the millennia to the ancient Romans, who are believed to be the first to intentionally make brass. And beyond them to even more ancient laborers and tinkerers in Asia who smelted brass out of naturally zinc-rich copper ores. It’s even deeper in the basement, where the concrete foundations are made in part from burned and crushed limestone that itself was created by countless generations of corals and mollusks who lived out their allotted days and nights on this planet laboring to filter seawater hundreds of millions of years ago.

To “live in the moment,” as admirable as that threadbare mantra surely is, is also to live in the accumulated pasts of countless others. The past may be a foreign country and it may be prologue. It may be an oppressive mythology created by a succession of conquerors, and it may be the deep river that runs beneath a still surface. But the past is also incarnate, physically present in the nails in the wall and the flooring in the hall.

You might be forgiven at this point for asking aloud, “What in tarnation is Schneider rambling on about now?” To which I can only say, I started thinking about all this when someone told me that the ceiling boards she used in a renovation were once floorboards in another building. “They were too rough to reuse as flooring again, but we’re not walking on the ceiling,” she said.

It made me wonder if a ceiling remembers being a floor, and if a floor remembers being a tree in the forest, or being a pine cone falling. Houses are built of wood and glass and a thousand other things. But they are also, it seems to me, made of a million memories that they cannot quite express.