My office has a shelf of prized items, primarily small carvings I’ve found or that my family gave me. One is a lump of industrial slag from the waters near Paul Revere’s old workshop. It has ripples and waves. And you can see where barnacles established homes on it. Do I truly know that its provenance is from the Revere workshops? No, just some very heavy local folklore. I like it because one surface has a leaflike pattern, and the other is a marine pattern of waves with barnacles. When I lift it, it has a weight similar to a piece of iron but does not rust. The texture is smooth and rough.

It’s a sort of known item with a bit of mystery. It isn’t easy to ascertain its exact history, composition, or textural features. I guess they dumped the hot slag into the harbor like other detritus.

The washing of the ocean softens edges, creates new textures, takes rough slag, and makes it into weathered pieces that hands find appealing. The sea transforms everything placed into it: Seaglass, old brick, slag, and people. So, there is another bit familiar to all of us who have sailed, served aboard, and are bitten by the salt. The sea leaves nothing it touches unaltered. And I guess that’s why I like the lump of slag. It’s a reminder.

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