The Sound of Silver

October 3, 2009 · 3 comments

It’s my dad’s fault that I’m addicted. By courtesy of the Canadian Military and by the orders of the Queen, he was posted to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania for a two-year “accompanied” stint (family went too) when I was nine.

As a newly-hatched consumer, I lived in convenient proximity to Zanzibar — and all the inexpensive silver that is mined there — with a three-shilling-a-week allowance burning a hole in my pocket. With no Canadian-style corner stores within 3000 miles from which to purchase teeth-rotting junk and/or mind-rotting Archie comics, the only items within my budget were silver bangles (except for woven baskets, fetching straw hats, and ebony/ivory carvings*).


It wasn’t just the beautiful patina the delicate circles developed after months of 24/7 wearing, or how exquisitely they reflected the sunlight underwater as I snorkeled hour after hour at Ladder Cove in the Indian Ocean. It was a golden time in my life, these days of silver icons and golden sun and salt water.

The bangles were thin, inexpensive, and given my tomboy’s rambunctious angle of attack on life, a classic example of planned obsolescence. My only defense against inevitable “I broke it!” grief was to not become too attached to any single bangle, but rather to regard them as long-term disposables.


I became a stacker.


Worn in bulk, they broke less often, and those that did could be discarded with minimal emotional collateral damage. The key was to sustain the critical mass necessary to enjoy them as a concept.

The result was that I unconsciously bonded with the slightly crystalline symphony of heaven tinkling gently on my right arm at all times. The sound of silver is the sound of the Northern Lights. The waves hit the part of my ear attuned most carefully to same place as my eye looks for the very first white rays of sunrise over the east mountains. It’s, well, silvery: clean, clear, female, and not too dang precious to go for a swim. I wore them to all occasions, no matter how informal the gathering.


I am addicted to the sound of silver.


And baby rhinos. I am addicted to those, too.

The trivial specifics of my addiction have changed over the years, as one would expect. My friend, Judi, came over for coffee one day wearing a new square gold bangle she had bought during a recent trip. Done. Square silver bangles would no doubt sound even better than round ones, would prove to more difficult to find than round one, and therefore would be more desirable and fun to score when I did find them. (If that last sentence doesn’t make sense to you, ask your wife or girlfriend.)


Kudus, for instance, know the value of slightly unorthodox bling. I decided, at nine years old, to take my fashion cues from kudus.

Much as many women come to identify with, and be identified by, their “signature” perfume, via the soft tinkle of thin bands of silver accompanying my waking movements, I connect with who I was before Madison Avenue, postpartum hormones, churchiosity, and corporate America had their way with my head and heart. They remind me of who I am when I’m nine, poking around in tidal pools: strong, tanned, carefree, and blessed with only the occasional awareness of who I think I am.


*Yes, Virginia, this was during the Dark Ages before we knew or even thought to ask about how it was that all those lovely elephant tusks were just lying around for the taking, waiting to be carved into teeny, perfectly proportioned carved elephants.

Tanzania photos by Ron Fentiman, circa 1969.
Above photo by Rick Jamison, October 2009.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Debra October 5, 2009 at 10:03 am

I love the realization of long ago pleasures and how they have effected you through to your adult life…wonderful thoughtful and innocent story of conscienceness gone by….


Sue October 4, 2009 at 8:18 am

I love this. 🙂
The blue sandals on those adorable legs. Some designer needs to reinvent those. (not you Jessica Simpson)
Did your doggie find what he was lookin for?
The last photo beeeeeeutiful!


Dad October 3, 2009 at 9:10 pm

KL – Many thanks for the priceless prose, credits, and bringing back happy memories. I’ll have to scour my photo collection for more ‘silver bangle’ pictures; I’ll send any if found.
Love to you and the Rickster,


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