Consider hair. Aside from the practical purpose of maintaining wamth, and the secondary function of providing decoration for their owner, those lifeless strands of protein help to mark the passage of time. What other body part consistently reminds us of who we were last month, last year, or today? Fingernails, close cousins of hair, are clipped and discarded without much thought, but hair is usually not dealt with so flippantly.
The average human body can grow about six inches of hair in one year. The process of growing it takes no effort other than the effort of eating a constant supply of nutrients. After one year of growth and six inches hanging from one's head, one can grab a handful of it and remember the dinners that played a part in its development – dozens of plates of past of varying quality, burgers, fried food, ice cream, movie popcorn, noodles, salads from a corner restaurant, home made grilled cheese. Imagine, even, the fluids rich in protein and minerals passed between lovers. Everything consumed breaks down inside us into pieces suitable for nurishment. Anything that cannot be broken is flushed out with objective efficiency. What remains on our heads, we hope, is the stuff our bodies have deemed good enough to keep.
This head of hair marks the result of hundreds of fullfilling meals – and memories. Whether spent alone or shared with others, the memories live in our brains but die in our hair.
How strange, then, that a year's worth of growth can be chopped off and discarded in minutes. The products of hundreds of memories are cut at the root and fall to the floor, leaving a bare scalp. Bare to the elements and open to new possibility. Even as the old, stagnant threads float onto the shoulders and slide down the back, thousands of follicles are busy breathing, creating, growing.