Wednesday. 5:07 am to Grand Central.
I lift my briefcase to store it on the overhead rack and I jam my Oxford into the steel girder under the seat. I look down to assess the damage. A thin sheaf of leather dangles from the toe cap. Expensive miss. Damn it!
I take my seat. I wiggle the toes on my right foot triggering a flashback. A tumble back, way back.
I was 14.
The ice rink. It was a Campbell Soup can without the label, rough cut vertically, flipped on its side and dropped on frozen dirt. No insulation.
Fans, mostly parents, sat huddled on one of three wooden benches that circled the rink, standing to stomp their feet and slap their mitts to keep the blood moving. It was cold, always cold.
An oxidized chain link fence protected the fans from the pucks. Players did not have face masks. It was skin to fence. No, better stated, face to fence. Cage matches before cages were a WWF sport. [Read more…]
It’s raining this morning.
That hopeful sounding on the roof.
I can almost hear the roots
suck water through their fragile hairs,
raising it through the tough trunk
into the cloud-shaped canopy of the live oak […]
Can’t you remember being a child,
opening your mouth to the rain?
— Ellen Bass, “Sometimes I’m frightened”
At unexpected points in life, everyone gets waylaid by the colossal force of recollection. One minute you’re a grown-ass woman, then a whiff of cumin conjures your dad’s curry, and a whole door to the past blows open, ushering in uncanny detail. There are traumatic memories that rise up unbidden and dwarf you where you stand. But there are also memories you dig for: you start with a clear fix on a tiny instant, and pick at every knot until a thin thread comes undone that you can follow back through the mind’s labyrinth to other places. We’ve all interrogated ourselves— It couldn’t have been Christmas because we had shorts on in the snapshot. Such memories start by being figured out, but the useful ones eventually gain enough traction to haul you through the past. Memory is a pinball in a machine— it messily ricochets around between image, idea, fragments of scenes, stories you’ve heard. Then the machine goes tilt and snaps off. But most of the time, we keep memories packed away. I sometimes liken that moment of sudden unpacking to circus clowns pouring out of a miniature car trunk— how did so much fit into such a small space?
~ Mary Karr, The Past’s Vigor. The Art of Memoir (HarperCollins. 2015)
“…This is what I wait for. Gray light before the sun rises. Waking up at the lake. Musty smoke from a campfire thick in your hair, on your skin, shaken from your sweater. Earth under your fingers. Green things growing. The sound of blueberry pancakes sizzling, crackling in a buttered skillet. Laughter, when you are incandescently happy. Finding a relic. Freckles. Grilled peaches and sweet corn and watermelon juices running down your skin. Light falling through tress on a pathway empty of anyone but you. Hearing the waves. Waking to a quiet house. Coffee stains. Lipstick marks on a cup. Your spot. Being recognized. Shadows. Alignment, like stars, alignment like sacred. Wonder and thinking you are something bigger and I don’t know, that somehow it will be alright. Being okay. Eating all the raspberries from the patch and going through the day with red fingers. Belief an iron rod in your spine. Someone’s touch on your hand, a someone who might be more than an anybody, a someone who might be a somebody, who might be yours. Beginnings. Not endings. Maybe endings sometime. Words like honeysuckle and diaphanous. Smells stirring a memory deep in your mind like a stick in thick muddy banks, stirring up the water. Mud under your toes and you are five. Clear water. Green water. Blue water. Gray water more light than liquid. Sitting on the front of the boat and closing your eyes to the spray on sunburnt skin. A perfect song. An imperfect memory. Fragments. Muscles and sinews. Hearing someone hum. Watching a time happen and thinking, I will remember this.”
~ Hannah Nicole, A List of Soft Things
Photo: Angela Lindvall by Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott for Pop f/w 2002 via Mennyfox55
As for the querencia,
we all have a place where we feel safest,
even if it is only the idea of a place,
maybe an idea by itself,
the place that all our being radiates out from,
like an idea of friendship or justice
or perhaps something simpler
like the memory of a back porch
where we laughed a low
and how the setting sun
through the pine trees shone on the green chairs,
flickered off the ice cubes in our glasses.
~ Stephen Dobyns, from “Querencia,” Velocities: New and Selected Poems, 1966-1992
“Pennsylvania native Oriana Kacicek, 29, spent her early years in a nurturing environment of great art, dance, music and literature. Inspired and encouraged by her mother, also a painter, she began painting and drawing at the age of one and continued the practice throughout her teenage years. Influenced by the light and color of the European Impressionist and Dutch painters, Oriana’s hyper-realist style is infused with wit and energy. “I’ve discovered that all art forms are fundamentally the same; they are about revealing truth and beauty, demand the utmost in time and attention, and must be grounded in good technique. I aspire to create paintings that are full of joy, color and light.” (Source: Oriana Kacicek)
Source: My Modern Met
There were days
when we could catch light
in a butterfly net.
~ Richard Jackson, from “That’s What I’m Talking About,” Resonance: Poems
- Image Source: Journal of a Nobody. Poem: Memory’s Landscape
- Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
- Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”
My husband, Rich, lost his memory after he was hit by a car and suffered traumatic brain injury. In a moment of perfect clarity he once described his loss like this. “Pretend you are walking up the street with your friend. You are looking in windows. But right behind you is a man with a huge paint roller filled with white paint and he is painting over everywhere you’ve been, erasing everything. He erases your friend. You don’t even remember his name.” It’s terrifying. Because we are we without five minutes ago? What are we without our stories? Where is the continuum of consciousness? Is it all one big lily pad of a moment?
~ Abigail Thomas, Thinking About Memoir
Image: Street Art via mennyfox55
What if Marcel Proust had kept an Instagram account? What if he’d used a smartphone to snap a photo of every evocative morsel he’d ever eaten? Would he still have written “In Search of Lost Time”…
…When I try to recall my childhood…I don’t have recourse to an exhaustive catalog of images and documents. My parents never shot home movies and they took family photos only rarely, on ceremonial occasions when everyone was compelled to smile tautly and mask what was really going on inside them. As a consequence, revisiting my youth can feel rather like a homicide investigation. Working from clues and the accounts of witnesses, including the highly unreliable one who lives behind my eyeballs, I wait for scenarios to form and patterns to emerge. If they seem plausible I delve into them further, especially if the images align with the murky emotions they conjure up. I tend not to question the resulting mental scenes despite being well aware that photographs and secondhand stories have been shown to create false memories. Clear or hazy, bright or dim, my recollections are private, mine alone, and written in synaptic smoke, not subject to verification by instant replay.
…What makes memories precious, even certain “bad” ones, is forgetting, of course. Remember forgetting? …Memory is an imaginative act; first we imagine what we’ll want to keep and then we fashion stories from what we’ve kept. Memories don’t just happen, they are built…the human mind is not a hard drive, a neutral repository of information. The melancholy passage of the years tends to change our values as we age, and the awesome backflips of 13 don’t hold the magic they once did; not when compared to the image of a loved one who has since gone absent, say. If I’d had a smartphone with a video camera back in my early adolescence, I doubt that I would have trained it on the things that matter to me now, like the sight of my mother reading in her blue armchair, underlining passages from Proust.
…One reason that I’ve never kept a journal is that the attention that goes into keeping one is, I feel, more profitably spent on engaging with the moment. I’d rather live in the instant than ‘gram the instant.
A remembrance never formed is worse, far worse, than a remembrance lost. At 52, increasingly forgetful, I sometimes rack my brain for past experiences that I’m positive are in there somewhere and draw a blank. It’s frustrating, but the blank still marks a spot — a spot where a memory used to be and might, if I eat the right cake, reappear. What makes memory magical is its imperfections and its unpredictability; try as we might, we never quite control it. It draws our attention to the margins of stories that once seemed to be the main events. Someday, when my son reviews his footage, what will come back to him may not be his ski stunts but other aspects of that winter day: the voices of his friends, the shadows on the mountain, the face of his father beside him in the car.
Don’t miss Walter Kirn’s entire essay @ Remembrance of Things Lost:
Image: NY Times Magazine. Credit “24 HRS in Photos,” by Erik Kessels at Foam in Amsterdam, KesselsKramer