It’s been a long day

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I remember too much;
I am like the air on a calm day
as it holds itself still,
letting nothing escape.
As the world holds it breath,
I keep memory in.

~ Colm Tóibín, The Testament of Mary


Notes:

Perspective of time and distance alter substance

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In the poems I have been thinking of and writing the last few years, I have grown aware that childhood is a subject somehow available to me all over again. The perspective of time and distance alter substance somewhat, and so it is possible to think freshly of things that were once familiar and ordinary, as if they had become strange again. I don’t know whether this is true of everybody’s experience, but at a certain point childhood seems mythical once more. It did to start with, and it does suddenly again.

~ Donald Justice, from an interview with The Missouri Review, quoted by Linda Pastan, “Yesterday’s Noise: The Poetry of Childhood Memory,” Writer (vol. 105, no. 10, 1992)


Credits: Art – Pascal Campion. Quote: Memory Landscape

 

They are merely carried. . . set down, picked up, and dropped again (do over)

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Make no mistake. Everything in the mind is in rat’s country. It doesn’t die. They are merely carried, these disparate memories, back and forth in the desert of a billion neurons, set down, picked up, and dropped again by mental pack rats. Nothing perishes, it is merely lost till a surgeon’s electrode starts the music of an old player piano whose scrolls are dust. Or you yourself do it, tossing in the restless nights, or even in the day on a strange street when a hurdy-gurdy plays. Nothing is lost, but it can never be again as it was. You will only find the bits and cry out because they were yourself. Nothing can begin again and go right, but still it is you, your mind, picking endlessly over the splintered glass of a mirror dropped and broken long ago.  That is all time is at the end when you are old – a splintered glass. I should never have gone to that place, never have accepted the engagement, never have spoken….

~ Loren Eiseley, “The Rat That Danced” from “All the Strange Hours. The Excavation of a Life.”


Image: Broadstreet.com.au via Starwill

(Nostalgia) The taste of early things lives on.

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As a boy I knew none of this. In the summer we went to the beach, Atlantic City, and stayed with my maternal grandparents: my mother, cousins, aunts, and I. Across the bright flatlands and bridges, the earth of the roadside losing its color, we drove, children in a separate compartment, the rumble seat, in back, hair blowing, arms waving in happiness. There was sea smell in the air and sun in the bedroom windows. The rhythm of life was set by adults but the carefree joys were ours.

We played all day in the sand, down where it was smoothest, the green sea hissing at our feet. Not far offshore was the black wreckage of a small coastal steamer. We were unable to go near it but it is stuck there in memory, the sea swelling over it and then pouring away, the water dropping in sheets from its sides…The taste of early things lives on.

In my mouth I feel the freshness of farm tomatoes and salt, the scrambled eggs my grandmother made, the unexpected gulps of sea. In my heart there remains childish love for those cousins, whom I saw only seldom and who later drifted away entirely.

~ James Salter, Burning the Days: Recollection


Image: “Beach Breaks” D.Fodie – Retrospective

In Celebration of Modest Christmases Past

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A long time ago in a country far, far away, America had less of everything and holidays were easier and more modest.

Only 50 and 60 years ago, well within human memory, Christmas was a plainer, simpler affair. Everyone—even the rich, but certainly the poor and in-between—had less. Because America had less. You’d get a sweater and socks instead of five toys, or five toys instead of 10. Technology was something that existed at places like NASA. No one’s wish list had a hoverboard, an iPad, or a brightly wrapped drone. There were more big families, whose children understood that even Santa couldn’t cover them all.

You could make gifts. Or you could buy one after saving up, and the recipient could guess the sacrifice involved. And because there were fewer gifts, the one you got made a big impression.

And so a nod to the more modest Christmases of years past. These memories came with a declared or implied, “We didn’t have much, but . . .” And this was said not with resentment or self pity but a kind of pride and wistfulness. […] [Read more…]

Take a moment

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Source: Alan ShapiroPaying Respects to our fallen heroes on Veteran’s Day (via milsotherapy)

Riding Metro North.  With a Legend.

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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…]

Saturday Morning (that hopeful sounding on the roof)

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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


Sources: Photo by t does wool– “walking between the raindrops.’ Poem – Memory’s Landscape

and a whole door to the past blows open

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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 VigorThe Art of Memoir (HarperCollins. 2015)


Notes:

I will remember this

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“…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

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