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Memory and Manners

It’s late winter and I’m pulling out old philosophy books… I know, I know, you are imagining a frog on a log wearing spectacles. Give a girl a break, I was born in the wrong century. ; )

Seriously, I’ve been thinking about memory quite a bit lately as a collecting agent for creative writing. In my garage, I have a little over 400 blank books full of handwritten memories and questions. I’m a little embarrassed for my future self that is no longer on the planet and being caught in the act of voracious soul searching through these books.

Still, it’s spring—the seasons have their own tempo and agenda, I’m a passenger of time’s mood swings. Except when it comes to cleaning the garage! March calls me into the garage no matter what’s happening outside or what business demands surround the office. Once in the garage, well it’s a bountiful memory party.

There is this one passage by Robert Grudin (a modern philosopher) from Time and the Art of Living that I can’t shake:

“Like many other twentieth-century types, I travel often and quickly feel at ease in new surroundings. But this very adaptability may constitute the real loss. Am I not defending myself against the past, playing false to it — trashing fickly, as something of no value at all, the few effective manifestations of prior identity? Our modern haste to adapt, to conform to the variable present, involves a quietly destructive attitude toward the past and sense of self.”

Yikes! I didn’t have one ounce of argument in me on this one. To be polite to the past… hmmm, this could be a new emotional intelligence for our tech ridden society.

Well, anyway, the photo you see above is the beginning of what could be a several year project (eghad I hope I live long enough to finish it)! I have begun to pull out journals (120 in the photo) that have been in boxes for over twenty years. I had to think long and hard about what to do with them. A dear friend of mine said “Vault them. A life is but a postcard to the future anyways.” I like that but I rather like the idea of remembering my manners, sifting through the memories…cringing, giggling or what have you. And unlike Ayn Rand, I won’t be translating them all, no way! Instead, I’d like to pull out the good stuff— the stuff that seems relevant to my future book projects and people.

Some of these books, well… they just don’t make them like this anymore (I even have a triangle book). Everything is ‘ruled’ unless you get an ugly, black sketchbook. I had this vision of gutting the books and stringing up the covers from the ceiling — a beaded sculpture of covers with tags—every book has a title. Imagine an exhibit of wall-papered words, a bunch of dangled book covers, and end the exhibit with a bonfire (of the innards) with the drunk attendees at the end of the show.

Could I be anymore polite than that?



  • Steve Brumme on Mar 24, 2012 Reply

    Beautiful writing. Don’t stop sharing. 400 notebooks full assures me that you probably won’t.

  • Verna Wilder on Mar 21, 2012 Reply

    I love the image of book covers dangling from the ceiling. And this: “. . . memory . . . as a collecting agent for creative writing.” Yes! Exactly! Today’s motto of “live in the moment” is fine, yes, I agree, sure – but oh! to honor memory as part of the moment! How could we not? In the act of smelling a rose, how can I not be transported to San Francisco, 1949, Grandma’s back yard rich with the smell of roses and the buzz of bees and a view of Twin Peaks rising beyond the City rooftops?

    And speaking of philosophy, who are today’s philosophers? Can you think of any?

    Thanks for this memory-sparking post, Niya!

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