Thursday, September 30, 2010

What the eye don't see

There's an old Southern expression that runs along the lines of, "What the eye don't see, the heart don't need to grieve after," or words to that effect. It means that if you don't know about it, you needn't worry about it too much, and it dances through my mind now and then. You may know it. If you have ever taken a piece of otherwise perfectly lovely cheese out of your fridge, found and removed a spot of mold and then sliced and served the rest of it without a word to your family, it may seem a familiar refrain to you. The old Southern form of the words may be new, but they fit the melody.

But then there's what the eye DO see.

Tonight I have no photo for you with this post because I have the negative image in mind, which is all about what the eye does see, and how impossible it is for me to capture it as an image. The weather has cleared after several days of gloomy rain and begins to promise cool evenings and the dazzling bright blue skies of October. Tomorrow is likely to be gorgeous. Tonight the blue black velvet sky is rolled out like and endless furl of antique French silk ribbon, winking with tiny, perfect diamonds that shimmer across the great expanse. Above our little house, those diamonds wink and glitter coquettishly through the yards of Spanish moss, now visible, now gone, tempting and just beyond reach: impossible to photograph. But, oh, the eye can see them, my loves. The eye can see them with a perfection that no words can approach.

I hope your sky is clear and inky black and glitters with distant suns, however far from home or closely nestled under your eaves you may be. Good night, my dears.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Counting by candelight

It's probably fair to say that most of your friends will not celebrate their wedding anniversaries with a trip to an exhibit of invertebrate fossils. (Yes, we are still celebrating.) An even smaller subset are likely to have made this trip without considering that the museum housing that exhibit is located in the middle of the University of Florida campus, in Gainesville, on a home game Saturday afternoon. This is SEC FOOTBALL, baby. What were we thinking? I know. I know. But this photo was its own reward. And then the ride home, from Gainesville to St. Augustine, happens to pass by the front door (practically) of Gatorbone Studios.

We could probably have gone home. There were lazy dogs, waiting for their supper. There was certainly laundry to do and things to clean, the beach to walk or any number of favorite places for eating out. Hell, there was even the Gator game on TV. But we went to Gatorbone Studios (having called ahead, of course) and positively basked in the Golden Hour of beloved friends. There were martinis. There was wisdom and laughter, music to remember for a lifetime and a hanky or two might have come in handy. There was a lovely dinner, a dessert of mangoes and fresh raspberry sauce over vanilla ice cream. And there was a LOT of talk about gratitude. We talked about some other much-loved friends and their wisdom, about the beauty of the elders and youngsters of the tribe and the bewilderment of we who are in between. After all, Lon said, "Isn't that what the tribe is for?"

It surely is. And, though Rod has laughed and said anniversaries are like birthdays for me (meaning they generally last a week or so, at least; you will have noted I said we were still celebrating) there surely was no better way to mark the occasion, to count the precious years, for us. I do promise to move along to a new topic, but for tonight: Thank you, dear and treasured friends.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Simple gifts

The sea turtle nesting season is nearly over and most of the nests located in the northern section of Guana have already hatched. The babies who are going to survive have probably already made their treacherous trip from nest to water, past the challenge of the breaking surf and into the arms of the ocean. This little guy was perfectly still, and had flowing green algae like a mermaid's hair growing from his shell. Rod and I, celebrating our wedding anniversary with a visit to one of our most beloved places, were thinking in unison as the long-married do and said over each other, "He's not dead!" when his tiny eyes opened. I called the Guana folks: Best thing is probably to put him back in the water, the nice woman said, and that she would call the turtle guy to let him know. I walked back to the breakers to stand watch with Rod, for of course we'd already put him in the water. The small turtle paddled frantically, every now and then raising his nose for a breath, and resuming the paddling. But the incoming tide was fueled by the power of the waxing moon, nearly full: an astronomical tide. He would not make his way past the breaking waves. We did all we could to help, knowing the odds weren't in his favor. I can't remember the ratio but I think it's something like one baby sea turtle in a thousand survives. Helping one in a small way was in keeping with the occasion for us.

So: the occasion. We were married* 22 years ago, standing alongside the St. Johns River, and the moon was full then, too, and perfectly gorgeous. Sometime I'll tell you the story of our wedding, my loves, for it was made magic by the people who loved us and were kindest to us. We had lived together for three years before we married and had only one active birth parent between us so there was no talk of the groom's family paying for this, or the bride's for that; we did things ourselves and had them done for us at the price of simple love, no more. I will tell you the story, but until then it'll tide you over to know that David Hackney played and Miss Jo sang, "Tis a gift to be simple, 'tis a gift to be free, 'tis a gift to come 'round where we ought to be, and when we find ourselves in that place just right we will be in the valley of love and delight", and that is the heart of that story.

This year we honored the memories, walking and talking about our blessings, our children, our families, our friends. And we talked about the people we know who've been married as long as we have. Among our closest friends are several who've been married longer; Pablo, who shot the video at our wedding, is among them. Funny thing: on that ancient (giant!) VHS tape are captured many details of sight and sound, laughter and singing, stories and gifts and blessings, including an alligator gently swimming upriver past the wedding guests, virtually unnoticed by anyone but Pablo, and a shot of the moon reflecting on the wide sparkle of the St. Johns that may be a treatise on videographic terminal punctuation.

If we widen the circle by a generation, we find a couple who have been married longer than I've been alive. Gracious, simple, lovely people, they have spent more than 60 years seeing after one another, and in some way or another, seeing after every life they touch. They are older now, and things get harder but it seems to me their reward comes to them every day. They are together, their children and extended family love them, and they are (though I'm not sure they know this) venerated elders of the tribe. They have lived through the good and the bad, and if you've been married for a time, you know what I mean. Or if you don't, this is what I mean: When you are married to a person, no matter how much you love them, there are days when you want to shove them off the planet into deep space and I mean DEEP space. Where there is NO OXYGEN. Or something like that. If your marriage survives those times, you are likely brave, strong, devoted, tempered with humor and you are absolutely purely lucky. Sometimes it doesn't survive; it can't survive: the odds are surely not in its favor. But if it does, what a gift it is.

I was gossiping once with a friend over some rumored or true infidelity on the part of a mutual acquaintance. The details of the gossip are fuzzy but her commentary is as vivid a memory as any I have. She shook her head, genuinely puzzled. "I don't know," she said, "I don't get it. I guess I'm just a very married person." She was. She still is. She has in play all those pieces I mentioned as well as tenacity and patience, and undeniably, that good luck. But the blessing of a long marriage has been passed down to her from the likes of the 60-year-married couple I mentioned. I do hope those blessings pass from them to me to you, whatever your road, however long- or short-married you are, or were or will be. Perhaps the secret ingredient, the most magical thing I've not been able to put into words, is in the words of the Dalai Lama, who said, "This is my simple Religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart, is the temple; the philosophy is kindness."

*I use the term "marriage" for the convenience of a commonly-understood concept, but without intent to exclude anyone. I assume each and every definition of marriage to be valid according to the beliefs and customs by which you abide. And I believe that when two people love each other they should be able to marry if they choose. Period.

P.S. Dylan, it is very difficult for me to proof my work without you. I miss you and love you very much. The good news? You are too far away to prevent me writing about you. MuWAhahahah! Stay tuned.

Monday, September 20, 2010

In memoriam: September 21, 2009

I may be one of the most blessed of women when my blessings are counted in sisters. If you read here now and then, you probably know this already; you know that through pure good fortune and kindness my adult life has been to sisters what Willie Wonka's place is to candy. There are marvels everywhere.

By birth I am gifted with three half-sisters, all younger; two daughters of my mother, and one of my father. As an adult I have cordial but distant, intermittent connections to the daughters of my mother; sadly no more contact than one ancient, bitter letter from the daughter of my father. There's much archaeology of family here to be sifted and considered but mostly it comes down to this: we have no shared memories. Because of circumstances, we were thrown together and pulled apart like celestial objects with unpredictable orbits throughout most of our childhoods. The result is we don't understand each other very well. My extended family, however, gave me Daisy, a cousin near my own age, who began by brightening some of the long, sweet days of summers when we were young and who has been as close and connected in my thoughts these last years as she has been faraway in miles and lifetimes.

You probably know someone a little like Daisy; you may have your own sister of family or choosing who is as dear to you. She's very brainy, to begin with, and funny, and as open with her heart as a songbird with his morning love song. This is no real stretch for there's a good bit of the songbird in Daisy; it is one of the gifts of our family that most of us have music in us, as we have breathing. She is an empath by nature: that person everyone wants to tell everything to, partly for her lack of judgement, partly for her understanding and unpretentious humor and perhaps most of all, for that feeling of finding yourself and your confidences to be the most important thing in the world to her as she listens to you. But lest I paint a silly picture of some sainted being with wings and halo...well, Daisy is as human as everybody. She has issues with her own natal family, professional challenges and road-forks, she has fallen into and out of love, or thought herself in love only to find she'd married someone she hadn't really chosen for herself. In other words, Daisy is special and marvelous and prosaic and not that different from anyone else.

Last August I was caught up in the familial melodrama of Pop's death. It was a blessing, releasing him as it did from the sadness of Alzheimers and all that meant for him and the whole family. Bitterness was rekindled for me, as he had lived that long, long life, the final 15 years or so lost to the tangle of the disease. A few short years before he died, my dear old friend O'Hare had been lost to breast cancer. She was 45 years old, her youngest son only 5 years old when she died. Pop had to be buried and the sad chores of probate undertaken, and I'd been out of touch with Daisy for some while. This worried me not at all, for with Daisy I have the shared memories that knit us together for always. We would talk at the holidays, I thought, and went back to the work at hand. But it turns out that Daisy spent last August tangled in her own love and grief.

Lily had been a presence in Daisy's life for some years. They lived in a city large enough for all the amenities, but small enough for people in smaller circles to know one another. Not unlike St. Augustine, which you'll know from reading here, it's a city where, for instance, most of the people singing classical music attend one or another church or synagogue because regardless of their commitment to a given dogma, the best music directors can often be found there. And there are other smaller circles, as there are everywhere. Daisy knew Lily peripherally. They had common friends, knew of one another, finally were introduced casually at a dinner. In its aftermath, Daisy seems to recall nothing but Lily. Laughing, talking, laughing more: it seems to have been one of those moments in which, in movies, all the other characters and sounds fade to distance so that there are only the two people, falling in love. People talked, Daisy says: people looked at other people, after the dinner, and said, "What about Lily and Daisy? They barely spoke to anyone else..."

No surprises, so far: Daisy wrote in one of her brief-but-always-remembered birthday greetings of her dear friend Lily, and then later that Lily had had a recurrence of breast cancer, and later still that while Lily was sick, Daisy was helping care for her, and was herself content. No surprises, but of course, I missed it. I missed all the small mentions and the clues until after the fact. I missed that Lily was Daisy's Person. Here was the love Daisy had waited for. Here was the love we all wait for, the love some of us are actually fortunate enough to find in our lifetimes. To my dear cousin, one of the dearest sisters of my heart, my little much-loved Daisy, Love had come.

Fast forward, Spring 2010: Daisy came to Florida on business and we met for a drink and a talk; just a few hours to share between flights, but so much to say, to cover and no longer the talk of children or teenages beseet by angst or the serious intellectual talk of students. Now the hearts we opened to each other were those of grownups. Professional lives, aging parents - Rodney's father, her mother, and our common aunts and uncles, kids growing up - my near-grown sons, her growing nephews- her music, mine, our common friends and then at last: Lily. Daisy, whose empathetic nature always brought an open, affectionate expression; whose clear-headed professionalism would bring the same openness lit with bright intelligence, always warm but seldom sentimental or even demonstrative, suddenly looked up with eyes brimming and a tight expression as she struggled for control. "My dear friend," she said, her voice full as she spoke of Lily; her dear friend. Lily died. September 21, 2009. "Time," Daisy said, with quiet finality. "Time is all that really matters."

Daisy recalled Lily softly for me. Lily was one of those people everyone wants to be around, she said, one of those people everyone wants as a friend, one of those people others find themselves honored to serve. Her native generosity came back to her many times over, and as she confronted the accelerated process of dying, was surrounded by people willing to help with the burdens. They were perhaps people whose grief took a practical turn, or who loved Lily differently. Daisy surely found her way to offer Lily every comfort, but there was also this: she was frozen in a grief so profound it may have taken even her by surprise. It was difficult, so unspeakably, terribly difficult to consider life without Lily. And yet Lily herself whispered, "You know this will be fast, don't you?, and you know I want it to be fast, yes?" Daisy could only nod and agree. And it went quickly, and one year ago, Lily was gone.

I have used an image of The Kiss, by Gustav Klimt, for obvious reasons, and also because it dovetails in history with the writings of Rainier Maria Rilke. As I was driving in the car Sunday, listening to public radio, I heard a brief piece of an interview with a woman whose expertise is Rilke. I'd been thinking about Daisy and Lily as the date approached, and I kept hearing the echo of Daisy's voice, saying, Time is all that matters. Time is all there is.

And then I heard the words of Rilke, and thought I could not possibly write words of my own that would more more beautifully capture the sense of what I wanted to say here, how I wanted to remember Lily, how I wanted to honor the very human holiness of Daisy's love. And so I finish, with love to both of them and to all of you who have loved and grieved, lost and found:

"Is not impermanence the very fragrance of our days?"
-Rainier Maria Rilke (12.4.1875 - 12.29.1926)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The return of The Golden Hour

The worst of the 90s (er, temps, not nostalia for) may be over for this year. For the first time since, I don't know, May? - we felt the golden hour spill over the treetops at about 85 degrees. Perhaps, I thought wistfully, we've put the 90s behind us for this year.

Rodney and I walked back to the creek with the dogs. They have absolutely no appreciation for curling silver wisps of Spanish moss, nor bright small branches of resurrection fern, nor glimpses of sky as blue as precious turquoise. But they like the clear air, the lightening of humidity; perhaps they sense my projection of hopeful anticipation of autumn. And certainly they like the view of the creek, shown here with a glimpse of rope swing (for those of you like Friend of the Blog Suldog, who share a fondness for ziplines and rope swings). And of course like most dogs, ours find the allure of mud irresistible. Dogs. Sheesh.

We carried cameras in the potential service of our own irresistible artistic needs. We took photos. And yet...these are such delicate hints of coming change, such finely drawn foreshadowing of the inevitable turning of the year they're virtually impossible to capture in images. How can I photograph the nearly imperceptible movement of the sun, the ever-so-slight moderation in temperature and the almost immeasurable decrease in humidity? The shine of the golden sun, descending through air more clear than that of June or July; the freshening color of the sky, suddenly showing true azure, veritable robin's egg blue, and oh, my dears, the cautious, hopeful longing for the changes of fall: I am far from gifted enough to catch these in images, though I see them well enough, and often tell my family that if I'd a choice of an artistic gift I would call for Edward Hopper's. If I had this, perhaps it would be in my two hands to capture the light, the change: the hope.

But it comes along, despite my ineptitude. The fall will come, The Baby will leave for Africa, the brilliance of fall will bloom in the persistent purple thunbergia Miss Inga gave me so many years ago. It will bloom in the pale pink trumpet flowers transplanted from Katie's garden. The wedelia brought from Jayne's garden will recede under the changing conditions. And the familiar will turn and turn until we can once again see the sun returning through our own carefully constructed versions of Stonehenge. And however inept I feel, I will continue to take the pictures, continue to share them here, continue to hope you take your own pleasure in the changing of the seasons and the immutability of our old world.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Together: 25 years of holidays

The first Christmas my dear old person and I shared was marked by the gift of a Christmas ornament given to us by my friend Pat. Despite her worries about the viability of the relationship, or whether it was really the best thing for me, or any other concerns she may have had, she gave us a sweet oval-shaped ornmanent into which was inscribed, "First Christmas Together - 1985". It's graced our Christmas tree every year from that to this. I mention it because 2010 will mark our 25th Christmas together. Imagine that.

Northeast Florida is still usually hot and sweaty this time of year; this year is no exception. Nevertheless, it's about the time of year I begin to think about the holidays. I look forward to them for several reasons, cooler weather by no means the least of them. We approach the holiday season here with meteorological fits and starts. There are stretches of days without respite from summer: hot, muggy, trying - with the feeling that a hurricane might be brewing, might still happen. There are breathtaking days of brilliant blue skies and fresh, cool air to make you think of mountains and leaves and temperate climes in general. And those days, those cool days and actually chilly evenings, make me think of putting Santa on the roof. Yes, yes, I KNOW how tacky it is. But I have the fat plastic Santa and every year the boys replace the bulb inside it and perch it on the roof, and every year I have a quiet smile when I get home from work in those early-darkening evenings and can see Santa glowing gently on our roof...silly, I know, but there it is.

Regardless of the various perspectives of my friends, guided by religion or instinct, the coming winter solstice sustains care and anticipation. Simply put, the light returns. After the winter solstice the days ever-so-gradually begin to grow longer and the earth is coaxed once more into fertility by the returning sun. For our friends who are Jews, the miraculous light is remembered: despite the impossible, the light is not extinguished. For our friends who are Christians, the light comes to the word in the form of a saviour born. And regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof, our lives are measured according to the rhythms of the natural world. In darkest winter the promise of spring is conceived, and this is subtly visible in the lengthening days and the retreat of darkness.

There's so much to look forward to: kids coming home, gifts as small as oranges in the toes of stockings (or Christmas crackers - see Mac wearing the paper crown from his last year?) and as large as unexpected kindnesses, impossible to put into works but vast as the Atlantic, friends gathering, great food, warm hugs, MadriGalz craziness...did I mention Santa on the roof?

There are profound lessons to be put into practice. For me, one of these is the challenge of accepting "More blessed to give than to receive", which was completely undone by our experience of Pop and Alzheimers. The truth, we learned, is that it is much EASIER to give than to receive. To be open to and receive kindness, one must fully embrace humility; this is far more easy to say than to do practically and is a beautiful lesson for the holiday season. I may not always be able to put the perfect gift under the tree for my sons. I may have to sit back quietly and accept the timely perfection of their gifts to me and their father, whether these are presents wrapped with bows or nothing more sentimental than their very presence. And blah, blah, blah: no matter what, there will be turkey or ham and I'll have the joy of the cooking, the very fine joy of making things like rich gravy, sweet potatoes and eggnog pies. Really. Sometimes there are unexpected food pleasures like making potato latkes one Christmas, when the First Night of Hannukah was around December 21 or 22, and one mother we knew was hospitalized in grave condition...but this is another story, my loves.

For this evening, I only wanted to tell you that I hear the music of autumn in the air, or at least the thing we call autumn in the deepest south. And this takes me to the holidays in my heart, where All of Us Together is the true music of my heart. For now I'm walking in our woods, looking for promising cedar boughs and branches that will be heavy with red berries. One of the dogs will walk with me, patiently watching for snakes and reminding me with glances that we are a bit too early. But we'll be ready. As the berries turn red and the fragrances of pine and cedar meet the air, we'll be ready.

And for dinner...

...grilled chicken, a grated potato pancake made on the grill in a cast iron skillet (I'll tell you how to make it one of these days, my loves) and salad topped with garden-fresh-and-I-mean-never-seen-the-inside-of-a-refrigerator tomatoes, fresh honeydew and watermelon. You can just drizzle balsamic vinegar right over the tomatoes and melon, or you can make it fancy. Like this.

Put about 3 or 4 tablespoons of brown sugar in a nice big glass measuring cup, and drizzle the sugar with good quality balsamic vinegar until the sugar is absorbed. Let this sit while the vinegar and sugar fall in love with each other, get married, and begin to waltz toward a large family. This will take about 30 minutes. Add about 1/4 cup of reduced-fat (trust me) sour cream and whisk together. Drizzle THIS over the fruit on your salad (or use as a dip with a fruit tray). For a true salad dressing, use more balsamic vinegar and explore other flavor options. As culinary blank canvases go, it's respectable.

Love, love, my dears.

The Booksmith and September 11

This is Guana State Park, St. Augustine, Florida, on September 11, 2010, forming the blue-washed backdrop of my reflections.

One fine morning many years ago, I was scheduled to open The Booksmith, the small independent bookstore of beloved memory in St. Augustine. Though more than 20 years have passed I remember it quite clearly. It was the day we were scheduled to place Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses on the shelves for sale. Shop owner and dear friend Diana was out of town, but I remember a serious, thoughtful phone conversation in which we worried together about the possibilities. Threats had been made on Rushdie's life and on the lives of those who dared to sell the book. I was surprised to find that I was actually afraid, a little, though St. Augustine's Muslim population at that time was certainly very small, and no less peaceful than anyone else. Diana left the decision to me: if I didn't feel secure enough, I should just go home and not open that day. She'd call me later to check in.

As I hung the sign out, the very same sign I'd been hanging up the day Peter Bogdanovich shouted at me to get off the street, I looked around at the quiet Plaza and down the street toward the Bridge of Lions and the outline of Anastasia Island, then up the street toward St. George Street and Flagler College. I remember the feeling, if not the actual physical gesture, of shrugging my shoulders. How could I not open the store? How could allow I myself to be scared enough to even consider not selling books? Why had I been foolish enough to allow the threats of bullies to make me hesitate?

None of this, of course, was viewed through the lens of the events of September 11, 2001. And certainly none of us had yet considered the position of a lunatic who would, 9 years after that, threaten to burn a sacred book in order to make some sort of deranged statement. But how much distance can there be between a Muslim religious leader declaring Rushdie's book forbidden and invoking the threat of violence against its author and those who might put the book into the hands of prospective readers, and a Christian religious leader threatening to burn copies the Qur'an?

Before the book burning was called off late this week, I heard several callers to a discussion on public radio suggest the idea of purchasing copies of the Qur'an in protest. I stand with these people. While I have no more genuine interest in curling up with the Qur'an than I do with the Bible as relaxing reading in the next few months, it's high time for me to read The Satanic Verses. I'm no religious scholar, but no one knows better than I do that reading lies at the heart of education, and I believe education lies at the heart of tolerance and compassion. Christian or Muslim, Jew, pagan, atheist: surely tolerance and compassion are the real lessons in which we should be schooling ourselves in the wake that dreadful day in 2001. Read the Qur'an, read the Bible, read War and Peace, read anything you like But read on, everybody.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Dragonfly memories

Dragonflies stalk the beaches of Guana in elegantly deadly pursuit of mosquitos and possibly the beginning or end of their reproductive cycles, which are, I think, much more closely tied to their life cycles than we may imagine. Today this one was caught in a fatal tangle of waves and sand. I lifted it up with care, awed by the brilliant turquoise color of its body and the beautiful bright green of its head - colors that had spilled across my lap only last night as I worked on a warm woolen scarf for Dylan. I was able to capture the electrifying colors of its body, perhaps less so the shimmering bronze and copper-bright wings that moved delicately in the wind, in a photo: one brief moment of memory, and then it was gone.

But memory: I've been thinking about that. We talk about it often, my dear old person and I, for the obvious reason that we've lived through Alzheimer's with Pop, where the erosion of memory is the raw and never-healing edge of encroaching disease. We talk about it because pain management is a balancing act of pharmacology and surrender, resistance and retreat; memory is a wild card. In Alzheimer's, the most common memory loss is short-term. According to our dear friend David, a clinical psychologist whose illustrative description helped us envision the thing, memory loss in Alzheimer's typically happens from the outside, in. Imagine the brain is an apple: those memories you created 5 minutes ago, or yesterday, are the skin of the fruit. Memories created 5 or 10 years ago are the apple's flesh. And the things you learned before you can remember learning them (washing your face, going to the bathroom on your own, combing your hair): these are the seeds at the center of the apple. They are closely held and the last things to leave you.

What if you don't have a dementia in which memory is lost? Is your memory perfect? What DO you remember, after all? I cannot remember a time, reaching back past those snapshot recollections I have from being 2 or 3 years old, in which I could not hear musical harmonies in my mind. I could hear harmonies before I knew what to call them, how to label them, that they even had names. In memory I have always heard thirds and fifths against melodies. Melodies, in my memory, always seem to be of secondary interest; it was always harmonies I loved most. So: I do not remember the time before I heard music in dimensions.

Rodney doesn't remember a time when he did not know what the ocean was. He was born close by, he was taken to the beach as a tiny baby and the scent, the breath, the warmth and rhythm of the ocean are part of his heartbeat. (Like many who were not born on at the coast, I have a crystalline recollection of seeing the ocean for the first time: I was 7 years old and it was life-changing.) Dylan doesn't remember a childhood without Sheba, our dear old nanny-Boxer. He was 2 or so when we got her, but his childhood memories are shadowed by her presence. Mac, of course, doesn't remember a time without Dylan. He was 20 months old when Dylan was born, but in his recollections, Dylan has always been there.

Still, memory is a weird thing. It is as though a virtual video recoder is running all the time, for all of us. Our brains purr along, capturing everything, storing it all up for future retrieval. This seems self-evident; how else would we be able to call up memories of electrifying accuracy? How else would things we might in all honestly prefer to forget push themselves to high-definition recollection, front and center? And why does the film seem to break, now and then, so that review of our memories shows not a smooth, frame-by-frame view, but rather a halting clunky series of images like disjointed still images? Trauma? I was 11 when my mother died, and when I look back on those memories some of them stream along like film strips; some move with the jerky awkward flow of single images strung together. I can see clearly the scene in the darkness of evening in which my stepfather woke me to tell me she was dead. With an ache that has lasted these many years, I recall her funeral, despite being given a solid dose of paregoric to stop me vomiting that morning. I remember who gave me the medicine; I recall the glass from which I drank it. But there is so much more I have lost, or forgotten, or cannot bear to let myself recall.

Are our brains and their attendant memories and images wrinkled and changed forever by trauma, and perhaps compromised in their abilities to reliably deliver memories in their wake? Do the carefully recorded movies, those high frame-rate recordings, degrade under trauma so that the recording consists only of stop-motion still images with a different kind of power?

What do you remember, my loves, and what have you forgotten?