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LJI Exhibit A, Week 8: Memory's Chorus

This is my entry this week for the Exhibit A competition of therealljidol. I invite you to read and vote for the many fine entries. This week, we all chose different topics. Mine is "Kaleidoscopes."

We make a continuity of our lives where, in fact, none exists, just as we build interior landscapes from the details our eyes flicker across. A blaring sun bursting from dark grey clouds. The sun's after-image burned into the retinas: purple circles ringed with blue. Peach-gold clouds spilling across cobalt sky.

We stitch together song lyrics as if they explain us: Dance myself out of the room... because it's cold cold cold in my heart heart heart. I don't know where the sun beats in.

We pick and choose the details that we will remember and invent the ones we did not see clearly. A delicate watercolor wash of palest rose, blended into a violet cloud, streaking like a mountain range in the distance. Above it all, floating: rose-tinged fluffy clouds with violet contrasts. A jet's white streak, cutting across the canvas.

There's more to life than this.

Twilight Sky with Rose Clouds
The clouds were far more pink.

According to scientists, our cells regenerate. Only because of a few permanent cells, housed in that precious fluted sphere of wrinkled gray matter, do we persist as "you" and "me."

This week, I dreamt of reconnecting with somebody I'd last seen 20-some years ago. This dream, most likely, was the result of looking through old letters, trying to find my prior addresses, in order to fill out an application for the state child-abuse clearance I need to teach a poetry workshop for teens and adults. The application also required me to list all the people I'd lived with, a laughable task during my college years. Once, I knew what these people ate for breakfast; how hot they liked their showers; who they dated; when they had overnight guests. Now, I barely recollect their faces, let alone their names.

So in this dream, I was visiting an old friend -- or at least, she seemed to think that we were old friends. But I could not remember her. Her name was Katie, plus a last name that disappeared upon waking (was it Silver? Or Wolf? Or something more ethereal?) She had long, brown hair and wore flowing skirts; she was smart and artistic. We had once been good friends -- so she told me. But if we had been, wouldn't I remember her?

Dream Katie showed me snapshots of me with my first husband. She told me that everybody had wanted things to work out for us, but she understood when I told her they hadn't. Her obvious fondness for me was touching; I wanted so much to remember. But the memories would not come.

Maybe it's only because I'm driving through crepuscular skies -- the rose light fading into muted blue-grey -- that I think I can almost remember her. I think she must symbolize somebody real; somebody I really have forgotten; somebody who was once important to me. If I could grasp the key to remembering her, the memories would all come back.

Did she wears scarves in her hair and long skirts from here to there? Did she go barefoot? Did she wear toe rings? Did she play the flute? I can't remember.

Twilight in Cemetery
The trees were starker; the light more saturated.

As I write this I'm on my way to see old friends. One is moving across the country to Seattle, 3,000 miles away. He is passing by just long enough to grab dinner with us before continuing his journey. We will eat sushi and swap stories about old times.

We were at the beach; everybody had matching towels.

Mnemonic devices can help us recall the fragmented experiences of our lives. I once accidentally found a practical application. While I sat in my apartment with friends, I traced the geometric shapes on my dress: a finger around a paisley, than a square, then another paisley. A jagged edge; a squiggle. Idly, I traced the lines of our conversation. The next time I wore that dress, my finger traced the same unconscious pattern. As I did, fragments of the conversation came back to me. I guess you could call that dress a conversation piece.

Sometimes memory is more like a CD that cuts in and out, because there is a loose wire.

I took a trip on a Gemini spacecraft. I thought about -- you.

With old friends, you can help stitch memories back together. To bring to life moments of our shared past, we each contribute one piece, one fragment. We reach a collective consensus. The way the mind works, this retelling helps us all remember. We remember both the original memory and the retelling of it. So that over time, our memories of the memories of the memories merge together. They become like layers of onionskin paper, each with a drawing pretty much the same, but drawn from memory and therefore perhaps a little bit different. And so our memories -- overwritten -- become both darker and less distinct.

I had a fantasy, and you made it true.

There was a time when I didn't believe in taking photographs, because I thought that if you took a picture, it became your memory. The flash might go off, and someone's pale skin is overexposed, their eyes glowing red, the background obliterated in black flatness. Perhaps, if lucky, you could remember the photo that got away -- the one that showed your friend in luminescent laughter -- but most often the flawed photo became your memory of that moment. I wanted my memories to stay beautiful.

Our day will come, if we just wait a while.

Twilit Road with Traffic Lights
The sky was as impossible to photograph as a Raphael painting.

Some say scent is the surest way to evoke memory, but to me those memories are inexact. A smell of burnt cloves, mixed with patchouli, will conjure not a specific moment but that nebulous past I call "My Hippie Days."

For me, it's music. Music can bring back entire textures; the way I felt; the exact hue of light; who I was and who I wished I was with. Nothing brings it back like music.

Inspirations have I none, but to touch the flaming dove.

Parking Lot at Twilight
Rose and gold fading into gray

Dark, dark is the sky now. All lights glow: the headlights, the street lamps. Amber and red. Here's the thing that I want to say.

Love is careless in its choosing, sweeping over cross a baby. Love descends on those defenseless.

When I hear Bowie's album, Ziggy Stardust -- oh, man! -- I'm back in college, strutting across campus on a cold, cold winter day, jamming to my headphones, singing out loud without caring who listens.

Keep your electric eye on me, babe. Put your ray gun to my head. Press your space face close to mine, love. Freak out in a moonage daydream, oh, yeah.

Now, all these years later, I'm driving home from seeing friends I had in those days. I'm listening to the same songs, making new memories of the memories of the memories. And I'm stopping for milk to give to my little boy. I will share these memories with him. And he will have his memories of me telling him of my memories, just as I carry around my mother's stories of netting birds, just as I carry my dad's stories about working in a rich lady's greenhouse. These memories have become my memories, even though I only hold fragments of them. Fragments of fragments of fragments. Together, they form a beautiful, wavering whole.

That was no DJ. That was hazy cosmic jive.

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( 29 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 18th, 2013 12:44 pm (UTC)
I loved the surreal feel to this piece. It really brought the theme of it home: that our memories are not perfect and can sometimes be dream-like. :)
Mar. 18th, 2013 01:38 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I wanted to try to create a kaleidoscope of words, with bits of images and memories that would form a fragmented picture. It helped that I was dictating this at twilight, when I'm always at my most contemplative. I'm glad that it worked for you!
Mar. 19th, 2013 02:40 am (UTC)
This is lovely - I like the concept of making memories of memories of memories. :)
Mar. 19th, 2013 02:50 am (UTC)
Thank you! I look forward to reading your take on "Ashes to Ashes." I almost went for that one, too, but I figured I would probably just end up gushing over Bowie. :)
Mar. 19th, 2013 03:22 am (UTC)
Love the imagery mixed in with the idea of memories fading and being renewed by meeting with old friends.
Mar. 19th, 2013 03:50 am (UTC)
Thanks! If it weren't for those friends, there are times it would be easy to believe I had simply dreamt my college years. :)
Mar. 19th, 2013 05:15 am (UTC)
This was a lovely, reflective piece, and explores so many ideas on the theme.

These memories have become my memories, even though I only hold fragments of them.
I particularly liked this part, because it sounds logically unlikely but is absolutely true.
Mar. 19th, 2013 12:33 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much. I almost feel as if I've seen the memories my parents have shared with me, when of course, I never have.
Mar. 19th, 2013 12:02 pm (UTC)
A nice take on the topic :).
Mar. 19th, 2013 12:32 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Mar. 19th, 2013 06:14 pm (UTC)
I loved reading this whimsical yet ethereal entry. The photos are gorgeous. I could relate to it very well, even with recently regaining contact with a long lost friend! :)
Mar. 19th, 2013 07:06 pm (UTC)
Thank you. It's great to connect with old friends and always surprising what memories it can evoke.
Mar. 19th, 2013 08:01 pm (UTC)
Once, I knew what these people ate for breakfast; how hot they liked their showers; who they dated; when they had overnight guests. Now, I barely recollect their faces, let alone their names.

This is so frustrating to me, too. And then sometimes I just land in the right place in my brain and I remember some obscure piece of data about someone. Brains!

Loved the feeling of this piece. Loved the kaleidoscope skies. :)
Mar. 21st, 2013 02:05 am (UTC)
Thanks. Brains are funny, aren't they? I think it's just our human need to make sense of everything. Cats probably don't worry themselves about the fact that there are little fragments of things dancing about in their heads.
Mar. 19th, 2013 11:55 pm (UTC)
This is wonderful. Kind of surreal with thoughts of dreams and clouds and such. I am so enamored by memories, or at least what I believe are memories. That's why it's one of my main themes when I write Billy Wylde. He represents both my fear and excitement of faded memories.

Great piece!
Mar. 21st, 2013 01:40 am (UTC)
Your Billy Wylde pieces do have a very genuine, memory-like feel to them. Maybe that's why I love them so much. I'm glad you liked this piece.
Mar. 20th, 2013 02:59 am (UTC)
That was beautiful. I especially liked the "conversation piece" dress.

Btw, have you heard the new Bowie album? I've only listened to the first couple of songs so far.
Mar. 21st, 2013 01:24 am (UTC)
When that happened with the dress, I was fascinated. It reminded me of how I'd heard that certain rooms, because of their construction, are capable of recording sounds and playing them back later (which could account for ghostly noises). Don't remember where I ever heard that.

I've heard a couple tracks off the new Bowie album. It's on my "wish list"!
Mar. 21st, 2013 01:47 am (UTC)
I seem to remember hearing/seeing something once about how the process of making grooves in pottery can record sounds like Edison's original cylinder phonograph. Imagine "playing back" the sounds of an ancient pottery shop!
Mar. 21st, 2013 01:56 am (UTC)
Cool! I've been fascinated by that concept ever since I first heard it when I was a child. I keep hoping to somehow run across such an experience. I'd love to hear the sounds that could have been absorbed by any number of ancient art works.
Mar. 20th, 2013 04:19 am (UTC)
This is beautiful; I love the way that all these things come together to contribute to a memory. :)
Mar. 21st, 2013 01:16 am (UTC)
Thank you so much!
Mar. 20th, 2013 06:50 pm (UTC)
Ha! Rock Lobster!

You know, I feel the same way about music. It's like a time machine.
Mar. 21st, 2013 01:13 am (UTC)
it is! I almost went back and put a footnote on to list all the songs, but I thought that people would have more fun figuring them out. As I was driving, I happened to be listening to a compilation CD I made for the group of people I was driving to see. We do a CD mix exchange every few years, usually at New Year's Eve. It's always fun to see what people come up with and how creative they get with their themes.
Mar. 20th, 2013 07:23 pm (UTC)
This was very, very well written — the imagery, the light floatiness, the sort of wandering from thought to thought really captured the mood. It's just a beautiful piece.
Mar. 21st, 2013 01:07 am (UTC)
It's great to hear that, especially from you! You know, I felt a bit as if I was painting with light. Sometimes I think I'm just a frustrated artist. :)
Mar. 21st, 2013 05:18 am (UTC)
I liked the fleeting feeling this had. Fitting for the topic.
Mar. 21st, 2013 09:56 pm (UTC)
As somebody upthread said, the surreal quality of this is quite thought-provoking. It actually does remind me of a kaleidoscope with the shifting colors/shapes/images that make you think if what you remember really was the way it was :)
Mar. 21st, 2013 11:36 pm (UTC)
This is so beautiful and fantastic. I carry memories in music, too, in fact that Rock Lobster quote reminded me of being a kid, listening to that cd in the living room of my old house, my mom and I jamming out to the silliness of those songs.

I don't like to take pictures, either, but I stopped doing it because I realized if I spent too much time behind a camera, I didn't really experience the event as it happened, because I was too worried about remembering it later. Now, I let others take pictures, so I can still remember it, but I can also be there in the moment.
( 29 comments — Leave a comment )

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