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Another Day in the Country

Do you remember?

© Another Day in the Country

On my recent trip through the archives of a box of pictures, I was in Bali again. At least that’s what it felt like. I had to scan every photograph, literally, to put it into a permanent album since the photos were taken in the era of prints and slides. You do remember slides?

Trying to explain the concept of a transparent photograph to today’s generation would take some effort, somewhat like trying to explain some digital concepts to me.

As I scanned photograph after photograph, there was a specific thing I was trying to remember, so I called my friends who had traveled with me to that country.

“Do you remember what they called the little settlements in the countryside that were all one family group?” I asked.

She didn’t.

“My memory is like a sieve,” Norma laughed. “Let me ask Gary.”

He didn’t remember, either.

The word, in my recollection, was “kampong,” but I didn’t want to write something in a book that was wrong.

That word didn’t ring a chime with my traveling companions, so I began to doubt my memory, which sent me down a rabbit hole of how marvelous the mind works — giving us memories at all.

I always imagine my mind like a room full of filing cabinets. They are three drawers high, basic beige in color, and there are a lot of them. When I can’t recall something quickly, I say to myself, “Where did you file that? Don’t panic now. I’ll just concentrate on something else while you hunt.”

The “you” that is hunting is my subconscious mind, and surprisingly it usually comes up with the word or the person I’m looking for.

I read recently, and actually wrote down, all the different tasks that our mind accomplishes for us. They include “recollection memoir.” This is not thought. It’s an involuntary procession of images, ranging from yesterday to long ago, interspersed with more immediate signals like must remember so and so; don’t forget to call the dentist.

On the other hand, to “think” is to ignore (or forget) differences, to generalize, to abstract. Thought is the mind’s Holy Grail, and the process hardest to control. It is erratic and prone to every kind of hijack. What bubbles up most of the time is memoir, no more and no less.

Memories occur while we get about our day. None of them are necessarily sought out.

I walk past a painting hanging on my wall that was done by Ida Metz, my first watercolor teacher.

Ida’s watercolor of aspen trees makes me feel as if I am back in the mountains of Colorado, living in a drafty, too big, church parsonage. The thought is eclipsed by the sound of a microwave oven dinging. My tea is hot.

This whole network of memories lurks all the time, waiting for a thread to be picked up, followed, and allowed to vibrate. It can be triggered by a photograph, a sound, or a smell. Isn’t that amazing?

They say that our childhood memories are more vivid as we age. Each year the mind converts new experiences into routine events that we hardly note at all. In old age, we seem to have lost the ability to arrest time, to make it pause, hover.

My cousin Joe said that he thought the reason was that, in childhood, a year is such a big proportion of your entire life it seems to stretch on forever while, later in life, say in your 70s, a year is a much smaller portion and goes by in a flash.

We can make a choice from accessible memories, but we can’t choose what to remember and what not to remember.

That’s a disturbing thought.

While we can’t choose what we remember, we can choose what we dwell upon. We can pull up all those good things that have transpired in our lives, like baubles in a jewelry box, and appreciate them.

It is truly amazing to realize that what we read, what we experience, where we have been, and who we have known all become part of who we are.

Simple things like choosing to read a book called “The Bluebirds and Their Neighbors” encouraged my love of nature as a child. Reading the book, “Running with the Wolves” informed and freed the woman I am today.

The choices we make in life ripple on through our days, as our minds faithfully record these events for recall. 

It’s another day in the country. It looks as if it’s going to be a beautiful day. So, what are you going to do? Who will you see? What lovely things will you recall, long after the day is done, to remember?

Last modified March 6, 2024

 

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