Memory Burst

Memories come in bursts sometimes. I wonders if they are trying to push their way out and just waiting for an opportunity for you to stop thinking, just for a second, so they could come forth.

I am in the midst of washing sunshine yellow walls, something the previous owners left and we have lived with it for five and a half years. As I wash a memory breaks through the confines of my self-conscious.

mudroom

There is a wooden structure in front of me. It is the two sides of a triangle with the front missing so we can sit in there and have our picnic out of the rain or out of the hot sun if we choose. I can feel, just for one millisecond the air and the breeze. Mostly this flash is about the building. I know where I am when I see that building – Round Lake, Saskatchewan. I am in ‘bear country’ as my mom calls it. This is where my mom grew up and where my parents met.

My mom's mom

My mom’s mom

Moving from my hunched up washing position I stand up and think about what just jumped out at me. I tell myself to file it away to reflect on it later, and go back to work. Only I think about this structure and am curious about why this memory would pop out now and what the significance is of this wooden structure.

Actually, I feel, I don’t think.

This building makes me feel warm. Weiner roasts and my family all together by the water’s edge. My parents relaxed. The lake is quite. There isn’t a beach. You come for the scenery – forest all around you. I have been in forest before. This forest feels different but I can not put why I feel that way into words. Maybe it is because it is my forest. My family has a history with it. I don’t know.

Round Lake is a special place to me. It is a quiet lake. There is a small army base just down from where the campground is. Although I have never seen anyone there and have ever heard the faintest of noise from them. That is the height of activity.

The water is usually so green with algae that no one has ever gone in it. I have never heard of anyone fishing in it either. People have told me on occasion that they have seen it clear. For that is why you walk to the water – too see how bad it is:)

No matter, my mom grew up three kilometers down the road. She has told me stories of how as a young woman she would bring the cows there for water, even in winter, smashing a hole in the ice for them to take a drink.

There are stories of bears. Hunting bears, bear cubs living in their yard, my uncles walking up to bears. Bears. Bears. Bears. So many nature stories. My mom’s brothers and father were big hunters. They hunted bears, rabbits, beavers and muskrats. Funny, now that I think about it, I don’t recall ever hearing them hunt deer or geese which is so common now.

Mom with Dead Beaver

My mom snuggling a kitten with a dead animal on the hood of the car.

My parents met there. While their story ended in divorce their meeting was romantic. My dad had bought land close to the lake campground and was clearing it. My mom would walk the road leading to the lake, picking berries from the shrubs that lined a forest on the opposite side of the farm land. I imagine the berries, a hot summer day, the forest, a young man working hard in the field … They would look at each other, infatuation striking them. Alas, courting would begin.

Mom at her farm

Mom with her horses.

As a child we went there a couple of times. We only camped there once and had an amazing time. My mom and I went there about ten years ago for a trip down memory lane. She wanted to see her old house. It is long gone now and she admits it felt strange to not be able to even walk in the yard. It still felt like it was hers.

Mom and I at Round Lake, Saskatchewan.

Mom and I at Round Lake, Saskatchewan.

Reflecting on the memory flash made me realize how much I care about Round Lake. It isn’t that I have any direct childhood memories but I have lived through my mom’s I suppose. She has so many stories to tell of growing up there. Most are sad and troublesome but they reflect her life. I guess I am attracted to the woman who grew up there. She loved animals and nature, she ran with the wind, she was carefree. Now she is dependent on others opinions of herself, full of vanity, and status. She is so far from nature.  Maybe I hold onto her past for her?

I have digressed. What is my point here?

  1. pay attention to your memories
  2. don’t rationalize your memory bursts but feel them
  3. write about them over and over again until you get all that you need to get out of them

Why the memory of Round Lake would jump out of my subconscious while washing yellow walls I do not know. The fact that my memory was of a building, just a building, shows how little I have of the place on my own accord. My attachment is through my mother. I am thankful for the memory burst as it gave me an opportunity to explore this side of myself. I have often thought of this place, wanting to take my kids there, my nieces and nephews, show them where my mom grew up and where her and dad met. Try and paint the picture for them. I am very attached to my roots.

Care to share any of your memory bursts?

NOTE: Round Lake is the epitome of nature. I tried to google Round Lake to get an image for you but came up with a different Round Lake. If you google-map-it ask for directions from Greenwater Lake to Round Lake. Then you will get the right one. No cottages here.) 

NOTE: I have spent hours writing this post. It has taken me about a week piddling at it every day. Not quite sure what I want to say and exploring it like crazy. These type of posts frustrate me the most. All I had to go on is this darn building and why it is so significant to me. But this memory burst allowed me to really explore my feelings and attachment to this place as well as my relationship with my mother. I still don’t feel done with it. Funny how small things are the hinges to the universe. I urge you to write even when it seems like there is nothing there. You get these bursts for a reason:)

Advertisements

The Benefits of Life Story Writing

When I view myself as the heroine of my own story, I no longer complain about the conflicts in my life and in myself. I am no longer a victim of circumstances. No longer am I caught within the psychological paradigm of neurosis. Instead, I’m full of anticipation for my journey into the unknown. I am a protagonist in a world of unending dilemmas which contain hidden meaning that it is up to me to discover. I am the artist of my life who takes the raw materials given, no matter how bizarre, painful, or disappointing, and gives them shape and meaning. I am within each scene and each chapter of my life, defining my character through the choices I make. I am on my own side, rooting for myself, aching for myself, celebrating my sensual experiences, marveling in the exquisite subtlety of feelings in my life that novelists have made me aware of in their books. I am as engaged with the ongoing story my life as is a reader who eagerly turns the page.

“Your Life as Story” by Tristine Rainer

Once a month I lead a storytelling group at a nursing home in Saskatoon, my closest city. I bring a topic with me and a prop or two to aid discussion. I find it thoroughly enjoyable listening to my elders tell there stories and see their faces fill with delight that someone is listening.

In February I went with the theme of love. With Valentines Day approaching at the time I thought it would be great for us to talk about marriage and all the good and bad stuff that goes with it.

Only I lost my way. The problem with finding that you lost your intention is that it happens after the fact. I knew I felt disappointment during our time together but I ignored those feelings because I thought I was experiencing the moment where a time did not meet my expectations.

And this is true, I was experiencing that but this time it was a bit more. My expectations failed because I did not honour my intentions. I wanted to talk about the good and the bad yet I began the conversation passing around a picture of my mom and dad slicing their wedding cake. If you have read any of my other blog posts you will know that their marriage did not end well. It wasn’t horrible but it did end.

I began the topic talking about how charmed their life was at the beginning and left it that way. There was a voice in my head saying to tell the group that they divorced but I didn’t want to be taboo. I said nothing.

As the conversation and time went on I realized it was a struggle to keep everyone on the subject of marriage. People wanted to talk about anything but. I let this go cause perhaps they had other things on their mind they needed to share. After it was over the nursing home coordinator told me that they all have either lost their husbands already, divorced or had bad marriages. Only two at the table were still married. For one of them it was her second husband.

Well, I could have handled that. I have had my experiences of bad marriage – one my own and others I have watched. Even my current marriage is not bliss. So why do I not talk about the bad stuff? Why did I not listen to that tiny voice in me that said “Tell them they divorced and that it broke your heart driving away from your dad as a child” as I passed the picture of them around?

Well, I didn’t want to upset the apple cart which isn’t really like me. I don’t mind upsetting the apple cart if it is to advocate for someone else but I guess I won’t do it where I am involved.  Hmmm… this isn’t a self-help blog.  Well indirectly it is I guess.

What I want to say is that we need honesty. We need to tell the truth and not be shy about being judged. We need to make ourselves vulnerable in our writing and perhaps eventually learn to be vulnerable outside of our writing/storytelling lives.  Also, listen to those voices! They are so smart. I am not talking about ego who will criticize and praise you. I am talking about the other voice, the one that suggests things to you. The one that feels like it is floating and not a weight on your chest. Listen. Be brave.

Now I Get It!

Isn’t that just the way things work. Once you throw your hands up in the air in frustration, giving up, surrendering to the universe that you just can’t do it (whether it is searching for our car keys or looking for a reason on why you are blocked at writing your memoir) anymore, the answer comes.

I picked up my memoir writing bible Your Life as Story by Tristine Rainer yesterday after publishing my blog post. I picked it up cause I felt like I just announced to the world that I had given up and I wanted to know why this happens to me all the time. I get so far in my writing and then I get stumped. I know I need more balance but I needed to know where.

I read a little story in Miss. Rainer’s book and it went something like this:

One of her students would write and write and write. She would shut herself off from the world and go hard but then all of a sudden she would stop and feel empty. She would stop writing and fall into a depression.

I don’t feel that I have fallen into a depression but I do miss the feeling of wanting to celebrate with a glass of wine every night. I miss that feeling of deep grounding joy like everything was right in the world. Why is writing such a roller coaster for me and how can I get it to even out to a steady contentment?

She gives a list of ideas on how to do this at the end of Chapter Thirteen. None of them really surprised me but seeing her words written there was like a little bit of therapy. Like a friend reminding me of what I was suppose to do.  Depending on my emotions and the situation I may choose any of her ideas but the two that stood out to me the most are:

  1. Contain your writing. This is the category of one-day-at-a-time, baby steps, assembly work, and war rations. It means you divide your work into small sections, and when you have completed a section , you stop and don’t let yourself write anymore.
  2. Get off your butt and get some exercise – walking, running, dancing, yoga, whatever works for you to discharge pent-up energy.

I was so desperate to get in a word count that I was pushing and pushing myself to write more even after I felt so much emotion from extracting a major memory. That is where #1 comes in handy. I will write a memory and then that is it. Leave it alone. No word count.

Looking at my puppy the other day I realized that I have not walked him (or me) since I started working steadily on This Old House. I need to get back out there and be with nature, breath some fresh hair and get my heart rate up. Our walks were a special time for both of us and I let it slide.

Miss Rainer also pointed out something else to me. I need to know my theme. Writing abstractly is rather challenging.  My theme … my theme … I need a conflict. I need to ponder this for a spell. What I had set out to write, a charming little story about growing up on the prairies now seems complicated. I need substance.

“Theme” is the conceptual string that runs through and holds a work together; loosen it or break it, and the work tends to fall part. Whereas story is the growth of character, theme is the development of an idea. Story provides the mythic and emotional skeleton for autobiographic writing; theme provides conceptual coherence. Knowing your theme helps you include only those incidents, characters, and scenes that can be hung on it. It is your premise for deciding what to put in your work and what to leave out.”

It has been very beneficial for me to write out these random memories. For the ones I felt the most for are the ones that carry the heart of my story. I am going to excavate those stories and see a common thread. Then I will understand my theme and lay it out on my timeline software.

In the meantime I started on another little project that I have been letting settle for the past year. I will share it tomorrow.

5 Lessons Learned: Week 5

Quill and Ink

  1. My memory is releasing so much detail but am unable to write in the right voice, or from the right point of view. Often I start remembering with my adult perspective and it seems empty. Without personality. This may lead to me switching automatically to my child’s voice but not always. If I do switch automatically I feel much better about what I have written. If I don’t I can’t seem to ignore it. My writing stops. I basically slam my pen to paper and drop my book on the floor. I can’t seem to force the voice. Do I keep trying? Get a cup of tea and see if that little girl will come back if I am not so insistent with her?
  2. I can’t seem to capture the essence that surrounds me as a child. Perhaps this is due at least in part to my struggle with voice. I write and the words still feel empty. There was a feeling around me as a child and I can’t seem to get that feeling on paper. I do not know what words to use to describe it.
  3. Memory has been a great gift. Now that I am up and running I am remembering more and more detail rather than memories of events. I am remembering everyday situations: my sisters and I washing dishes, the ritual of arguing with dad to go have a nap while we took care of clean up; Dad hauling water and the way the cellar door would rest against the annex stove and how we always called out to every one that the cellar door was open so no one would fall in. What are these memories without the senses? Well they have kicked in too.  I recall the sound the fan made when you hit the light switch in the bathroom. It roared so loud drowning out the noisy kitchen in the mornings. I remember the feel of the oily tea towels that we could never clean no matter how hard we tried. (I still don’t know what was wrong there. Must have been the water.) The smell of raw earth from the cellar and the cool, thick, heavy metal ring that served as the cellar door handle. I am rambling but in many ways I can go right back there. Yet a feeling is missing. The essence of a story is missing.
  4. An idea that my identity may rest in these everyday acts and things.
  5. I have cooked my brain. There is steam coming out of my ears and smoke through my nose. I gotta take a break. Let it power down and return. Maybe work on something else for a spell?