Building Memory


It feels as though it has been a month since I last wrote. I was surprised to hear my husband say that he has been home from Europe for two weeks. When he returned home my new writing schedule fell through the cracks. Now it is time to get back in a rhythm.

Editing Sunlight is slow so I have been practicing a new journalling technique. It is helping me as much as memoir writing to review my past and see who I am. Some days it feels a bit tedious but it is a quick way to look at your life, build memory and over all feel confident and more in-charge.

What I am doing is reviewing each day in as much detail as possible. As I do this I see things – things that matter, things that annoy me, bad habits, things to work on, etc. It helps me to feel that each day was not a waste cause I have many days that I feel I didn’t accomplish much or what I wanted to but when I review it so much went on that I wasn’t really aware of.

As an example of this, I met my sister by the river for a visit. The mosquitos were getting a tad too friendly by the end of the evening. I didn’t realize until I got home and reviewed my day how much it was bothering me. How I really felt out of control of the situation and these mosquitos were dominating me, my life. Cause I wasn’t really ready to go home but felt I had to because of them. They were swarming me with their attention and I was feeling closed in, stuck. Hmmm … deep feelings for mosquitos.

I start at the end of my day and work backwards leaving blanks between each bullet point. As I work through my day I insert memories that return to me in the blank spaces. I go all the way to the beginning of my day and back down again. It is quite impressive how often I am not aware of my feelings during the day. I read somewhere that emotions are a window into the soul. It seems sad that I am not aware of my emotions throughout the day. Especially sad if they are a window into my soul.

It is important to note that while I do this remembering of my day I visualize myself moving through my day like a spectator. Not only does imagery increase my memory but it will “bring the fact into connection with the kernel of my essence.” (Anthroposophy in Everyday Life by Rudolf Steiner) While this sounds deep or perhaps corny I do believe it is true. Rehashing my day makes me very aware of what is going on as I have stated above. It is doing for me what memoir writing does for me. It resolves, heals, brings to light, lifts me, etc.

People have said to me that their favourite scenes from my writing is when I have detail, when it seems they are living right in that moment with me. That is what I do each day in my journal, relieve my day. Writing it like a scene I suppose, only in bullet form.

Speaking of scenes. I know one that I need to write for Sunlight. Back to work.

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:)

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?

Dreams Drift Away

Recently I read a writing prompt asking to remember a moment that seemed like a mystery.  My mind drew a complete blank. I was certain that there must be a million mysterious moments through my eyes of a child but I could not recover one. Or maybe that question was too broad and my mind didn’t know what to choose. Well, I got one now.

The sand came in. I know how but I see it laying before me. Three mounds of it. Dad says in his stern, don’t disobey me voice that we are not to play in it.  We listen.  I sense something very special is going on here.

There’s been a lot of talk about us building a house. I’m excited to have a new home. I will be like my friends.

I hear dad has made something called blueprints. I guess we need blueprints. One evening I see dad hovering over a large sheet of paper on the table. He explains to us that this is the blueprints of the house. A bunch of faint lines. It takes a moment for my eyes to register a picture within all these lines. He shows us where the bedrooms would be. Us girls would have to bunk up but that is okay. I see a kitchen, laundry room, and an actual living room. A real one.

These are the actual blueprints.

We are going to have a new house! The sand is in for concrete dad says. He has blueprints made. This is going to happen!

I go to bed dreaming of my new room. I imagine what it will look like when it is done, smooth walls and shiny windows. Maybe we can even have our own dresser and I won’t have to share. Right now I only have a drawer. One single drawer and my friends have whole dressers.

The next day us girls surface with excitement. Mom on the other hand is tense. Angry maybe? She’s been wanting this I’m sure of it. It seems as though she starts the fight’s with my dad about it. I don’t understand.

Us girls decide to stay away from mom. She could snap any second and that means screaming. We go outside to play.

The sand mounds sit there. We don’t touch them. Us kids do nothing but nothing happens. The sand sits day after day untouched. Soon the wind takes away the lines that separated the sand mounds. Nothing is said and we don’t dare ask. We sense the tension. We know our new home is not coming. I told all my friends and now I don’t know what to tell them. I feel like I lied.

I’m not sure when we started playing in sandhill. The next year perhaps? It became our sand hill and quite frankly we had a lot of fun in it. I don’t know how we survived so long without it.

Years later my friends would ask what happened. They have faint memories of us going to build a house. My memory of it is vague, like an event that blew past me that I was unable to catch. I hum trying to remember for I know this memory of their’s is true.

“Hmm … All I can remember are the three mounds of sand for concrete and blueprints laying on the kitchen table. I don’t know what happened.”

If you can find one moment that left you baffled, please share. It may take some thinking. Thinking is the easy part. Being aware of your thoughts is tricky. The mind has a way of getting carried away and keeping you out. Remember it is your mind. You are boss.

Thank you Sunstone Creations for the photos!

Heart of the Story

I step onto the trail. The snow has blown in and erased my path with drifts.  I know the path well.  Looking ahead of me I can tell which tree branch I usually duck under and which one always hits my arm.  I will recreate my trail.

As I leave the treed in area and head into the open prairie my foot steps hit resistance.  The snow is like creme brulee – a hard crusty surface with soft snow underneath.  I know this snow.  This is snow-fort snow.

It is a perfect day.  A warm wind, blue sky and the sun delights to see its reflection in the million glistening stars it creates in the snow around me. I plop down and begin cutting out blocks for a snow fort.

I am in a bit of a trance.  When I realize what I instinctively just did I feel a little silly. But hey, I cut some more blocks anyway remembering all the snow forts my friends and I use to make. I should include them in my story somewhere but wonder how to write about them.  Then I remember something else…

I turn the corner from the back alley to the street. I feel like I am gliding home.  Lynn is with me.  It is daylight and most likely afterschool.  As we turn the corner I see my house and then dad, with his snow scoop, shoveling snow.  He walks along the drive way filling his scoop with snow and then piles it up against the house.

I can remember the first time I asked dad why he piled snow up against the house.  I was small, maybe five years old.  He told me he did it to help insulate the house.  The snow piled up against the walls would keep us warmer.

“Like an igloo?” I asked.

“Yes, kind of like that.”  he said.

I remember thinking my dad was really smart for knowing that.  But now, in this second, as I turn the corner I don’t know if I feel proud or embarrassed about my uniqueness. None of my friends pile snow up along the outside walls of their houses.

I see Lynn’s expression and I wish we could be like everyone else. I don’t know what the small smile she wears means.  I don’t ask.  All I know is this is not the first time we have done something weird around her.  We are forever doing something my friends have never seen before.  She will still be my friend in the morning. Somehow this knowledge feels only half full, incomplete, not enough.

I stop cutting blocks of snow and just sit there.  My chest feels full.  Feelings of pride mixed in with shame surround me.  I gotta get back to the house and write this one down before I forget it or lose its passion.

In search for a meaning or plot to my story I wonder if my antagonist is my community, society in general, that tells me what I have isn’t enough.  I had no idea as a child that I was poor and without until society told me I was poor.  It was like I had no idea what that word even meant.

I may have found my theme:)