His poem included memories such as a first frost, a bird landing just right against a fence, the crisp bite of an apple. Beautiful, sensory, moments that you can’t help but notice all through life.
Nostalgia comes later.
Now, years on those I have loved is always rooted in the human world for me, the people who roam in and out of our heads and hearts—these are the memories made and the thoughts kept.
Memory is about creating value of life so far.
Some days, I get the feeling that my head is in old kisses miles away and my legs are in London where I live and work.
With memory comes a disconnect, like a hot air balloon lifting off with the string cut between my thoughts and a present physicality: I am here now, those thoughts are there.
We wrestle with the realities and imperfections that come with time passing. Memories are triggered by passing cars of the same model or colour as someone we once knew.
Or by a song on the radio. Or by food-groups, weather types, names.
Sometimes I will hold the string of a memory a little longer, like a child clutching a balloon until it is carried away by the wind, desperate to hold a detail more securely.
When greeting friends after a long absence there is no other reaction than joy as we recall the memories together. We remember the phone calls, dramatic moments and easy times. We know the love that rushes to the surface: a brimming bucket from a well comes to flood you all at once.
The friend who we’ve made suppers with, baked cookies with, drunk endless cups of tea with, advised on matters of the heart and cried on, is there again. They are sweetly right in front of us, and the particles of time and hope land as they once were.
The thing with memory is this: the second you try to capture it with too much strength, it flickers like an ancient light bulb and you are left dimmer in your recall, lingering in the shadows.
Do you have that too, ever? In your square of universe, what are your memories? What tips you on the scale of longing, like a sky punctuated by fire flies, fragrant, flighty, and temporary?
Perhaps we place such emphasis on memories because they are our teachers, showing us where we’ve come from. They let us understand our thoughts of today.
I honour memory like roots of a tree, founding and grounding. Keep making more, with the same people, with new people, with yourself.
Through general interaction within communities, of education, travel and work, there is energy in abundant circulation; comprised of moments with people. People we meet and adore; friendships that traverse the years, those that baffle us and snap apart. Humans we would empty our soul to like opening a lunchbox at dawn, communication as essential and ritualistic as the food that breaks a fast.
In a dormitory once, I heard a friend murmur in his sleep “Stay a while. Read a book.” I loved his notion of ‘stay a while,’ the infinite openness of possibility in this thought that without expectation one can stay. The book might be interpreted as our memories to be re conjured and met. When I meet people, I watch for that space between ribcage and heart, that space where I might sit for a while and know them.
In between people, the world has always been ours to love: The crazed warble of the pigeons who stutter by a window pane gurgling songs to each other, or children chattering with their play mates on a wintry afternoon in school, too small to be conscious of the tramlines of attraction that run around your city, or mine.
In all my meetings with all these humans, I have learned something: not to love weakly with half a heart, like some diluted river careering towards the sea.
Love isn’t real if it’s only there because another space is empty. So we should appreciate these souls that we can’t always love equally or even forever.
Love them while your heart is brimming and you are able.
No heartbreak is final; the heart’s tissue and cells are always regenerating. As we meet more people our make-up changes, symbiotic with each human and always in flux.
We learn new words in our languages, find fresh ways to interact, go to different places. There is never a losing team with memory. It is a gift, a scrapbook of all we have been and will be. Life is a circle, a criss-cross of blended fibres and they entwine at different points.
I believe this so strongly.
Those I have loved become in turn those I will love and have loved and could love.
Beyond our separate scrap books of life, we are all the same. ‘Stay a while, read a book.’
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Samantha Tucker
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: courtesy of the author