Memory

There is a whole academic area in the humanities about memory. I don’t have that many profound things to say about it except that I have a poor one.

One of my life goals is to write a memoir. The problem with writing a memoir is that you need to remember your life events. While I am not saying I can’t remember any of them, I have forgot about a lot of them and others are quite hazy. Some things I don’t want to remember. It’s like how our mind will make us forget our dreams as a protective mechanism. I think some things I don’t remember or don’t remember well because my psyche is trying to protect me from negative or even traumatic memories.

But what I would like to say about memory is that it is always already filtered. Unless there is a videotaped copy, our memories always exist within particular limitations. Even if it is videotaped, there is no pureness when it comes to interpretation. Memory, to my mind, is unstable, incoherent and socially constructed. Although memory is unframed, people purposely try to put a frame around a particular memory. Often this is to make it more positive or to take some of the grit or trauma right out of it.

From an early age, I was taught “show don’t tell” when it comes to writing. When I write my memoir, I will be doing very little “showing.” I just don’t have that kind of strong memory. I don’t see anything wrong with telling. It still can be interesting even if it is not as finely detailed. It also brings to me the question of the line between a novel and a memoir. Obviously they are different genres and I don’t mean to render them identical at all. But they are closer than many of us think. To put it bluntly, people lie. Or to put it slightly more softly, people fib. Often they don’t even mean to. Memory is filtered and sometimes people remember what they want to remember rather than what actually happened. Even what “actually happened” can change based on different people’s reports or vantage points. There have been some high-profile cases of people who wrote “non-fiction” that turned out to be wholly or largely fabricated. “Creative” non-fiction is well named because the creative aspect often means a stretching of the truth. Sometimes a novel can be more truthful than an autobiography.

I guess what I am trying to get at is that there is no mechanism to represent absolute truth. As I approach my memoir, I do want to be as truthful as possible. I will not be making things up out of whole cloth. But I will also be very upfront in the beginning that this is a series of events from my own, limited vantage point and that absolute “truth” is irretrievable. Different people may well see it differently. I am limited by my own memory. There will be gaps in the story simply because they are things I don’t recall or things I see as uninteresting or unnecessary. Memory is an interesting thing. It will be something I will greatly rely on to write my memoir. But I will also rely on my analytical and critical skills because my “memoir” will be very political because that is how my brain works!

We need to re-think memory. The memory is not a computer. It is a fragile and vulnerable mechanism that is, above all, human and subject to human error, interpretation and intentional revision. Since memory is not a mere recorder, I don’t see this as a problem, but as something that makes memory infinitely more interesting and complex.

Fall [Autumn]

Fall is my second favorite season. In addition to being the gateway to winter, it is also one of the most beautiful seasons because of the foliage. Living in NH, we get some of the best foliage in the country, though Vermont likely beats us.

Autumn is inexorably linked to the beginning of the school year for me. This is a doubled-edged sword. On the one hand it is a new year with new possibility, on the other it is the end of summer and the beginning if another work year.

There is nothing quite like a crisp Autumn day. It is fun to go for walks and fun to feel the crunch of the multi-colored leaves underneath your feet.

Autumn in New England can be quite cool, which is what I love. School starts in late August and can be awfully hot for 3 or even 4 of the first weeks. I am SO relieved by the time this late Summer/early Fall heat is over and done with. It is such a relief to be over with this heat and humidity. The cool and crisp autumn air is a delight.

Perhaps because I am so wedded to the academic year calendar, Fall speaks to the possibility of new things. It is amazing how much that academic calendar has been drilled into me, so much so that it is more salient for me than the regular calendar year.

Fall makes me think of my time at Phillips Exeter Academy. Between the ages of 14-18, I was a student there. They had trimesters: Fall, Winter and Spring. Summer school was a whole different deal. Since Summer was not a part of the regular academic year, all three seasons had appeal to me. Fall was about beginnings and about the cool crisp air and the plentiful foliage on the trees scattered around campus. I used to walk around and feel the crunch of the foliage under my feet. It also reminds me of loneliness. Making friends was not my strength while at PEA. But I understand this and forgive myself for it because I was coming off of 8 years of severe trauma. I was bullied throughout elementary school and junior high. High intensity bullying lessened at PEA, but it was replaced by isolation. In some ways, I don’t know which was worse. Something about Fall made the myriad of brick buildings around campus seem more romantic and accessible. In the dead of winter they often seemed more foreboding for some reason. My time at PEA will forever be connected to the season of Fall for me.

One of the special things about Fall foliage is orange leaves. Orange is by far my favorite color and there is nothing like seeing a whole tree covered with orange leaves. For me it is breathtaking because it combines my love for fall with my love for trees and the color orange. A fierce orange tree, leaves blowing in the wind, falling to the ground, is an image that makes my heart go aflutter. Finally, my birthday is October 5, so it also helps to make Fall special to me (Go Libras!). Although it is not Winter, Fall is a close second in my book and a season I greatly look forward to after a long, hot summer. It provides cooler weather and great beauty via its foliage. Sitting here in mid-March, it seems so far away. But come again it will and I look forward to it already.

 

 

 

Ocean

My grandmother lived in Hampton, NH, about a 10 minute walk from the North Beach. I remember walking with her and my mom on the beach. It’s hard not to fall in love with the beach. There are so many elements that make it appealing. The sight, the smell and the sound are all so beautiful. In the summers they had the “beach buggy” which would take you from the North Beach to the Main Beach.

Unfortunately, my grandmother died when I was in the 8th grade. Eventually my family sold her little cottage. Even though I live about 30 minutes from the beach, I almost never get to go because I don’t drive. This is one of the many negative things about not being able to drive. There is no bus to take you to the coast, which I find appalling.

Even though I don’t get to go to the beach that often, I do go there in my head. The ocean is my safe and quiet mental space. In therapy, I have done EMDR and I had to create a safe place. It was me sitting on a rock at the beach watching the ocean. Enjoying the crash of the waves, the sounds of the seagulls circling overhead, the smell of the salty ocean and the feel of the warm sand under my feet. It’s amazing how quick I can go there in my head.

It is sad beyond words how much our oceans are being polluted. There is so much teeming life in the sea and human greed is causing it to die out. I mourn for the destruction of mother-nature, for the continuous assaults against her.

Although I enjoyed the beach in summer as a kid, now I would only want to go in the fall, winter or spring. It is far too crowded in the summer and I don’t care for hot weather. I also don’t go swimming and do not wear the clothing associated with it. I feel conspicuous as a gender variant person in a space like the summer beach.

The beach can be a relaxing place but it can also be violent. Just this past week we had a Nor’Easter made up of rain that hit Hampton Beach. There was flooding and property damage and the ocean was enraged. It is amazing to see how angry the ocean can be when you compare it to how calm it can be. The ocean is like me because it is very emotional!

My apologies that this entry was a bit all over the place. I think the vastness of the ocean makes me go in many directions. There is so much to it. What can one say or write about something so great? When it warms up a bit, but before it’s summer, I would like to go to the beach. I will find a way to get there. I am excited because it has been awhile since I have walked the beach. I will think, reflect and breathe in the heady ocean air.