Wednesday, January 20, 2010

On remembering, or what the artist was thinking

How do you remember? What do you remember?

I am working on a writing project right now which has to do with remembering a ton of stuff about me, and my life before 1981. That's right, I said 1981, a long, long time ago. A time which I remember clearlyish because I was 10.

I'll pause while you do the math.

Yes, I am aged. (where aged is prounounced with two syllables, as in age-ed, not aged as in a cheese, but wow is cheese ever tasty and you could just nibble on your arm if you got peckish).

So one of the things I think about throughout the course of the day, in addition to "was there something else I was supposed to be doing, seeing as how I never write anything down, in spite of the fact that words pour from my fingertips most of the time?" is about how we rememember things. On the one hand, I have alot of things I want to remember for this project. On the other hand, I can't really force it, because I can't just sit still and will the memories to come.

I have to let the world wash over me and wait for me to see something that reminds me of the thentime (also known as the beforetime), which is before 1981, which, I don't care how much world-washing you're doing, is just a long time ago.

Cryptic this all is, I know, and cryptic it shall stay. But I still wonder what it is that triggers a memory, and how it was that out of the thousands of bits of graffiti I have photographed in my life, I saw this one:

DSC_0907 and immediately remembered that in the same town, several months before, facing the opposite way, I had seen something by (presumably) the same artist.

graffiti in El Tabo

And then I wondered what it is that makes him (assuming he is a he) paint these stiff-legged and -armed creatures, in the very same palate of colors with the same googly eyes, this same curved shoulder, this same lack of concern for the tippy top of the head.

I wonder painting these pieces makes the artist think of something. Or remember something.

And I wish I could tell him that I remembered him from one season to the next, and that I couldn't say exactly why.

Because memory is like that.


Kyle Hepp said...

There was life before 1981?

:) Sorry, I had to.

Eileen said...

not for you there wasn't!

Michelle said...

Perhaps the next time you're in this hemisphere we can do an "old stomping grounds" tour. I know I get all sorts of weird memory tickles when I'm there, or when I see old episodes of Sesame Street (seriously!)

Annje said...

1: I had a college student of mine, as in...a university student in the class I was teaching have the gall to tell me she was born in 1990. I almost had a heart-attack. So, yes, unfortunately there was life before 1981 and I have memories to prove it!

Memory: smell, taste, and very strong emotions I think are the strongest evokers. I LOVE thinking about memory. I love that it can be so completely accurate on one hand and then on the other that you can actually remember (or think you remember) things that didn't even happen.

I love how memory is selective and that different people remember different kinds of things. The significance of memory is also interesting: do you remember because it was significant or is it significant because you remember

Have you read "Funes el memorioso" by Borges? You should if you like thinking about memory. It is about a man who remembers everything, to the point it is like reliving it. I wrote about it once in relation to my husband who remembers nothing--except that he loves me--which is usally better than what he could remember.

Lauren Quinn said...

I love how spotting street art around town--when you start to see recurring images. Makes you feel like more in touch with the place, you know?

Richard said...

I didn't feel old until I met someone who didn't know who Freddy Mercury was. :)

Re: your artist, I wonder how the images reflect something about him. It's like stumbling across writing from yourself years ago and seeing pieces of who you were at the time embedded in the way you saw things - which only the person you have now become can finally see. I always wonder how much of what lurks in my head is really coming out when I write (or otherwise creative)

julie said...

Oh boy, I really liked this post. I'm fascinated both by memories and our reconstructions of them. Sometimes I get caught up in trying to discern whether my narrative of something from the past is truly the memory or whether it's a reconstruction of the memory.

Abby said...

Great post. I love thinking about memories. Today I was walking down Manuel Montt and I saw an old man hunched over, loading some wood into the back of his pick up. This image immediately brought to mind a memory of when I was a maybe 15 and went with my dad to pick up some posts to build a fence for my horse. The old man who sold us the posts was bent at a 45 degree angle at the waist due to some injury, but still got around just fine and loaded the posts into the truck for us. Of course this memory brought back more memories, and it was like a chain reaction. But I wonder if I had never seen that man on Manuel Montt, would I ever have remembered the hunched over man who sold us the fence posts???