Friday, November 19, 2010

To every thing there is a season...

Winter is upon us, and the wind bites.  Gone is the liminal Autumn. Ogilvy's Christmas window is up, and soon there will be snow. The death of the year has arrived.
I had a chance, recently, in the early hours of the morning, to revisit McGill College, and see, from the same vantage, the vista of my favourite Ville-Marie moment.  Like the revisititation of all memory, it was marred by reality.  The trees of the street were lit in red, not the stately white of my younger days, and it was not snowing.
Memory is an interesting thing these days.  I am ever reminded of memory's malleability.  Even now, as I sit, I craft memory into narrative, shaping, changing, moulding. I create memory.  I can look back at memories, reimagine the import, or the meaning hidden there.  On this, the cusp of a new winter, I remember...
I have been thinking lately, about the intersection of memory, place and time. What is the memory of time? or of place?  I remember places that no longer are.  I remember a city that has changed. Things have happened here, but they are not now here, and are not now.  When and where were they?  We spent several hours discussing this in a course I took last semester, in the context of history, but I'm pretty certain we didn't answer it then, either.
Downtown geography, for me, is haunted by the ghosts of the past.  The empty lot at Cathcart and University, once The Dublin, site of monumental debauchery. The corner of Ste Cat's at Phillip Square, where a girl saved me from being struck by a car, crying at the closeness of my mortality in that moment, herself killed some years later by a car.
Alone at the front of the Eaton Center, or asleep in the Palace Theatre. DeMaisonneuve, with a girl on my arm, looking over my shoulder. Standing in the afternoon sun in the early, glorious days of spring.  The terrace on Crescent, Cafe Republique, and the Raspberry spitting. All memories.
Memories have layers. There is a greystone wall in Ville-Marie, guarding the edge of a parking lot.  A sad patch of grass grows there, and weeds.  I have memories of it for two reasons, largely unconnected.  I deliberately placed one layer there, to keep it safe. The second layer accrued more normally, but the wall keeps that layer safe, as well.  I like it on that wall, and I go there often.
But memories are shared too.  And I can't tell you much about that wall, because it belongs to someone else too.  I don't know they would want me to share those memories.
There is a time for every purpose.  I will, for a time, sit on that greystone wall, and remember...

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