Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"Been a long time comin' and I'll be a long time gone"

I suppose, at the heart of things, we are the sum of our experiences. Perhaps not all of our experiences, as I certainly do not remember them all, and I suspect you do not either. But we are products of our pasts, marked by what has come before as surely as paper is marked by pen.
We learn. We adapt, change, adjust. We forget, but sometimes we remember.
Small things come up from the depth of our minds. snatches of conversation. A moment in a particular place, in the sun, perhaps. A line, in a book, in a story. In a magazine you may not have been supposed to read. The lingering scent of someone who stole an afternoon nap in your bed.
Memory is a tricky thing, but sometimes it serves its purpose. We dredge up some half formed sense of what was, and it becomes real again, an maybe important once more.
A poem, Gentle Reader, before I wrap this up:

Lie back daughter, let your head 
be tipped back in the cup of my hand. 
Gently, and I will hold you. Spread 
your arms wide, lie out on the stream 
and look high at the gulls. A dead- 
man's float is face down. You will dive 
and swim soon enough where this tidewater 
ebbs to the sea. Daughter, believe 
me, when you tire on the long thrash 
to your island, lie up, and survive. 
As you float now, where I held you 
and let go, remember when fear 
cramps your heart what I told you: 
lie gently and wide to the light-year 
stars, lie back, and the sea will hold you.

-Philip Booth

Very well. Why? Allow me to explain. I was sent this poem not long ago by a friend. This friend had read it in high school, some many, many years ago, and never forgot the last line. It reminded this friend of the ocean, a safe place, a warm embrace. My own ocean is cold, but I understand the sentiment.
Upon rediscovering the poem, my friend shared it with me, an act I much appreciate. Now, perhaps, some many years from now, I too can remember some line from it as well, be reminded perhaps of some small truth.
Memory. It is a crazy, wild, powerful thing. It would be well for us all to bear that in mind. And for the reminder, I thank you, friend.

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