Photograph

Here is my kindergarten photo . . .

 

It was taken decades ago–in a September that occurred long before the advent of the digital and smartphone era.  Certainly long enough ago that I cannot remember who took the picture, or what time of day it was, or even how I was feeling when the photographer asked me to smile.  In terms of pure, conscious memory, it’s as if the photo was never taken at all.  There is nothing I can latch on to, no anchor to grab hold of, no guiding light to serve as a beacon from across the chasm of years.

 

But then I step back, think about it some more, and I realize–that’s not entirely accurate.  While it’s true the day the picture was taken is an empty space upon the radar screen of my memory, there are things about the picture that are clear in my mind–bits and pieces that come into focus as if a pair of binoculars are scanning into the past, zeroing in on the visible landmarks of yesteryear.  My mother, for instance.  When she first saw the picture, she said it looked as though I’d just swallowed a mouthful of sour grapes and attempted to smile through the bitter aftertaste.  (It’s never been natural for me to smile for pictures, even from way back when.)  I guess she liked the picture well enough, though, because she had it enlarged and hung on the wall in the back hallway.  All through my teenage years, I gazed daily, though not necessarily fondly, at my kindergarten self. Even back then, though, much closer in proximity to the origin of the photo in question, I couldn’t have told you anything about the day I posed in front of a school camera when I was five years old.

 

Which begs the question.  What happens to our experiences when we forget them?  If you can’t remember what you did on, say, February 1, 1997, is the day essentially nonexistent, for all practical purposes?  If a day from your past is erased from your conscious mind, did that day truly and actually transpire, or was it somehow removed, like a vanishing rabbit in a magic trick?  The thing is–the majority of our days are like this, are they not?  Take today, for instance.  What are you doing?  Sipping coffee at a corner cafe?  Taking a stroll through the woods?  Driving home from work?  Stressing over your tax returns, wondering if you fudged too much, or too little?  Now, fast-forward a year.  Two years.  Three.  What will you remember of this moment?  Anything?  A small speck of the whole, perhaps?  Or will it be gone, like a breath, an exhalation, here one moment, dispersed into the ether the next.

 

In The Singularity Wheel (as in The Eye-Dancers), the protagonists experience this at an extreme level.  They are voyaging across dimensions, after all.  And so, when they return to our reality, our earth, the particulars from the alternate world they had journeyed to fog over and blur almost immediately.

 

Near the end of The Singularity Wheel, Marc Kuslanski reflects on this.  While in the alternate world of Colbyville–not to mention the netherworld connecting dimensions–he had been forced to confront his deepest and fiercest inner demons.  But would he remember, even as the details of that alternate world faded?

The text reads . . .

“He wondered if everything would be lost, if in a month’s time, it would be as though they had never journeyed anywhere, their minds swept clean of it all.  But he didn’t believe that.  Because they had done substantial things, too, momentous things that mattered and defined–and these would remain, however faint, like whispers from another time and place.

“Even if they forgot, they would remember.”

************************

And so now I return, full circle, back to my kindergarten photo.  I look at it closely, trying to remember.  Maybe if I stare at my eyes from decades ago, little-boy eyes gazing out across the years, I can recall something, anything.  But I cannot . . .

So how do I hold onto it, then?  How do any of us?  On a certain level, it’s disconcerting, disturbing even, that so much of our lives, so many moments and feelings and words, become lost, victims of time and the limitations of the human brain.

 

But then I check myself.  Because . . . isn’t one of the themes of The Eye Dancers the idea, the truth, that our minds are in fact limitless?  That they can travel faster than the speed of light and bridge incomprehensible distances?  I cannot in good faith maintain the position that our memories–even when “forgotten”–are lost forever in some dark, deep Letheian well.  So I ask . . . what did Marc mean when he said, “Even if they forgot, they would remember”?  What did I mean as the author?

 

It seems to me that, even if our conscious minds forget so many events from our past, our inner selves, our subconscious, if you will, does not.  Like buried treasure (or ruins, I suppose, depending on the incident), the comings and goings of our days are stored away, as in a vault, behind a wall that separates the outer world of sensory and mental now-ness from the deeper world of soul and heart and intuition.  Maybe that morning from the fall of 2008 is gone from your surface memory.  Maybe you can’t recall even a single detail from the day.  But then you have a dream, experience a feeling of deja vu or an “aha” moment with a WIP you are struggling with.  Maybe you paint a picture that, somehow, has materialized in your mind, as if by sorcery.  Maybe one of your characters in a story you are writing says something that rings a bell, a familiar echo from somewhere, someplace, some time.  Maybe a poem emerges, unasked for, unplanned.  And when any of these creative rushes happen, these gifts from the artistic gods, who’s to say they do not stem from that morning in 2008, or from some other memory your subconscious self has grasped onto for you to incorporate in the here and now even as your conscious memory has nothing to refer back to?  The creative process is mysterious and inscrutable.  It has always been this way, and always will be.

 

But call me a believer.  A believer that nothing is wasted.  That all of our experiences remain within us, somewhere.

And that, even when we forget, we remember.

 

Thanks so much for reading!

–Mike

23 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. magarisa
    Apr 16, 2019 @ 19:04:45

    “Even when we forget, we remember.” I really needed to hear this today… thank you!

    Reply

  2. laurelwolfelives
    Apr 16, 2019 @ 19:07:15

    I see a little boy who is thinking, “I’m never going to remember this day.”
    I have a picture taken in the first grade. (There was no kindergarten.) I distinctly remember that day. I was hoping that no one could tell I had a broken leg.
    I think we remember everything…technically, but it’s stored somewhere in the back alleys of our brain. I, however, have a form of hypermythesia. I can recall almost my entire life in vivid detail. It’s a wonderful gift…and a horrible, horrible curse.

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Apr 16, 2019 @ 19:53:39

      Wow–that is a gift! I can definitely see why it is both a blessing and a curse. And I agree–we store everything away. It’s somewhere. It’s never really lost . . .

      Reply

  3. Ste J
    Apr 17, 2019 @ 00:02:32

    I love how a certain scent or the shadows of leaves on a tree can conjure up the most obscure of memories which then become something that stays with us. I do think we lose some things in our minds but I put that down to one too many bottles of alcohol over the years.

    Reply

  4. foodinbooks
    Apr 17, 2019 @ 00:35:11

    This was an amazing post, and very timely as I myself have been recently pondering the concept of memory and time. I think so many of our days go by and we repeat so many of the same actions that it’s natural they blur together so when something odd or unusual does occur, it’s natural that it sticks out in our memory. Although in the case of your photo, taking photos would surely not an everyday activity. I also think that is a very cute and adorable photo. Another wonderful and thought -provoking post from you.

    Reply

  5. joannerambling
    Apr 17, 2019 @ 01:22:38

    We forget, we remember, sometimes we think we will never forget something only to find try as we might we can not remember, such is life

    Reply

  6. ritaroberts
    Apr 17, 2019 @ 07:23:33

    Great post which makes you think! It depends if you have had a traumatic upbringing as a child which for me it was, so I will never forget.. However from then on life has been great I often recall way back memories with my own family and usually end up with us all laughing . That’s just briefly of course. Love your Kindergarten photo.

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Apr 17, 2019 @ 18:52:11

      Thanks so much, Rita! I am always fascinated by memory and how it works. Just as I’m fascinated by dreams. And of course the two sometimes link and become indistinguishable!

      Reply

  7. Lyn
    Apr 17, 2019 @ 10:02:50

    I have very clear memories of some things from my childhood, but others are fuzzy. I can remember things from when I was 2, 3 and 4, but between the ages of 4 and 5, I have no recollection at all – nothing. It’s a complete blank. That was when I spent time in hospital with 3 bouts of rheumatic fever. If my mother hadn’t told me, I’d be none the wiser. Memory is such a fickle thing.

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Apr 17, 2019 @ 18:53:42

      Hi Lyn! It is fickle, isn’t it? That’s great that you can remember things from when you were two.:) My earliest memory, so far as I know, is when I was about four. Prior to that–it’s all a blank! At least in my conscious mind . . .

      Reply

  8. analisasalatinmail
    Apr 24, 2019 @ 21:04:45

    I DONT USE TO FOLLOW PEOPLE WHO DOSNT VOTE ME !!!

    Reply

  9. Karina Pinella
    May 12, 2019 @ 13:23:59

    Memories can be selective and also powerful and what gives us insight. It is why it is such a tragedy for some aged to experience dementia. Imagine the true treasures they really lose.

    Reply

  10. Imelda
    May 29, 2019 @ 20:28:00

    That’s a very interesting observation and question you made here. It is true that most of the details of our life pass by almost unnoticed. When I try to remember how my kids were when they were still very little, I often feel frustrated that I could hardly remember details. I felt it was weird considering that I certainly either delighted or got annoyed at their antics.

    Reply

  11. denise421win
    Oct 07, 2019 @ 17:30:49

    Awesome post and photos

    Reply

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