“There is so little to remember of anyone—an anecdote, a conversation at a table. But every memory is turned over and over again, every word, however chance, written in the heart in the hope that memory will fulfill itself, and become flesh, and that the wanderers will find a way home, and the perished, whose lack we always feel, will step through the door finally and stroke our hair with dreaming habitual fondness not having meant to keep us waiting long.”—Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping
To mark this Memorial Day, 2013, the day of remembering, the laying of wreaths and of ghosts, I lay out some words about memory that resonate with me. How we remember. What we remember. How miraculous it is, that through remembering what’s dead and gone can live again. Writing is just one sort of memory; bees are another, and so too, far older, are the memories of fox and worm and moss.
“The days aren't discarded or collected, they are bees
that burned with sweetness or maddened
the sting: the struggle continues,
the journeys go and come between honey and pain.
No, the net of years doesn't unweave: there is no net.
They don't fall drop by drop from a river: there is no river.
Sleep doesn't divide life into halves,
or action, or silence, or honor:
life is like a stone, a single motion,
a lonesome bonfire reflected on the leaves,
an arrow, only one, slow or swift, a metal
that climbs or descends burning in your bones.”
—Pablo Neruda, Still Another Day
“Like flies in amber, like corpses frozen in in ice, that which according to the laws of nature should pass away is by the miracle of ink on paper, preserved. It is a kind of magic. As one tends the graves of the dead, so I tend the books. And every day I open a volume or two, read a few lines or pages, allow the voices of the forgotten dead to resonate inside my head.”
—Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale
Maybe the idea of the world as flat isn’t a tribal memory or an archetypal memory, but something far older—a fox memory, a worm memory, a moss memory.—Mary Oliver
image: She Who Is