Saturday, January 12, 2008

I have not lost my mind... I know exactly where I left it...

It’s possible I evolved into a writer simply because I had to write everything down in order to remember it… I don’t remember, since that was sometime before 4th grade, when I remember getting in big trouble with the nun because I was writing funny limericks to amuse my classmates. During catechism. I also remember getting into trouble in my first job in high school because I hadn’t punched my timecard for the day before and couldn’t remember if I’d actually been at work (had to ask workmates if they‘d seen me).

More recently, I’ve been trying to keep a list of things that needs to be fixed or improved around this house and yard… it’s like an amateur trying to keep up at a hotdog eating contest! They just keep coming!! One of my friends, who’d also bought a fixer-upper, suggested a series of post-it notes on a wall, in order to keep track of everything and also have flexibility in prioritizing. In theory, it’s a wonderful system: I’ve got 30 or so little squares on the side of the fridge, in four columns (contractor work, my construction, painting, sewing & misc) that stretches down to three-year-old level… and I haven’t looked at it in over two weeks. Instead, I look at something askew on the wall, decide it has to be done this minute, and proceed to create a three-week project in the middle of the living room. But wait -- what has this to do with memory? I’d forgotten my topic.

This morning was a great example of memory-in-inaction: as the sun came up, the freezing temps caused the river mist to rise, so that there was a pinkish swirl of fog around the yard, thin enough that the sun was also casting a glow on nearby trees. It seemed just too lovely to resist, so I decided to go for a walk. Simple enough in theory. I gathered my keys, my walking shoes, a heavy sweater, remembered to use the bathroom, remembered to wait in the bathroom for the toilet to stop filling so I could lift the toilet ball and stop it from running indefinitely while I was away thus burning out the well pump, remembered to turn off the lights, remembered to turn off the coffeemaker, got into the coat, hat, scarf and white gloves (white gloves! In the country! but that’s another topic), locked the first of three doors, got through the second door, remembered I’d forgotten the camera, unlocked the first door, retrieved the camera (remembered to look for batteries), back through and locked the three doors (oh, remembered to take the piece of mail that had been mis-delivered), made it all the way up the gravel road to the street, turned toward the hills -- and realized I’d forgotten my glasses!

These are distance glasses, obviously, and without them the hills were a smear that had nothing to do with the mist. As the cold leached into my legs (I’d forgotten long-johns, too) I decided the hell with it, I could take pictures and look at them more clearly later. So I continued the walk, squinting at the frost-covered vines, noting the brown blurs that were some kind of thrush, seeing the white blurs that hopefully were sheep on the hillside and not evidence of cataracts…. not seeing the black ice underfoot until my gait suddenly widened like Paul Bunyan’s! I slowed as quickly as I could, and tested the ground. It had a greasy, slimy feel underneath my track shoes, suggesting a thin coating of ice rather than solid sheets of it. I slowed down and decide that I could walk to the foothills, take my dramatic photos and then come home.

The not-so-brisk walk continued, until I approached the curve, and there was a huge telephone line truck barreling down from the other direction. Did it know about the black ice? Was there enough room in the ditch for me to dive and it to fly over me? I stopped, stepped onto the gravel shoulder so that at least I’d have traction to dive, and waiting to see what might transpire (or expire). The truck eased a bit over to the left as it saw me, and the road beneath held tight as it whipped around at half again the speed limit (on these country roads, the speed limit is considered a sort of competitive minimum). I breathed out, and continued down to the fork in the road, treading carefully since I didn’t have studded tires. When I got to a clear (relatively) view of the foothills, saw that the snow of two days ago had vanished and that the only breathtaking views were hidden by a bank of clouds, I gave it up and turned around. I’d just remembered a pressing engagement with a hot breakfast.

Some friends suggest that I’d do better if I slowed down, and gave memory a chance. Somehow this doesn’t work for me… all I get is slow and fuzzy rather than fast and fuzzy. I just forgot about the fire as I was writing this; the silence tells me that I let it get too forgotten. That is a handicap for an absent-minded writer: I get involved in the writing, then suddenly it’s two hours later and the house is cold, the coffee is cold, and -- mid-brilliance -- I have to jump up and get some warmth into the place. The fire takes hold, and the memory takes flight. It seems an impossible juggling act. Of course, if I’d remembered to chop enough wood so I’d only have to feed the fire (but I do the “gourmet fire”: each piece lovingly hand-cut -- see earlier postings) it’s possible that the thoughts wouldn’t get so far away that they’d be impossible to corral. It’s not like I haven’t tried. I chopped wood for at least 30 minutes yesterday… but fires seem to be like five-year-olds: they know exactly how much you have to feed them, and demand one more than that! Anyway, it’s time to get my wood-chopping clothes on again. Excuse me.

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