Learning to Remember
Posted on February 9, 2011
As I get a little older and time, that thing that once never seemed to move, that I was so impatient for to hurry along, slithers past in sneaky, slippery increments I cannot hold onto, I am learning. I am learning to remember. I am getting better at stopping and tucking feelings away, those instances of sensory realization you can suck in, pull through your skin. Those minutes where feeling is so pure, so clear, that you can actually feel the weight of it in your hands. Those flimsy things, I am learning to put somewhere I won’t lose, somewhere they won’t escape from. Somewhere I can visit as time goes on, and still feel the same way I did the first time I met those moments.
Memory, as much as we are accustomed to it being largely subconscious and passive, can be an active process. As much as we separate the kind of deliberate remembering – cramming for exams – with the more pleasurable passive kind – the moment you finish your exams – we can actively store the pleasurable things away in those bottomless recesses that hold everything we are and everything we become.
You have to stop, squeeze your eyes closed and breathe in as deeply as your lungs will allow. Lock the smell away, somewhere, in one of the millions of crevices in your brain, perhaps. Hold out your hands, palm up, and feel the sound seep into your skin.
I remember the last day I spent in Santorini last year. I floated in the shallows of the water. I felt it in and on every part of me, welling in every winkle in my skin. I put both hands on the slippery stone and pushed. I felt the crunchy pebbles that caught between my toes. I dug my feet in and felt them scrape my heels. I felt the sun on my back, my neck, my thighs. I remember the huge rock, stark and strange and familiar, against the gigantic sky.
But most of all, still, I remember the feeling that came with it all. That everything, in that moment, fit inside me perfectly. There was nothing outside of that miniscule increment of time. I made myself feel every single fibre of moss on the slippery rocks, every single fibre that tickled the flattened palm of my hand. I made the water push against my every pore, bubble against my back. I made the sun burrow into my hair, my skin, my bones. I floated so my feet, wrinkled and brown, popped above the surface, tipped to the sky. I let the salt sit on my tongue and sting my eyes. And I promised myself I would never forget any of it.
The day on the cave house roof as summer was coming to a slow, lazy, yawning close. I remember every white blonde hair on my legs glistening in the sun. I remember sweat on my belly and feeling like I was stuck to the ancient sun lounges that had been pulled onto the roof. I remember the bottom half of the island stretching out in stout, white blocks and dark green shrubs. I remember the stringent white wine that stayed cool for a minute, and I remember drinking it warm because you can‘t argue with the sun. I remember the feeling of being completely sun drunk because we had spent the whole day on bikes, chasing beaches. But most of all, now, I remember the enormous peace I felt. I was heavy with it.
They are the most precious things we make and, when all is said and done, the only things we are left with. And I am getting better at understanding their worth, their complete, sacred significance.
I am getting better at remembering.