The memories that hold us

I’ve moved a lot lately. In the past four months I’ve moved homes three times, took myself on a three week cross-country road trip, moved my business into a new office/showroom space, set up shop and sold at a 4 day festival in Vermont and in between it all tried to keep a semblance of normality. All the while realizing it will all change again in a few months.

As a result, I’ve been thinking a lot about attachments and memories and how we hold on, or not.

In early March I moved out of the sweet little cottage that had held me safe for the past 18 months. It had been sold and I was so happy for the friends whose house it was, and I was also sad for them because they realized that they were passing on a legacy of their life. The house was the home they raised all their children in. It was a home where precious tiny feet grew into adult sized shoes. Lives were fully formed among those walls and I could not help but think about the passing of time, and the slow walk toward big changes and how painful it feels to have to let go.

One morning I was moving boxes into my car and as I was walking the path to go back into the cottage I found myself fixating on a fixed, mundane scene just outside my door. The fence to the neighbors property was leaning askew and wrapped around it was a tree limb.  The roots had entwined themselves around the wooden pales as if to say “I”m not going anywhere, and neither are you”

It had clearly taken years of not letting go.

I stared at that embrace and thought, again, how much we want to hold on; to people, to places, to ideas, to relationships, to friendships, to good times, to the fleeting magic in life; to days of laughter.

It’s why we have cameras and voice recorders and artists who paint scenes and writers who write memoirs. We want to capture life so vividly but I realized that, just as quickly as we can capture it, it leaves our grasp. Or, almost the minute we take out the very thing we want to capture the moment with, we lose it

And yet, or still, we have this incredible ability to remember. In an almost cruel joke, the universe (or God or whomever you feel is your creator) will take something away but offer up the gift of knowing that it even happened at all.

Our memory wraps itself around our history,or what we want to hold on to.

The tree had wrapped its meaty limbs around the fence, or maybe the fence was built around the tree, I couldn’t quite tell. But I understood that this was how we bind to some things; where the connections feel so palpable and desirous that we  hold on without knowing who is holding who (or what) or where we end, or where we begin.

And with this simple scene I couldn’t help but wonder about how many stories are being told in any given moment and how often we, when a life choice asks us to move on, want to remember and hold on to the good times; often forgetting the bad.

As a parent looks at their their grown children, who were once small, and yearns to feel the monumental sound of a first word, the tenderness of a tiny touch or the buttery skin of new life. As we seek the freedom we felt while traveling in distant lands or the embrace that felt like a second soul you thought existed within you. Sometimes we seek these memories for comfort; reaching for them as a salve to the soul and other times they reach for us, holding us captive to nostalgia and maybe the desire for what was or the gratitude for what is.

In that moment I realized that our memories aren’t held in walls, or countries or people, or even photos – our experiences are – but these entities are just light switches to a second life. They are like rocks left on a pathway to find the way home because good memories just feel like home.

I have many fond memories of my travels – so many adventures and funny and ridiculous times that offer me a cinematic story of my life, but I don’t want to go back.  I want to be here, where I am, writing this. Sometimes I am stopped by images of my past; sublime moments in travel, tender embraces with wonderful people, deep, guttural belly laughs with my family, gut wrenching anguish of loss and disappointment.

As I looked at the limb and the fence, not knowing where it began and where it ended; the messy symmetry a knotted poetry, I knew that this connection too, would have to end eventually, to create clean territorial lines. I came to understand that perhaps it’s not what, or who we hold on to, but how we’re holding each other.

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