There is a ‘wishing squirrel’ tied around my wrist. Its cord matches my dressing gown. The red squirrel. ‘Tufty’ to most of my generation in this country… has been under threat from the invasion of its grey cousins for years and where once they were a common sight, they are now a rarity across most of the land. I have caught glimpses on my travels, but no photographs… no snapshot to hold and remember.
Memories, though, I do have… of watching them as a child with my grandfather, deep in the Fall Woods, dodging the small missiles they threw at me every morning as I walked through the trees on my way to school, excitement as a red flash ran across a road near Glen Lyon… And, while photographs and keepsakes may perish or be lost, memories persist, even when our minds may no longer be able to access them.
I would like to think that the earth holds memory in trust for us too, ready to share them with some new heart that is open and listening. Maybe they return as the touch of inspiration, a feeling of love or knowledge all unreasonable for the time and place, that comes in and whispers to our inner ear, leaving us with unexpected gifts. I do not believe that any experience is ever wasted… unless we choose to ignore what it offers.
Two days ago, I ‘met’ with two dear friends. It was not the way we had planned, but it is the way it now has to be. The memories we made will, perhaps, not be with me for long… the uncertainty of exactly when the Reaper has scheduled me for collection is not easy but he can take his time as far as I am concerned… but the strange thing is how wide the ripples of memory will and have spread.
Total strangers responding to a quiet call for help made up parcels that transported three women across a continent in isolation to a meeting on a beautiful island, filled with its art, its tastes, scents and colours. All that was missing was the ability to hug each other. We shared beauty, laughter and the inevitable tears … and we made memories.
Perhaps memories are personal, maybe they do not have to persist in order to change the world… even our own… but while they do, they are precious. As I approach the end of my own life all too rapidly, I am conscious of how rich the vein of memory is… and how many of its threads are common to us all. Mary Smith, with whom I have walked the past few months of this journey through cancer, will be teaching an online writing class on this subject soon… Mining Memories. For writers, there can be no better source inspiration. For those of us with time to look back and read what we have written in the books of our lives, there is no better way of checking that we filled every page with something worth living.
So many of the small moments that we have taken for granted assume their true proportions when we look back… Things like smiling across a room at a stranger, cooking with a child, breathing in the first summer sun or the last of the winter snow… Most of the time such moments pass insignificantly by, almost unnoticed… but they should be savoured. They are not the mundane bits and pieces that always drop to the bottom of the bag, but the raw gems from which strings of jewelled memories can be made… and perhaps, if the earth holds our memories in trust, it is their sparkle that we see when the frost or the first dews of spring catch the light.