Time sustains you, holds you, owns you, finally kills you. You consume and transform time, wear it on your face, show it in your frowns, fears, and fancies. You eat time like bread or bitter herbs to grow muscle, tendon, tumor. Time savages the bones of soul and body, leaving you a cripple, hobbling toward your home of dust. Time lights a match to your anger, makes you laugh though no one else does, and brands you with memories that singe and sear your heart.
Time chooses you to be the memory-bearer, calls you back into the darkness of the past, and shines its constellations of memories as if you knew how to navigate by starlight. Without a guide, you memorize the past’s patterned skies: the pinprick stars that cast scant light and the blazing suns that illuminate every detail. You have long done the work of remembering; but now, remembering is not enough. You must turn and face the darkness behind you, forsake today’s light and trudge backward. You must wake the sleeping dogs and steal their bones.
Though time has left you stumble-footed, you must cross terrain that shifts its shape with every passing. You must walk alone, by faith not sight in a moon-forsaken land, unsure what you are looking for, dragging broken shards of time back into today, unwrapping the remnants of time saved in secrets, believing that if you can find enough pieces to patch together, you can be free of carrying someone else’s memories.
The compulsion to bear the memories and to write the stories you carry, like the belief that you are called by a voice only you hear, is a form of madness. Both writers and mystics live outside the city, less by choice than necessity, hearing voices beyond the walls in the wilderness, so near the dark woods.
I didn’t choose to be the memory-bearer for my mother. For over thirty years, we kept a distance measured in silence. The day the words came, they scorched my throat and burned my lips; but the saying hardened them like steel, strong enough to span the pain. In all times past that place, we walked together.
Mother, eight years dead, comes to me these days, wearing the face of morning, sits beside my bed, and whispers me awake to remind me of my task. I have grown weary with my own reluctance. I hear the voice and have long walked in that wilderness, but oh, I fear the dark woods.
30 thoughts on “The memory-bearer”
So please email me to tell me when I can start breathing again, because this is breath-taking, as well as heart-breaking and inspiring.
Thank you for your kind words, RAB.
You stir the very depths of me. Make me fear my remembering. Make me fear my daughter’s remembering.
Thank you for reading, Myra.
You must be dealing with some very hard things. Thank you for taking us along on this part of your journey. I feel as though I have run very very quickly through an extremely scary place-for you and for me.
Please be safe.
Sometimes we need to get the thoughts on paper; writing hard things is never safe.
Very somber and beautiful.
Wow… you are something else. My mind goes off on tangents and is sometimes so overcrowded with ‘stuff’ that I need to spit it out on paper… but you, wow! It could be both frightening and wonderful to be inside your head.
Thank you for reading and commenting, Rian.
When you do tell these tales, in full or in part, in fiction or memoir, you will heal. But sadly, first comes the salt on those wounds. I will be waiting to read it when you have done it.
Writing is always a dangerous business, in part, because we never know where it will take us. But then, so is life. And healing and beauty are always waiting somewhere ahead.
This is truly a powerful piece and very beautifully written. The ghost of childhood casts long shadows and half shadows over the rest of our lives. I read an article recently about great closing lines in novels, so ever time I read your piece (and I did three times) the closing line of The Great Gatsby ‘So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.’, came unbidden into my mind.
Thanks for sharing that quote. Fitzgerald took one sentence to say what I took many to say. Our struggles may be different, but we all struggle in one way or another.
Thank you, Patricia.
I heard beautiful music from near the dark woods and I knew you were there.
Thanks, Scott, that encourages me.
Your writing speaks for itself. Memories and longings seem to become more poignant and real as we age. I’m not sure why but I’ve seen it and felt it enough to know its power.
So much lies behind you when you reach a certain age – an overflowing cache of memories. It seems counterintuitive, but we can often move forward only after we have gone back and made sense of what went before.
Exquisite. I felt every word, every step. I felt it.
It makes me happy to hear that. Thank you so much for reading.
I love the way you tell a story, yearstricken… and so I savor the words even on those odd occasions when you’re telling the tale of something I would usually avoid… like madness this time… but my enjoyment of your voice and language allows me to visit places I would not otherwise see……. So I thank you. I’m almost always happy when I find something new from your pen, from your lips, or from your keyboard…
Thank you, Shimon. What you mentioned is one of the reasons I so enjoy reading blogs like yours and others – I get to read about people, things, and places I would otherwise have no knowledge of or would normally avoid or just not think about.
When I write, or try to write of my childhood, I always stay out in the bright meadow. I fear the dark woods, for the pain it Might bring; not so much to myself, but to others; however, when I paint, then the dark woods come forward and grasp the viewer inescapably. My Mother does not like what I paint, though they are but surreal images of imaginary things. Symbols, if you will, of what I wish could be said out loud.
It’s good that you can express the pain through your paintings. When my mother and I reconciled, I had to say the words she felt but was too ashamed to say out loud. It freed both us. The difference after that was like night and day.
All I want to say is, ‘WHOA! WOW! WOW! WOW!’
Your mother was gorgeous!
Thank you, riatarded.
My mother was beautiful.
Wow. Someday I hope to craft words as well as you do. Amazing.
Thanks, Susan. Like you, I am trying each day to develop my writing to try to say the things I want to say.