Thoughts About Memory

At the start of each solo-biennial cycle, I read my thesaurus, and books connected to my theme, plus begin to explore through drawing (future posts).

I immerse myself.

Starting to think, notice, and see the theme’s context everywhere, I consider everywhere it takes me.

While difficult memories are easy to recall (they bounce from inside of my skull to behind my eyes as quickly as I can stand from my reading chair), it’s not easy to pull random memories from my brain. I sit, close my eyes, and roam for about a half an hour thinking, “surely something will surface.” Blank.


So, I try something else. I give the memories places to be, different places I have lived from the start of my life, specific rooms, what these places looked like at various times of the year. I immediately recall the furniture, what it looks like, where the furniture is positioned, the placement of doors and windows, wallpaper, curtains, rugs. Now I can recount moments, even if these moments occurred outside the rooms. I can connect back to each moment’s time, through its place, with visual and aural detail.

We are trying to sell from the sidewalk, lilacs me and my friend pick without permission from her mother’s bush. We are 6 years old and this is probably my idea. Arranged on the edge of the pavement in a straight 4-foot row, we are selling each clump for 10 cents with no sign. As people walk by, we smile and say in unison “lilacs for 10 cents!” The people usually smile but never stop. Finally a man pauses, bends to pick up a clump, officially puts it in his jacket, and leaves saying, “I will come back with my 10 cents.” Excited, we wait quite a while before realizing he probably isn’t returning with a dime.


I have also found I recall memories while doing something mundane. At first I try to roam again. While doing dishes, or folding clothes, or vacuuming, or driving, or snowshoeing, I try to search for the past in my head.

When this doesn’t work, in the same way roaming in my chair is unsuccessful, I think about how during these times I come to ideas or resolutions for my installations. I am not trying to get ideas or figure things out while I am doing dishes or snowshoeing. I am not thinking. I am doing. And, the answers just come.

What I enjoy about doing things like folding and vacuuming, but especially shoeing, is that it gives me excuse not to think. I can take a break from my work, from looking backward or forward. I can concentrate instead on each crunchy step, try not to fall, listen to the wind, any leaves that have managed to hang on, my breath, and watch my dogs run back and forth in our pre-trodden trench.