my memories are kept somewhere

panes of evening light

Right now, evening light is sweeping across our living room wall. It’s thin sunlight, but it has the gold undertones of warmer weather, of smoky grills at dusk, of hot mornings at the farmers’ market. This light is all anticipation of summer.

The sun is so low that the swath of light stretches long across the wall. It’s catching on the lacy purple buds of the flower I bought this afternoon and spraying its shadow dramatically above the piano. I bought the flower on impulse to cheer me, to preserve the happiness that burst over me when I walked into the flower shop to buy a few fronds of greenery for chapel tomorrow.

purple flower in the light

jars and the shadow of the plant

The band of light is narrowing and fading. I try to stop it by taking pictures of it. My family bought me a new lens for my birthday, but it only arrived last week, and since then I’ve been taking photos like mad. Its large aperture has been a gift in our dark apartment. When I wake up and go downstairs and sit while the sun rises, I photograph everything in sight, trying to remember these mornings, the texture of this room, the landscape of this semester.

The little wooden travelers who hold up our books are on film. The reflection of the piano in my sister’s painting, too. The cool blue dawn coming in through the corner window. The milk glass dishes with rainbow rocks from some beach I can’t remember now.

piano in the painting

hope's painting

I photograph for the same reason I write: to make sense of things, to remember where I’ve been, to create something artful out of what otherwise feels like chaos. I like to keep track of things. I have files stuffed with letters I got in middle school, organized by sender. I mark the front of all my books with the date I finished reading them so that when I return to them, I have some context for the marginalia throughout. My hard drive is full of spreadsheets and class notes and numbered drafts of poems.

I need to know that all my memories are kept somewhere.

This blog has been one way of doing that keeping. Eleven months’ worth of thoughts and images are pinned like butterflies, organized and ready to be revisited. I can trace periods of deep contentment and spells of sadness. I see images like these and am transported to Whidbey, or read this again and compare it to last week’s miracle.

My thinking is hardly linear—whose is? Thank you, Walt Whitman, for allowing me the space to be haphazard and inconsistent:

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

I appreciate the freedom, but I can’t stand the disorganization of largeness, inconsistency, multitudes. So it helps to put pins down somewhere. A poem here. A photograph there. Later I can look back and make meaning out of it.

The more pins I put down, the more things stay with me. It’s a funny thing: I set something on paper because I know I can’t keep it in my head, but as soon as I write it, I remember it. The act of writing preserves it.

vagabond and flannery

our other vagabond

I don’t think I’ll make a good pastor unless I write. So much of the work of the pastor is to help people see the meaning in their lives. I have a hard time seeing God at work except in retrospect, when I go back to my butterfly board and notice patterns and see things that I thought were coincidental at best and nothing at worst but now obviously hold the shape of something purposeful.

And that’s one of the things that the record of this year has shown me: I will write. It’s not a question for me anymore of whether or not my vocation includes writing. Even the how is becoming clearer. I’ve found rewarding avenues for writing; I’ve heard of cool writing workshops for students whose first language isn’t English; my sister and I compiled a book of her paintings and my poems. It feels more natural and more necessary.

The sunlight gone now, and the living room is a peaceful grey. I haven’t bothered to turn on the lamps. The dark is quiet, except for the refrigerator and the furnace. I think I’ll go to bed.


3 thoughts on “my memories are kept somewhere

  1. Beautiful photos. I love the piano reflection in the glass of the frame. It’s so comforting to hear you say that writing is not a question for you anymore. I’m on my fourth day straight of writing (the real writing, where I go into it). Feels good to be back there.

  2. …and you can go to bed because you’ve written, yes? (Or maybe that’s “no?” — there are still some stumpers in our language for me!) I know when I get my thoughts on paper, afterwards I sigh inwardly with relief.

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