Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Keeping Memory Alive

There is a book on a technique called proprioceptive writing called Writing the Mind AliveI often think of memoir as writing the memories alive. Despite Annie Dillard's cannibalism quote on the nature of memoir, I find the act can nurture the present by reviving the past. Neither lacks, neither is deprived by bringing both alive.

But last night I had a telling and haunting dream. I was sorting through the basement of our childhood home with my brothers. One had the Legos and some old letters, another had some figurines and tools. I had my old stuffed animals (of which I had legion) and toys. 

As I sorted the animals, some of them became animated. Untouched for decades, moth-eaten kittens and their brethren started to walk across the floor like zombies. More alive than they ever were in any of my fantasy-driven tea parties, at first I was enchanted. But then I went to pick one up and got a small pique of a bite on my hand.

It turned out rats, scorpions and spiders were revitalizing my childhood comfort beasts. My excitement turned to fear and disgust. I disinfected my hands, and I began to use tongs and gloves, laying them down to photograph them for the memories, then stuffing them down a trash compactor or roadside drain.

I can't help but think this is related to writing memoir. Thursday I meet with a feedback group to discuss my latest revision of an essay called Digging In The Dirt, which is about the act of digging up our family graves last fall, braided with musings on writing memoir and how it involves digging of its own. 

I am slow to get out of bed this morning, writing this post from between two very living animals - our cats - and strewn with some current, adult-acquired stuffed animals - adorable but not alive. I am in no hurry, other than the principle of early bird gets the worm. And yet, by lingering, I've been able to give breathing room to this dream. 

What's the worm here? A direct, palpable, single sentence insight I have yet to taste? Or just this: the space to feel, to be with while wide awake, hands on the animate animals that help me keep moving forward into the future, all the while writing about the past.

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