The past is past except when it isn’t

August 15, 2020

I’ve been asking myself lately, why, oh why, do I keeping thinking about things from my past–specifically from the 1960s and 70s? Especially, when I can’t remember what I ate for lunch or my neighbor’s last name?

I questioned does this happen to others and why? I Googled: why do older folks dream of the past?

Dreaming of the past and the world beyond

An article by Katy Waldman calls it the ‘reminiscence bump’. “The basic finding is this: We remember more events from late adolescence and early adulthood than from any other stage of our lives. This phenomenon is called the reminiscence bump.” A robust line of research shows that there really is something deeply, weirdly meaningful about this period. It plays an outsize role in how we structure our expectations, stories, and memories.”  Voile! That makes sense to me.

Kate Morton, a truly resplendent author, says this about memories in her book The Clockmaker’s Daughter. “Human beings are curators. Each polishes his or her own favored memories, arranging them in order to create a narrative that pleases. Some events are repaired and buffed for display; others are deemed unworthy and cast aside, shelved below ground in the overflowing storeroom of the mind. There, with any luck, they are promptly forgotten. The process is not dishonest: it is the only way that people can live with themselves and the weight of their experiences.”

I reached a moment of clarity when reading her comparison of sentimentality to nostalgia to “Sentimentality is mawkish and cloying, where nostalgia is acute and aching. It describes yearning of the most profound kind: an awareness that time’s passage could not be stopped and there was no going back to reclaim a moment or a person or to do things differently.” However, as I have previously stated, I have no deep regrets and I hardly ever say “if I had only…”

So out of my head and on to the stars for a moment as I embraced the cosmos with one of my favorite persons on twitter Sarafina Nance, who goes by the handle @starstrickenSF she is an Astrophysics PhD, a stargazer and an eternal optimist.  She greeted today with an out-of-this-world observation about the universe

…some stars explode, their light as bright as entire galaxies, while others collapse in on themselves, stuffing all their mass into a tiny yet supermassive blip in space-time. Some stars are so massive, and their photons so many, that the stellar surface simply floats away, forcing the star to disintegrate others are so small, barely larger than Jupiter, that they live on for trillions of years, bearing witness to the cosmos in a way nothing else can. 

She has also said all of us will be stardust someday, how cool is that?

 

 


A fade-to-gist

August 11, 2020

Maybe it’s retirement combined with #COVID-19 self semi-quarantine, but I find myself using some of my time to wander thru memories for whatever remains of my wild and crazy youth.

“Human memory is notoriously unreliable, especially when it comes to details. Scientists have found that prompting an eyewitness to remember more can generate details that are outright false but that feel just as correct to the witness as actual memories. In day-to-day life, this isn’t a bug; it’s a feature”

I like this psychedelic brain image.

“A key rule about memory change over time is what we call fade-to-gist,” so says Dr. Charles Brainerd, (real name) a professor of human development at Cornell University.

What set me down memory lane recently was Dirt Road to Psychedelia a documentary about the mid to late sixties music scene in Austin, TX including the Vulcan Gas Company

The Vulcan was the hippest, coolest place in Austin (maybe the world). The following are some things I dredged up in memories as a direct result of viewing the film. And, yes, I going to be name-dropping because…

I started going to the Vulcan when it opened in early ’68. Some of my college friends were musicians and we went often together, but not always.

I was introduced to marijuana by a musician friend who went on to play bass with the 13th Floor Elevators. So that got me thinking. During my junior year in college 67-68 I spent much time in the company of the previous drummer for the Elevators. John Ike had quit the band and his mother thought he ought to go to college. He was a fun person to be with.

In the summer of ’68 I spent a lot of time in the company of the band New Atlantis in their Austin rental house. New Atlantis played at the Vulcan often and there I was introduced to Johnny Winter. I was crazy about his blues guitar licks. We became friends. I went to all of his Austin shows and we’d hangout for hours afterward. He called me his ‘college girl’ as I was still attending at that time. He got famous from those Vulcan gigs, and the last time I visited with him was in the mid-70’s when he stopped by the Armadillo Beer Garden.

The Armadillo World Headquarters, an Austin Texas music venue, in September 1976 photo by SteveHopson

By the time the Vulcan closed, I had graduated and was living in Music Mecca aka Austin. The Armadillo opened in 1970 and I was a frequent visitor thru early 1980 when I moved to NM. It felt like I was there every time the doors opened, but that’s not true. I saw so many wonderful shows–Jerry Lee Lewis on New Year’s Eve. Taj Mahal, Bette Midler, Bruce Springsteen, Frank Zappa, Van Morrison, Ravi Shankar… I rented the downstairs room of my house to drummer Jerry Barnett who worked some at the ‘Dillo and played with Shiva’s Headband.  Jerry was kind enough to get me in the door for free many, many times.

A boyfriend once broke up with me while the Dylan song “Ramona’ played on the PA in between stage sets of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee. He said, “Oh by the way, I’ve asked Ramona to move in with me, so this is our last date.” It was a rather apropos lead in, don’t you think?

Me and my brand new baby boy 1974

If you want to read more, try Race Relations, which I wrote about 10 years ago and recently updated.

As it all fades, the gist of it is–I had a really good time with little or no regrets. Because what would be the point of regrets?

Feel free to leave comment of your memories.

 


And we all shine on

March 8, 2020

Last night I attended the 22nd annual Townes Van Zandt Memorial Tribute in Austin, Texas

I knew Townes back in the middle-hippie ages in Austin. He was one of the persons who gravitated repeatedly to Uncle Seymour Washington’s home in the Clarksville section of Austin in the 70’s. read more here.

Another legendary Austin musician Butch Hancock was the host of this intimate event of just over 100 folks.

I sat next to two fellas in their 30’s (?) from Alberta, Canada. They had come all the way to Austin, in spite of the scary Coronavirus, to hear more of Townes’ music in one of the cities he regularly played. My brother and I proceeded to give them anecdotes and sidebars regarding Townes and other shenanigans in the Vulcan Gas Company/Armadillo days. I swear those two beautiful Canadians said they were “pleased and honored to have met us.”

The rest of the story is another old love of mine was one of the story-telling singers. Wally Stopher aka Oat Willie surprised me. This post is dedicated to him:

Dear friend, I saw you last night, and you saw me. But it seems we didn’t recognize each other. I was there with my brother for Townes’ tribute. I heard you sing for the first time in 40+ years. God dang! We’re still alive and well. Much love to you and many memories.

Then on the way home I heard John Lennon with some apropos lyrics

Instant Karma’s gonna get you
Gonna knock you right on the head
You better get yourself together
Pretty soon you’re gonna be dead
What in the world you thinking of
Laughing in the face of love
What on earth you tryin’ to do
It’s up to you, yeah you

 


Reading Patti Smith

January 21, 2020

“Age changes you in ways you least expect” I heard this quote in a movie last week, but can’t remember which one. I thought about it off and on for a few days with the conclusion that this is most certainly a true statement.

Sitting outside a coffee shop, reading Patti Smith’s book “My Train,” I became filled with a thoughtfulness regarding my life. Feeling like a cheap imitation of Smith, I start writing on a scrap piece of paper thoughts for a post.

I’ve always been aware of Patti Smith because of her music. Often called the “punk poet laureate,” Smith has an impressive musical repertoire which still influences many.

After reading “Just Kids” a few years ago, I became a huge fan of her literary mind as well. I am at the same time appreciative and envious of her experiences and courage to travel her many creative paths—all while keeping in mind the difficulties of her life which arrived uninvited.

From my 2013 Twitter: I wonder what compels me to constantly try to do things out of my comfort zone?

Was I courageous in the paths I took in my life? Did I travel to places I always wanted to see? Did I follow a risky decision to some sort of personal transcendent conclusion? Can I still call myself a life-long learner? Am I still willing to explore new things out of my comfort zone? Yes and No.

Yes. In the summer of 2018 the hubby and I took a 5K mile road trip—in our Ford Fiesta–up to Minnesota, down to Nebraska over to Colorado and across to New Mexico—stopping on the way to see family and friends. No. I vow never to do this again.

Yes. I still read fiction and non-fiction. I recently discovered Wired magazine which I admit to some of it being over my head, but I’m learning. No. I don’t finish books that don’t grab me in the first chapter or two.

Mom and me. She had me reading at a very young age.

My mother used to say ‘only boring people get bored.’ Though I often say to others I have no regrets in this life, I occasionally lament some of my mistakes. But my life was not and is not boring. May your life be the same.

Yes, I out of my comfort zone riding the tram in Telluride.

A younger me with my son who I raised as a single mother.


Aging: forgetting to remember

December 10, 2019

I’ve noticed the older I get, the more I have forgotten. I also think I misremember a good deal. Merriam Webster defines misremembering as “to remember incorrectly.” I think you’ll agree this seems a ubiquitous trait for any of us who have the opportunity to live into ‘old age.’

Last week, my brother, sister and I went on a road trip to attend the funeral service of our last aunt, our mother’s only sibling. It closed the door on that entire generation of our family from both sides. People we loved and grew up with. None of us cousins from either side are particularly close. And, some of us have already reached, or are nearing, whatever our expiration dates are.

The many conversations we had unearthed precious memories of our childhood into adulthood when our grandparents and parents were still with us. We commiserated the loss of them and held dear the love and the amazing upbringing they gave us. Each of us had different perspectives, but common memory roots.

As I age, I am apprehensive of loosing all the parts of me. It’s important to be able to share with friends and/or families those significant memories which shaped us and now hold us together.

Now, if I can just remember why I came in the kitchen.


You can’t take it with you

October 6, 2019

Lately, I’ve been reading articles about why and how to simplify your life.  Simply Magazine is one of the sources I was introduced to by a friend. “Even better, removing the physical clutter from our home lays a foundation that makes significant life changes possible. It encourages us to question assumptions and invites thoughtful consideration of all aspects of our lives.”  There’s also Becoming a Minimalist which states “Becoming Minimalist is designed to inspire others to pursue their greatest passions by owning fewer possessions.”

Because y’all know you or your parents have so much stuff that nobody wants I once wrote this vignette.

I always knew my son and his family would have no use for my precious mementos after I am gone. Bric-a-brac, knick-knacks, stuff! The furniture I inherited from my grandparents–a phone table with a little seat for comfortable chatting, the antique mantle. The beautiful set of china on which my mother served holiday dinners that shaped generations of family gatherings. I cherished these and many other family pieces passed down to me. But, who wants a framed, handmade baby christening gown?

My books are all going for a dollar. People are rummaging through my clothes, handbags and jewelry. A bowl full of sea shells or a scorched set of kitchen pans–not treasures for sure. The estate sellers are doing their job of clearing the house for sale. But, there’s no one there to tell the stories.

Many times I tried to tell the story behind the porcelain figurines. The ones in the glass cabinet that I stared at my whole life. My parents bought those beautiful little ballerinas, with their tutus of Dresden lace, in 1947 from a German family who had to sell their precious keepsakes to feed themselves.

But, how could that matter now? Surely someone will see their value and give them a good home, where they can be admired everyday as the beautiful works of art they are. After the good things go, it looks like the sad remnants of an inconsequential life. I hover over this scene, on my last pass through this world, the memories fade along with the disbursement of my possessions. And, now I surely know the truth of ‘you can’t take it with you.’


What stuff are dreams made of?

September 29, 2019

Today I began reading Patti Smith’s Year of the Monkey. I’m not sure I (a mere mortal) could do her writing any justice by trying to describe it’s lyrical beauty. But, the way it makes my mind wander is a good thing. The Year of the Monkey begins as Smith is spending a few days at the Dream Inn down by the ocean side in Santa Cruz, California where she dreams of many things.

I’ve always been a vivid dreamer. Since I was a small child I remember having dreams almost every night. I have good dreams, bad dreams, scary dreams, sex dreams and just plain weird dreams. Some I remember and some I only remember the feeling it left me with.

I used to have dreams that came true. Like when I dreamed one of my best friends was enjoying lovemaking that would result in a child. About a month later, she told me she was pregnant. Or, when I dreamed that I would find that desk I was looking for and I did. OK, maybe you don’t believe in that. Anyway, I still have ‘problem solving’ or inspirational dreams on occasion. I some times dream of deceased family or friends and wake up crying. I imagine those kind of dreams are fairly common. The night after my mother died, she came to me and said “tell your brother he doesn’t really have to cut his hair to come to my funeral.”

I was also reminded last week by my grandson Justin of some of my ‘out there’ dreams.  He mentioned on Facebook about he had been dreaming about living on a Mars colony. I’ve been in outer space in my dreams many times. One I specifically remember looking up and seeing two moons in a brilliant sky and running through a field of strange high grass.

I can’t imagine how people who have experienced real tragedies in their lives handle the awful dreams they must have.

If you are interested in scientific explanations

More from Psychology Today

This one is fun if you want to interpret your dreams

I personally prefer just to enjoy my dreams–even the scary ones after I calm down  I’m grateful for them as they make every night an adventure.

 


First Love

August 20, 2019

Let me tell you about George Smith. This innocuously named young man was my first true love.  We had beginning that could have been in a romance movie screenplay. I was a freshman at Southwest Texas State University, San Marcos in 1965, living in a dorm directly across from the student union. Many of the 500 students were from rural or smaller towns all over the State. The girls came to earn a teaching or nursing degree. Most of the dudes were ‘shit-kickers’ studying agriculture. There were some theater people and a few others, like me, studying sociology, the sciences or liberal arts.

During the first week of class, I was sitting in the student union with a group of girls when someone handed me a folded note. It read “Can you meet me tomorrow at 4pm by Old Main?” I looked up to see who might have passed that note to me. I locked eyes with a most appealing young man. He had shaggy brown hair, a mustache and goatee, and was dressed beatnik-like with a tan corduroy jacket and ‘desert boots’. Love at first sight! He was out of character with 99% of the student body at good ole SWTSU and that intrigued me.

We met the next afternoon and for many afternoons and evenings after that. George told me I was intelligent and set about giving me ‘lessons’ on the world’s best books to read, science and political theories, music, movies… We drank coffee in the evenings at the truck stop where we talked until I had to be back in the dorm at 9pm. He took me to Austin to meet his SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) friends and for a weekend at his grandparents abandoned farm house. I was mesmerized and in love.

I spent the summer break reading Kafka, Camus, Dostoevsky, and letters of love and devotion from George. When the next college year finally began, George met me to say he was not returning. He had met someone in Austin. He asked me to marry him and have children hinting that if I didn’t, he would with this girl.  I never regretted saying ‘no.’ After all, hadn’t he told me I should learn and experience everything I could?

I believe your first true love is your best love. I’ll never forget him though we lost touch, or the way he encouraged me to think and explore my capabilities. That was not a thing women got from men back then. I’m sure my life has been much richer because of his influence.


Sacred Space

July 28, 2019

meditation, stones, pond,prayerHey y’all, it’s Sunday and time for a little reflection regarding sacred space.

A sacred place is, first of all, a defined place, a space distinguished from other spaces… A sacred place focuses attention on the forms, objects, and actions in it and reveals them as bearers of religious meaning. Encyclopedia.com

Sacred space is any space or area that has been dedicated to a sacred (holy) purpose. An emphasis on sacred space is found in all of the world’s religions and traditions and they all have places set aside as holy, that they use for worship, prayer, and important rituals. The School of Magical Living

Many of the definitions I found on the internet tie sacred space to a specific religious meaning or place. But I like to think it’s simpler than that. A physical sacred place may allow you to reach the ethereal sacred inside yourself.  It’s not necessary to be associated with any religious ritual. It’s just spiritual in and of itself.

When I think of sacred space, I think of experiencing moments where the world seems to stand still and the cosmos aligns itself in perfect harmony.  These experiences might last for a few seconds or several minutes.  But, before the gears of chaos engage again, I always have the overwhelming feeling “Woo-hoo, life is good!”

aiea heightsWhen I was in my early teens, we lived in a house located next to a state park on top of Aiea Heights, Oahu, Hawaii.  I would hike by myself up the trail to sit on a patch of green grass beneath a big evergreen tree that overlooked Pearl Harbor and the ‘Punchbowl’ Cemetery. Even at a young age, I knew this place was a conduit to the spiritual. The view alone is enough for anyone to appreciate their innermost sacredness.

In my twenties, music was the vehicle for many a trip. I’ll never forget the time I was laying on the floor listening to Emerson, Lake and Palmer through headphones. I’m sure I was transporting somewhere groovy until I opened my eyes at the end of side one and there were two Doberman Pinchers staring me in the face.

 

As an adult, I enjoy sitting by the pool. Watching the clouds drift by, listening to the birds, I feel my body and soul warming, the tension washing away, and I experience “the eternal happiness of the spotless mind.”

Oh, I could go on, but I encourage you to find your own path to a sacred space whether it is physical or metaphysical.


Sunday Morning

April 21, 2019

Back when my husband Richard and I first got together, our respective children were very young. My son JB was 11, his daughters Maria was 6 going on 7 and Linda was 5. Every weekend we were challenged to find free or cheap activities to keep them occupied.

It wasn’t too hard 35 years ago to rent videos from Blockbuster, go to a ‘free day’ museum visit or head across town to the $1 movies. In the summer we spent lots of time at the apartment pool. Somehow we got into the habit of every Sunday morning heading out to Friedrich Wilderness Park.

We’d pile into our little Ford Fiesta with a bag of snacks and take a hike. This was the days before IH10 had Fiesta Texas theme park, the Rim and a s**t-ton of other developments.  We’d usually take the medium level trail. JB and Maria ran around the course leaving Richard, Linda and I in the dust. But, that was OK. We’d meet at the bottom and have our picnic.

Sitting on top of the tallest part of the trail–in the shed which was home to hundreds of daddy-long-leg spiders–I’d proclaim “This is our Sunday church. We should contemplate the beauty and be thankful.”

This Spring, Richard and I have been taking Sunday strolls around the San Antonio Botanical Gardens 

These are some of the pictures from today’s nature church visit.

Read more about my ideas about what Church means to me.