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?

 

 


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.


Memories–who you were, are and will be

March 2, 2019

What makes a memory anyway?  When people speak of ‘making memories’ I think they’re most likely alluding to a significant life event which will be remembered forever by the parties involved.  Sometimes I feel like my memory is a roll of the dice or maybe more like a pinball machine bouncing from bumper to bumper after each flip. It seems memories can be traumatic or trivial. My guess is it depends of the individual.

Scientifically speaking: One study at UCLA determined through research experimentsmemory-word-cloud “This link between reactivation of neurons in the hippocampus and conscious recall of past experience has been suspected and theorized for some time, but the study now provides direct evidence for such a link.  “In a way, then,” Dr. Fried said, “reliving past experience in our memory is the resurrection of neuronal activity from the past.” Seems rather unromantic, yes?

A How Stuff Works article says “Human memory is a complex, brain-wide process that is essential to who we are. Your “memory” is really made up of a group of systems that each play a different role in creating, storing, and recalling your memories.”

townes-and-me0001-2

Me and my brand new baby boy.

What have I forgotten? For many years I waxed nostalgic about my days during and after college when I lived in the great hippiedom of Austin, Texas.  Specific memories were apparent, but it was more a general recollection of a feeling of peace, freedom, music, and fun that carry these times around my brain.

Recently, I reconnected with two women friends from those years who lived in the same Austin neighborhood as I did on the outskirts of Clarksville. We were pregnant at the same time giving birth to babies, who through toddlerhood grew up as best friends.

In our reminiscing, I realized I had pushed a lot of memories from those days to the back of my mind. Because why? One explanation could be that I was no longer in touch with those folks with whom I could be remembering.  Also, because those were wild, unfettered times, it didn’t always seem like the best tales to tell.

Consequently, I became aware of meaningful parts of my life I had kept under my memory radar. I am grateful to those ‘historically significant’ friends who led me to recall and reembrace much of that part of my past.  I like to think all memories are intricately a part of your life-defining who you were, are and will be.

Of course, the Beatles said so many things the best.

There are places I’ll remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends, I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life, I’ve loved them all


My Dream House

August 31, 2010

I have this house I dream about. It’s the house I lived in from 1969 to ’77 in Austin, Texas. Fresh out of college, two single, white females with hair down to our waists, my roommate and I found this house during an evening stroll. It was empty; but, we could hear it calling to us. We found the owners and asked if we could rent.  Amazingly, they said yes, rent is $90 a month. Even back then, it was a great deal.

The house was built in 1926, a split level with a small downstairs apartment. It was (and is still) located right on the cusp of Clarksville near Mopac. The house had no air-conditioning and a old refrigerator with the motor on top. But, it was full of good vibes.  We moved in and proceeded to live the life we had been dreaming of those past four years in school.

Without a doubt, those were the best days of my life. Oh, not that I don’t think all my days are the best, including tomorrow, next week, next year… In 1969, the neighborhood was in flux. With only a few actual homeowners left, the hippies had moved in. The neighborhood felt like a commune. We had our own gardens and vegetarian guru who supplied all our greens, if you know what I mean. I worked as a waitress in a popular restaurant and made plenty of tips. I think we saw every band that played the Armadillo. We came home in the early morning with our dancing shoes in one hand and a sweet boy in the other.  Later, our naked little babies played together in the back yard.

After we both had moved out and moved on, I began frequently dreaming of the house. I’d walk through the rooms with feelings of deep emotion, like a longing to be back home. Over time, the dreams became less frequent and the house began to look kinda distorted with odd shaped rooms or a weird view from the windows. But, it still felt like it was a place I wanted to get back to.

Our House is a very fine house.

Several years ago, my husband and I bought our first home.  Some days I sit in my comfy chair, by a cabinet full of all my souvenirs, and look out the large front window. With the smell of jasmine and honeysuckle wafting in, I watch the sparrows flinging bird seed all over. I say “thanks” for this wonderful home.  And, I can’t remember the last time I dreamed of the Austin house.