Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Crystal Clear Memories

A client once told me that I had “a photogenic memory”. This declaration was made funnier by the fact that she was totally unaware of her slip of the tongue. I do possess, I suppose, I bit of a photographic memory, which makes me a bit wary of the things I choose to watch or read. For instance, gossipy television shows can be a nightmare. Who wants to remember the hangdog hearthrob some obscure starlet was pining over months, even years, after the fact? Old bank account numbers, old phone numbers, long discontinued fabric patterns and paint colours... these are rooted in my head like English Ivy, despite my fervent wish that they vacate to make room for higher cogitation. But memory is one thing impossible for me to harness with any degree of success. Indeed, I often ponder the crystal clear memories I have of places that do not exist at all. Let me explain.

For me, one of the most enjoyable aspects of a much longed for holiday is found in the anticipation before the fact. Given my ardent love of houses, where we choose to stay is a seriously vital part of any trip we plan. The time I spend reading and considering the history, the location and decor, of a particular country house or inn is incredibly fun. When I finally light on my choice, and make my reservation, I can “see” the place in my head... down to the last detail of the bouillon fringe on a curtain pelmet or the muted pattern in an inherited Aubusson. I can follow the path of the early morning light as it falls through the diamond patterned windows in my bedroom, see the delicate blush on the loosely arranged garden roses in the blue majolica vase atop the piecrust table - I can hear the tune the wind plays as it breezes through the ancient elms that line the winding drive. The only thing is... these enchanted places do not exist. They are figments, technicolour and photographically detailed to be sure, but pure imaginings created in the paisley patterned maze of my own mind.

Happily, when the anticipation is over and the date of my departure finally rolls around, I arrive at these longed for destinations to find that their realities rarely pale in comparison to my dreamed up versions. I am always quite happy with what I find existing here in the real world. But, funnily enough, my conjured rooms and hallways, my imagined gardens and green-tinged aspects, still remain; vividly so. I can call them to mind at will, even now, like the faces of old friends. This causes me to wonder if, someday, on some other side of a veil, I might, just perhaps, visit one of these places. Perchance, I may one day stroll over a pink-hued hill and gaze down upon a familiar view. It is possible that I may enter through an oft-seen stone archway, climb a well-remembered stair and follow a known hallway into a room I call my very own. And I just might stay awhile. Who knows?

I shut my eyes in order to see.
Paul Gauguin