Sunday, June 28, 2009

Square 28: Amber Fox

Square 028

Memory stores events in different ways. Sometimes it is like a script—a thread of dialogue we replay and embellish. Other times it is infused with flavour, aroma and touch, a jumble of sense perceptions difficult to translate into words. Sometimes it looks like a series of snapshots. My memory is poor, and often the most vivid recollections are ones recorded with pen and paper, or keyboard.

Friday night I had all the squares of this blanket of stories out to show my daughter, Marian, on the carpet at Danny and Bill’s place in Toronto. I didn’t explain any tales completely, but used phrases to describe some squares possessing the most potent powers of recall: the day with my daughters on the glass-bottom boat, Bandit the cedar waxwing, Lake Fletcher ripples, and the wizard Ged and his shadow.

Then Bill mentioned an experience he and I shared almost six years ago: a walk on Thanksgiving weekend with friends in the Grove at Amber Fox, a place where queer men gather on the Land. The memory immediately evoked a snapshot series of fiery maple canopy and sky so radiant it made the eyes water. Accompanying the explosion of light and colour arose a more earthy erotic episode recorded in the language of touch, soft hair brushing skin, the keen lilac thread of pleasure.

Several yarns in my bag immediately suggested the vivid colours of that day, especially a favourite yarn scrap of autumn colours from Wellington Fibres. As I worked out this square, October maples kept spinning against the sky of my inward eye. Later I went online to excavate the memory more fully, and turned up Bill’s images from that afternoon as well as my own written journal of the weekend (parts one and two). It was an important weekend of introspection and discovery during a life passage when I established new, enduring friendships. These documents recorded many encounters, experiences and perceptions that have fallen into the background of memory, but that magical hour in the Grove remains easiest to recall.

Physicist Stephen Hawking asks in A Brief History of Time, “Why do we remember the past but not the future?” Equally intriguing to me is the question of how we remember, and how different people recall a shared memory. If I mention the beautiful afternoon in the Grove to my friends Bill, Shimmer and Claude who were there, the memory must recur to each of us uniquely. How much does that reveal about ourselves, and how much about the quality of time itself? When we die, where will the memory go, and what will happen to the vector into the future originating at that moment?

I recall something else happening that weekend. I woke in the middle of the night and heard a long-eared owl barking in a tree not far from the tent. I crawled outside to stand awash in the full moon, feel the frosty air on my bare skin and listen to that curious sound. I didn’t record the incident in my journal at the time, but the memory pierces me almost as sharply as the encounter in the maple grove. The fact that I didn’t write it down makes me wonder whether it really happened. I know it did, but why is the unrecorded, private midnight image as vivid as Bill’s photos I revisited ten minutes ago? Maybe the things we imagine are as important as the realities of our past. We make important choices about the memories we choose to cultivate. They can fill the inner landscape with as much beauty as we allow them.

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