Time and Memory

WritingAlthough showing up on these pages has been rather hit or miss, mostly miss, I am writing, and that writing, a full-length memoir, is keeping me from here.

I admire that so many of you show up often. Thank you. Even when I don’t get around to commenting, I do read your posts. They give me a break from the words in my head. I have to get it done. You see, this is the fourth or fifth go round, if you count a half-completed novel, of this same story: Living in Hawaii or how I met my husband. Well, not really. Right now it’s titled Written on the Reverse, a title culled from my many years of reaching crossroads and never knowing what they said because the writing, usually on the reverse and destined to remain invisible for an unknown number of years, was impossible to decipher.

I’m circled, here in this writing corner, by old journals, old letters, a workshop schedule from Kalani Honua, the jungle retreat where I lived for many months, a map of Hawaii, books, papers, old manuscripts.

Here’s a piece I’m not using from an old manuscript, but I liked what it said and so pertinent to what I’m doing with all these old memories, I wanted to share it. I hope you enjoy it.


Time: time warped and woven into layers of mesh so invisibly dense we lose our way, not realizing, perhaps, not understanding that all our realities are engaged, all our lives a dimensional experience in forgetting and remembering, all the time, with each person who walks though our life.

We keep old photos, scrapbooks, journals, yellowed newspaper clippings, grandmother’s dishes, as if the past were somehow more real when tangible—as if the photo or dish or paper somehow held who we were or where we came from. Perhaps they do—memories’ bones and blood. We are the experiences and the people whose memories we hold, and they remain, experiences or people, for good or ill, in our bones and blood, in the very cells of our being. Where did all these come from? These saved moments—the journals, copies of letters, books and words and photographs—all concretized time, a journey into excavation to reshape experience.

While working on this memoir, primarily set in Hawaii, I’ve remembered and reread books that once guided me through a maze of learning and growing. Catherine Kalama Becker writes, “In Hawai’i, many people believe that iwi (bones) are an extension of a person’s mana (power) and are therefore very sacred.” The bones of royalty, Kamehameha’s for example, were hidden and treated with respect.

Bones endure for centuries, millennium even, turning personal power into communal power. Our bones, in other words, carry our memory. When someone is overburdened in life, her rachitic back responds: his disks rupture from the strain, a back bends or sways, hips go out. The people who are part of her life, or his life, also suffer the consequences of those memories. If we would remember to treat our bodies with care, the mana we send them might just keep us upright. My many years of working memory through my body with yoga, massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, and spiritual exercises have sent a new message into my bones. And slowly, I have patiently (and often impatiently!) restructured my body.

As a kid in church, I got tired of hearing, “Your body is a temple,” always followed by Don’t. Don’t smoke; don’t drink; don’t dance; don’t have sex. No one ever said Do.

Do be kind to your body; do treat it with respect; do allow your body the rest it needs; do clear your mind of negative talk so your body feels comfort; do enjoy this body you’ve been given. Do play! Or as another friend from Hawaii, Monique Pasternak, said, “Your body is a temple. Pray in it every day.”


18 thoughts on “Time and Memory

    1. Thanks, Jay! Your comment brightened mine. Hope you are doing okay. Life’s been a little over the top, but I’m writing. Thanks so much for the good wishes too. I’ve missed your posts… you okay?

      1. I’ve been under the weather the last week or so – just another peril of teaching! Just got caught up on reading a week’s worth of others’ posts, so now it’s time to write a few of my own!

        Thanks for asking 🙂

      2. Whatever the gunk that ran in our heads, to paraphrase, I’m glad it’s shifting out. And glad you feel better. Somehow, we missed it. Thankfully. Lots around her in KC were sick. Cliff was taking disinfecting wipes with him and wiping down everything before he touched it in the classroom. And I’m not teaching this semester. Ergo. Home……

  1. If that is part of the manuscript that you’re not using then the memoir is looking to be a great read. I love your body is a temple notes. It’s so true. We have to remember what great things we can do with it.

    1. What a kind thing to say, Sreejit. Thank you so much. You lifted my spirits. I’ve learned to trust my body – with working hard but also with teaching me patience. It’s a good tool.

  2. While reading your post today, I literally forgot to breathe , I was so enveloped in your words. The last paragraph is indeed so extraordinary … You’ve woken me up and reminded what’s important. Thank you for sharing this.

  3. Thanks for this bit of your memories. Thanks for the gift of a bit of you. i keep old things around me because of the stories they tell and hope to keep the story alive for my children. I’m glad you are saying “yes” to caring for your body. A sense of well being in soul and body is priceless. Enjoy the work of writing your memoirs. We will be here when you “return”.

    1. Thanks, Viv. Although I’ve written and rewritten the memoir, it sure takes some time to get it right. I’m the same with the stories and old things. Every painting in the house, and we have many, has a story. I don’t think we have anything that doesn’t have some story! The china closet and buffet are from Cliff’s childhood home; his grandmother’s dishes in the buffet (he tells stories about her whenever we use them). Life, indeed, for me, is stories.

      And I do enjoy the writing. It brings me back to the year I spent in Hawaii. Every time I visit my sister, I’m home again.

  4. I just finished a post where my basic (though not specifically articulated) contention is: things matter. The material world matters. Every little bit matters, because our memories do become incarnated in our things. That’s one reason to cull “stuff” every now and then, just to be sure we’re keeping what’s important, and not some bill of goods (or sofa, or fancy car, or new diet) that someone else sold us.

    I like that last part about the body, too. I remember when I “got by” on five hours sleep a night. Now? Seven it is, always. And sometimes eight. The difference it’s made is remarkable. Now, if I just could bring myself to drink more water, I’d really be on the fast track!

    1. Just finished reading and responding to your post.

      I do my best to cull every now and then, mostly on the main desk that gets too overcrowded with bits of everything, especially papers and to-dos.

      Here’s the thing about water…or at least my thing about water. Once I get in the habit of drinking, I need more. And then, when I fall out of habit…. ah, that wasn’t what I was going to get rid of but sometimes I do…the urge to drink evaporates as if the body responds to whatever we demand of it. Like 5 hours of sleep. I was never very good at that however. I get cranky.

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