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.”

*****************************.