I’m a contemplative person by nature, mulling over past events and frequently visualizing my future. I like to think long and hard and often about things of meaning in my life. And mayyybe sometimes not so meaningful things. But as much as I enjoy this mental exercise, I am cursed with a miserable memory. It’s becoming increasingly alarming now that I’m old enough to be aware of my foggy recollection.
A couple years ago, I had a therapist who encouraged me to practice mindfulness, and I took the directive to heart. Instead of waiting for pockets of quiet in my busy life, to crawl inside myself and contemplate to my heart’s content, I began to practice awareness in real time, painting moments onto the canvas of my memory. Partly to find the peace and balance that mindfulness supposedly brings, but also in the hopes of capturing my current reality for later enjoyment. It’s taken practice and I am far from my goal, but the practice of mindfulness has been amazing for this season of travel.
While so much richness of life swirls past us in a wave of new cities, new experiences, new interactions, I am able to reach out and snatch down small moments that carry associations to greater memories. While words are my favorite thing to play with, to roll around and mold together, I often think in images. The combination is a trait I attribute to my father. It’s why concrete objects, things that can be sensed– seen, felt, tasted– are often used as descriptors of things that don’t immediately seem related, colorfully bringing to life another person or event or location.
I hope that in the last couple months of our travels, I’ll be able to record more and more of these memories in my little Notes app on my phone. Sometimes I feel silly, bent over the screen frantically typing away, squirreling up my memories. But it’s worth it. And when I get it down fresh, I can easily go back and expand on my memories. Over time they fade and I can’t remember all the other pieces of the puzzle. It’s like I only have that little tiny window, each word a square inch that lets me look into a moment frozen in time. Like this memory of fall in Switzerland, which I remember so vividly. The ten seconds I described are magically seared onto my memory, but the rest of the night is getting fuzzy. Thankfully, I’ll always have “goosebumps on my freshly shaven legs” to evoke memories of family and farm towns and nights when you’re so bone tired from eating and talking and laughing, but you still want to stay up and linger just another hour longer.
Riding home in the cold,
Goosebumps on my freshly shaven legs,
Standing on the bike pedals up off the wet seat,
Riding by the village bell tower and hearing it toll the first of 10 peals.