Over the last twenty years, I have collected hundreds of images. And in that time they have started to look different to me or to say something new. Either way, they have defined moments in my life and given me new ways to feel about the things that I could not change. They have even acted on behalf of my memory, kindly replacing the characters from those pictures with the cast of my own life. I have postcards from almost every place that I have traveled, torn pages from magazines that I can no longer remember ever having. And even after the numbers of them have multiplied, perhaps growing out of hand, I always know when one is missing.
I have to go searching for it, and grow sad as each hour passes, and finally forces me to let it go.
Now, I try to photograph all of them (or scan them) whenever possible, and Drew laughs at the concept.
A copy of an image, in order to preserve a memory.
The human memory, with its web like structure, is an amazing process. If you haven’t read up recently, ideas about how memory works have evolved. When I first started researching the topic I, like many people, treated my memory as just another part of my body. I would exclaim that in addition to near sightedness, I had a bad memory.
It turns out, I was being more short sighted than near sighted right then.
Now, when I smell my mothers perfume, grown thick and sticky around the edges of an antique glass bottle, the path of that memory follows exactly the same one that it did 23 years ago, as I stood leaning hard against a white laminate countertop, short enough to have to squint my small eyes to look up at her. The many different areas of my brain, linked together by the hippocampus, will begin to fire and in a flash I can see her there in front of me, and hear her voice down low in the folds of my auditory cortex.
I was unaware of it, I think, but this concept may have contributed on that first day that I picked up the camera, aiming it all around & feeling assisted by indisputable captures;
the light that stained that film was to be the blueprints to my future.
And because I understood, even then, that things remembered can bend toward the subjective, it was not enough just to remember.
And then, in the summer of 2007, I traveled all the way to Istanbul Turkey to wander blindly through ancient country.
I remember miles & miles of olive groves, & cats everywhere, & Incredibly good food. (I love olives and tomatoes.)
I remember sitting way up in a tree, at a meditation camp that we literally stumbled upon, and feeling that things would be changing soon.
I remember drinking red wine with complete strangers, and breathing deeply in all the amazing possibilities ahead of me.
But the air does change, it has to. We change. And thanks to hundreds of images I can return again, anytime I want, to the City of Ephesus, or sit alone in those olive groves.
(Miles of repetition; a comfort to my senses that use to surprise me.)
Despite all of that, what I remember most was the conversation that my two companions and I shared on our very last night in that amazing Republic.
A conversation that was the start of the change that I had been sensing all the way up in that tree.
We talked about pie.
Selim Morelevi is a native to Istanbul and four years my senior. We had never met until the day that I arrived there, along side his long time friend Christopher.
It took us a little over 6 hours to bloom though, falling open like books, spilling stories forth like small children. It was 21 days later, as we sat in the dark at a small cafe table; Selim giggling as I reluctantly sampled beef tongue for the first time.
As much as I remember the test of that strange cuisine, and the various colored lights that speckled the Galata bridge, I can not remember how the conversation started. But Selim illustrated the space in front of him with a concept and Chris & I looked on, shaking our heads in agreement; like a head bangers ball, all enthusiastic.
He said that he looked at life like pie, prioritizing each piece carefully, things like family & relationships, hobbies & whatever career you choose.
“You can have as many pieces as you want, but there’s only so much to go around. Your pieces get thinner and thinner as you try to add more, and frankly at that point they stop fulfilling you.” He smiled and looked down right then, and I knew that he was proud of his metaphor. Christopher sat to my left, distracted. He was thinking about all of his pieces, counting them silently on fingers under the table.
I know that this is no new concept, and there were certainly no theorems to put down on paper that evening, but six years later I still think about it, and I call it memory pie.
I think what fascinated me most about what I learned in all my reading about memory was the concept expressed by Dr. Fiona McPherson on ‘the role of emotional memory.’
She supports the idea that how we feel directly affects what we see, and therefor, what we remember. It seems to me that if this is true, and in turn we repeat those paths each time, we should treat ourselves and our memories delicately;
taking care of what must last. Like our bodies, or the earth.
Because our memory is always taking pictures.
Copying down images to preserve what was there.
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