The language of fairy tales
In praise of rest

The language of illumination and memory

Memory 1

"I write in service of illumination and memory. I write to reach into 'the blind world where no one can help.' I write because it is a way of glimpsing the truth. And I write to create something of beauty." - Mark Helprin (The Paris Review)

Memory 2

"The light of memory, or rather the light that memory lends to things, is the palest light of all. I am not quite sure whether I am dreaming or remembering, whether I have lived my life or dreamed it. Just as dreams do, memory makes me profoundly aware of the unreality, the evanescence of the world, a fleeting image in the moving water.'' ― Eugène Ionesco

Memory 3

“We seem to live in a world where forgetting and oblivion are an industry in themselves and very, very few people are remotely interested or aware of their own recent history, much less their neighbors'. I tend to think we are what we remember, what we know. The less we remember, the less we know about ourselves, the less we are."  - Carlos Ruiz Zafón (Three Monkeys Online)  

Memory 4

"In the ordinary jumble of my literary drawer, I sometimes find texts I wrote ten, fifteen, or even more years ago. And many of the seem to me written by a stranger: I simply do not recognize myself in them. There was a person who wrote them, and it was I. I experienced them, but it was in another life, from which I just woke up, as if from someone else's dream.” ― Fernando Pessoa (The Book of Disquiet)

“You remember only what you want to remember. You know only what your heart allows you to know.”  - 
Amy Tan (Saving Fish from Drowning 

Memory 5

"Memory is a part of the present. It builds us up inside; it knits our bones to our muscles and keeps our hearts pumping. It is memory that reminds our bodies to work, and memory that reminds our spirits to work too: it keeps us who we are." - Gregory Maguire (Son of a Witch)

Memory 6

"All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was. Writers are like that, remembering where we were, what valley we ran through, what the banks were like, the light that was there and the route back to our original place."  - Toni Morrison ("The Site of Memory")

Memory 7Images above: the waterfall on our hill, one of Tilly's favorite places.


Goodness, I've got a lot of catching up to do here!

Memory. An interesting one, this. I have a very poor personal memory - for the chronological series of life-events that constitute my curriculum vitae. If asked to recall who, what, when and where in any given year I'm quite hopeless.

But memory comes to me spontaneously in vivid, emotionally charged flashes from time to time; provoked by a scent, a color, the angle of a certain viewpoint, a sound or texture.

I'm better at our collective cultural memory. I've made a life-long study of it - evolution, history, myth, literature, art.

In many ways it is not for me to remember the details of my own life, all of which will be forgotten in time, even my name, the idea that I existed at all. What matters is the small, invisible part and influence I will have had on what we all are, what everything is. And everyone, from the least microbe to the greatest scientist or artist can make that claim.

Of course, there are many writers who draw on their personal biographies. However, I think that the personal biography then becomes a conduit for the universal biography of being, of the soul. At least in the best art, the things that might outlast one lifetime and exist, still distinct, alive and meaningful, beyond the individual's mortal span.

Artists, writers, at their best are shamanistic. They are bridge-builders, way-finders who discover the pathways that join the personal to the universal, the particular to the general, the mere 'I' to the greater 'we.'

And memory is a great part of that, as we accumulate over time. So artists are also time-travellers. Or pearl divers, able to swim and dive in the oceans of memory, to reach the darkening depths, to re-emerge, holding the delicate beauty of a pearl in a trembling hand.

Strange, however, that I have in my memory easy access to about three hundred or so folktales that I can retell with ease at the first request but I would have to expend considerable thought-energy to bring to mind, in any sensible order at least, what happened last week.

Of course, it is obvious really. I think I simply have my priorities right. It is far more important to remember the course of history and the soul's journey through time than the laundry-and-shopping list existence that I enjoy from day-today!

Another word for memory is 'recollection.' Bringing together again. That is the kind of memory-work that artists do. They pull back together, from all our past lives, the fragments of our broken world and selves and make them whole again.

With love, A.

"Of course, it is obvious really. I think I simply have my priorities right. It is far more important to remember the course of history and the soul's journey through time than the laundry-and-shopping list existence that I enjoy from day-today!"

I'm going to remember that the next time I come home from the village without half the things I was supposed to get...

Welcome back, Austin!

Such lovely imagery all this week. And now lovely Tilly and water flowing. Such beauty all around, all the more appreciated during difficult times.

Stones and moss and water and Tilly and beautiful light in the first photo.

(I have this fantasy that I will begin to collect quotes as I've been so inspired by your collection. Truth is, I think I'm better at collecting images)

This is just to say thank you; I love stopping here in the morning to spend a little time in the woods, by the water, with you, Tilly, and wonderful things of language, thought, and art.

Oh, this is beautiful, Austin. I was going to highlight my favorite parts, the ones that gave me goose bumps, but then I realized I'd been copying the whole piece. Thanks for sharing.

Oh, man, there's so much marrow here... I can't keep up, wandering lingerer that I am... :)

all of this post is so rich Terri thank you, all the quotes run deep but am especially in love with the memory of Rainer Marie Rilke who "sits silently beside us with loosened hair" is there truly a better description of the muse than this?

The magical sylvan tumbling water, greenery, and stones, always rinsed to strange beauty; there's something to remember.

About memory. After my mother died when I was nine I made a promise to remember everything about her and my life with her and to keep on remembering what came next. Sad happy story. I kept a lot of her love for the fabulous, music, books, movies and fun as my own, and developed a system of prompts - sort of like a notebook of things I might want to bring up later. I had no idea it would be useful for writing one day. Of course now I forget names of people and have to look things up. Visual memory, however, does not waver.

My mother was a woman of secrets, and a master at forgetting (not just pretending to forget) all that was too painful to remember, which meant she had no mental access to huge swaths of her life. As a writer by nature, hungry for stories and facts, this was hugely frustrating to me, there were so many questions big and small that she wouldn't, couldn't answer ("Who is my father?" "Where did you live when I was born?" "What was your own father like?" etc.), and though some of her secrets were uncovered with time (by finding information elsewhere), most of them went with her to the grave...which of course is not an experience unique to me but one I share with many other single-parent children, adopted children, and others. So now, as I try to remember her, I know I'm remembering only my version of her...the true person, the real life, has disappeared, as she wanted, and I never really knew her. As a writer, I strongly relate to the Marge Piercy quote in the second-to-last picture caption: memory is one of my strongest muses. And perhaps I feel this way because memory was such a tricky, tricky in my family -- for my mother, for her mother, for my great aunties. Getting a straight story out of anyone about anything in the past was a difficult business. Perhaps that's why I'm so fiercely devoted to stories today...and yet tell them obliquely, through the language of fairy tales and fantasy. I'm both telling and honoring the women of my family by telling them with masks.

Thank you for this. It is revealing so much. Our pasts can be rearranged with masks, and
yours are done so beautifully. I am sometimes reticent about my mother's death, as it
can sound like a thing too personal, something some might think of as a whine, but it is for me, a beautiful gift, which has sustained me as an artist. I have the idea that to take
sorrow and turn it into art is high magic.

Potent conversation, Phyllis and Terri - having just lost my mother in October, I now understand how much of a memory holder she was for the family. My sister and I are continually frustrated now as there are questions we want to ask and my mother is the one who would be able to answer. She was the family record- keeper, both for her ancestors and for my father's. I know I am a family story keeper as well. My sister is constantly amazed at what I have collected - she never payed attention. So many stories were lost with my mother's death. Now I will carry on the stories, but of course only the stories that survive with me. Which is just how it is, I suppose, and why the history of families might well be just a pile of memories filtered through a story-keeper's truth - which, of course, is a dreamy kind of thing.

I lost both parents and a close uncle within the same year. Ours is a storytelling family and I miss their voices at the table. I'm sure that growing up around their stories, and the Irish storytelling tradition in general, made me a writer.

Yes, a potent conversation.

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