Searchlights & Signal Flares


Tiny Lights' On-line Writer's Exchange

Where do memories come from? (11/15/09)



Featured writer: Becky Povich



Contributors this month:
Becky Povich
Betsy Carini
Christine Falcone
David S. Johnson
Elaine Webster
G.M. Monks
Randy Moredock


Where Do Memories Come From?

by Becky Povich

This question has bothered me ever since I read it, which was about four months ago. That's when I first came across Tiny Lights and looked at the upcoming questions. I managed to answer "What helps you remember?", so it bothers me even more that this particular, similar question has me in such a quandary!

I feel like yelling, "Where do you think they come from?", and then providing my own, comedic answers, which would most likely require censoring. However, I'm not about to give up without trying, so here's what I believe.

My memories come from that area in my brain which stores all the marvelous, happy moments in my life. I've realized over the years that my mind does not want to validate the hurtful and upsetting events I've tread through along this journey of mine. I've learned ways to cope and because of them, my memories are joyful, blissful, wonderful. During those rare periods when the unpleasant incidents do edge their way back into my thoughts, I'm always amazed at how quickly the sorrow and heartache can be turned back into delight, sometimes by just being grateful for my Here and Now. I know, too, that these moments I'm living now will surely be found later on, in that happy part of my brain. That's where my memories come from.

Becky Povich lives and writes her memories near St. Louis, Missouri. She’s definitely looking forward to having various works published in the coming year, especially her first book.
Contact info:
Writergal53@aol.com
and
www.beckypovich.blogspot.com


Where Do Memories Come From?

  by Becky Povich

This question has bothered me ever since I read it, which was about four months ago. That's when I first came across Tiny Lights and looked at the upcoming questions. I managed to answer "What helps you remember?", so it bothers me even more that this particular, similar question has me in such a quandary!

I feel like yelling, "Where do you think they come from?", and then providing my own, comedic answers, which would most likely require censoring. However, I'm not about to give up without trying, so here's what I believe.

My memories come from that area in my brain which stores all the marvelous, happy moments in my life. I've realized over the years that my mind does not want to validate the hurtful and upsetting events I've tread through along this journey of mine. I've learned ways to cope and because of them, my memories are joyful, blissful, wonderful. During those rare periods when the unpleasant incidents do edge their way back into my thoughts, I'm always amazed at how quickly the sorrow and heartache can be turned back into delight, sometimes by just being grateful for my Here and Now. I know, too, that these moments I'm living now will surely be found later on, in that happy part of my brain. That's where my memories come from.

Becky Povich lives and writes her memories near St. Louis, Missouri. She’s definitely looking forward to having various works published in the coming year, especially her first book.
Contact info:
Writergal53@aol.com
and
www.beckypovich.blogspot.com


Not So Original Sin

  by Betsy Carini

It was a beautiful spring day and Shelly was out for a drive with no particular destination in mind. She absently steered her car down the suburban street. "Yard sale today 9-3" read the neon sign tacked to a pole. She turned in and parked at a house where people were milling about. There was the usual collection of assorted clothes, baby things and rusty old tools. Walking lazily around she came upon a box of toys- a Frisbee, some leg-os…Underneath it all was a tiny plastic Porky Pig. The very same pig that had many years ago secured her a place in HELL.

It had all started in Miss Patrick's 4th grade class. The girl who sat at the desk next to hers (Becky somebody) was pretty and popular, with blonde curls and a lilting laugh. Becky got whatever she wanted in life it seemed, while Shelly was always being told "no" by her parents (as if it weren't enough that she had freckles and thick glasses). Shelly supposed that Becky's parents would've gotten her a chimp if she had asked for one like she did. Shelly's dad had only said "Don't be ridiculous!"

On this particular day Becky's desk held a new treasure. A tiny replica of Porky Pig. It was exquisite in detail. So real in fact that Shelly almost expected it to speak. She wanted it. Had to have it no matted what and proceeded to hatch a plan.

One day when all the other kids were noisily leaving for recess she lingered behind. When the coast was clear she leaned over and in one swift motion placed the pig in her book bag.

Days passed. The guilt over her theft grew until there was no longer any joy in possessing her trophy. She made a hat for him out of some old cloth and gave him to her Aunt Betty in Brooklyn. This, she thought, would absolve her of all guilt. Still she had no peace of mind.

The following week (being a good Catholic) she went to confession and whispered her sin to the old priest. Expecting to hear his thick Polish accent instruct her to "Say 3 Our Fathers and 2 Hail Marys", she was shocked by his stern admonition. "You must return this Porky, this pig, to its rightful owner. That is the only way God will forgive you. Now go, and think of your SIN."

Think of her sin? That's all Shelly had done! And of course getting the offending pig back from her Aunt Betty was impossible! What right had this Transylvanian Dracula/priest to condemn her? He knew nothing of the Becky's of this world, or how hard it could be for the others. To him there was only heaven and hell, right and wrong, God and devil.

A voice jolted Shelly back to the present.

"M'am do you want to buy that?"

She looked at the tiny animal in her hands and answered.

"What? Oh, well yes, I do."

She walked back to her car and placed Porky on the passenger seat. Thinking of the many sins she had committed since those innocent days of childhood she looked over at her new friend and sighing said, "Yes Porky, I am most assuredly going to hell."

Betsy Carini is considering her sins and studying under Gregory Gerard. Her email:bmcarini@rochester.rr.com

Where do memories come from?

  by Christine Falcone

Through the back gate of our minds, memories enter. And they come from flour and yeast, the cupboard of our imagination. They come from the lure of fishing tackle, old boots caked with dust. They come from cobwebs and beeswax, cake batter and birthday candles; gingham aprons and wrought iron gates, china patterns, lace and oil cloth. They come from the scent of Old Spice, hot coffee, black tar and gingerbread. They come from the things that are closest to us - all our faded denim and well-worn gloves, and from as far away as the sun. Sometimes they even stick together like paper dolls lost amid the detritus of so many unused items in the junk drawer: rubber bands and expired coupons, paper clips and empty, recycled ziplock bags.

Sometimes they blur and fade, overlap and slip away like soap in the shower. But I do believe they exist on the same plane as dreams. And when they find us, we must write them down lest we forget them along with so many forgotten dreams that clear like fog in morning sun.

Christine Falcone remembers and dreams in Novato, California.


Remembering Me

  by David S. Johnson

Memory is sitting at the train station with a friend and a whiskey hoping to make the best of the few minutes left. Duley Crabbe is my longest friend. Playing with his three-legged dog, Tripod, in kindergarten. Adventures as time-travelling mage-warrior brothers who left the earth scarred and barren in our epic battles in middle school. Reading my first porno magazine at his house as pre-teens. Actors in high school and community theater. Lives intersect and diverge in tortuous paths like unspooled threads tangled on the floor that occasionally touch each other. Today our threads intersect in Boston 30 minutes before I board a train.

I am a man who values friends above sleep, common sense, and sometimes my own sense of mortality. Friends and the moments with these friends are remembered because they reflect my individuality - individuality that is parceled among a network of personalities. This network of memories is important because they are my history. I am a poor journal-keeper but my memories are stored on the hard drives of my friends' minds. They are walking journals instantly ready to animate my history, which is our history. Admittedly, the stories change with each re-telling. Often it's not the story that's exciting, but the re-telling itself. Writing down my history would make it static and mundane and I'd lose the excitement and dynamism of those wonderful exchanges.

Here, I reflect here mostly on good memories with friends. I have bad memories. I still check my shaking hands when I hear angry, raised voices or a slammed door. I have those memories that start like a creeping leg cramp at 2 A.M. and then come at you like an avalanche of pythons, suffocating you until you turn on the TV for distraction and see ads for dick and butt creams. One to grow the former and the other to shrink the latter and you wonder what would happen if you mixed up the two. But the memories are still there. A divorce. A fight. A police car. Friends were there and when I'm comfortable or courageous, we talk about those memories too.

I need memory because I need my stories. I need my friends because I need to know myself.

Duley sips his Maker's and ginger ale. There is a knowing silence. I push the clock and take a last sip. The train is about to leave. A hug and a promise to see each other sooner than later.

Memory is just making the train as it leaves and being disappointed that you did.

David Samuel Johnson remembers in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.


Where Do Memories Come From?

  by Elaine Webster

I remember the spikes and valleys, the highs and lows, but not much in between. I have a bar graph—-color coordinated. Red bars for passion, black bars depression, yellow bars fear and green bars happiness. Love has shades of them all and I make a rainbow colored bar. The "Y" axis of my chart measures how much I remember. Some memories fall into negative numbers, stuff I'd rather forget. The "X" axis has names of people, places, things, words, tastes and smells.

My religion says to stay in the now. There is no time and space, only dimensional overlaps. This keyboard under my fingers doesn't exist. A new friend, one with which I have no memories says, after a Monday I'd rather forget, "You're doing fine. Just take a few breaths. There, now it's Tuesday." His words will be high on the memory scale, maybe with a new colored bar for kindness, maybe blue.

My religion also says the reason we don't remember our past lives, is that we'd get so bogged down in memories they'd paralyze us. Look how poorly we handle this life's colors; any more would be impossible. As I child I remember mixing my paints—-so many colors; only to end up with black. But the absence of color is bright luminescent white, the white in the saints' halos, the light we move towards when we die. Maybe the point of it all is to forget the memories, leave them behind and move on.

Elaine Webster, is a staff writer for the on-line publication,Greener Living Today. She’s part of the Memoir Writing group in Sebastopol sponsored by SRJC and Steve Boga is the instructor. She lives in Windsor, CA and her e-mail address is Elaine@mediadesign-mds.com.


Where Do Memories Come From

  by G.M. Monks

Memories come from every experience we have, whether it be feelings, thoughts, or actions and then they develop a life of their own. They can merge and connect and form bonds with other memories, with fragments of memories, even with memories of memories. Some get buried. Some die. Time spans merge.

Memories are unreliable but they inspire; they ground us to reality; they connect us to life; they can free us from oppression. When we're happy, we're more likely to recall happy memories; when sad we we're more likely to recall sad memories. Biologically, if you disrupt protein formation you disrupt memory formation. New memories are formed in the hippocampus, but that's not nearly as interesting as knowing that if you find a hippopotamus in your living room, you'd probably always remember it. That's known as a flashbulb memory.

G. M. Monks has been published in Bathtub Gin, Todd Point Review and she won the 2008 Poetry Prize at the Mendocino Coast Writer’s Conference. Alehouse Press just accepted one of her poems. She lives in the Bay Area.


If Only I Could Remember

  by Randy Moredock

Where do memories come from? I know that memories are records of our experiences that are stored in our brains, so the easy answer is, "from our brains." However, the hard questions are how do we remember, what triggers our memories, why do we remember some things and not others?

I have a distinct yin and yang when it comes to memory. Much to my frustration and those around me, I frequently cannot remember day-to-day things. I say, "Yes I'll do that," only to fail to carry out my commitment. What happens in those situations is both simple and complex. I may have said yes just to placate the other person, or more complicatedly, I got distracted by something else and never returned to what I promised. Most frustrating for me is when I remember, but I can't engage in the task that I have promised to do. Then memory becomes a burden and an archenemy, nagging at me, and demanding attention. I struggle until I finally engage with and complete the task.

However, sometimes memory is a velvet and exciting companion. At these times, I am engaged with stimulating people, and I find information and ideas coming to the surface that were previously out of awareness or in my unconscious. Not only that, but the information that rises to my level of awareness becomes reformed and shaped into creative and exciting ideas. Granted, sometimes what emerges is very esoteric, but it generally is pretty good stuff. This is my creative process that I relish and in which I revel.

One of my classmates talked about memory coming unbidden. This resonates with me because when I find myself free of my own inhibitions and negative evaluations, ideas form almost on their own. I am spontaneous and without fear! The latter in particular does not happen often enough because I am a fearful person by nature and worry about being censured by others. I also worry about failure because of my other, faulty memory process. Paradoxically, when I worry most about failure, my memory and my intellectual and emotional flow are restricted. I do not have the tools that I need to be successful.

So, we go back to the question, where do memories come from. For me, they come from a place of freedom, of exciting social intercourse, from a place of not judging. When I am able to be fully myself and to engage with my internal and external environment without fear and with excitement and openness, memories flow openly, and I use them in the here and now to describe, address, and create an exciting moment in time, and one in which I am not afraid. A final irony of this process is that what I experience at these moments of creation is not always seen as memory but just building blocks to shape immediate points of time. It is only upon reflection that I recognize raw data as memories.

So for me, remembering comes from times when I am most open, most free, and most engaged in a creative process without judgment or censure. As for memories, they are always there waiting for rediscovery and available for my use when I allow them to be released. In terms of what is remembered, this is a function of the moment and relates to whomever I am engaged with, whatever process I am involved in, and what the requirements of the moment are. To wax poetic, "I delight as I flow on a stream of recall."

Randy Moredock is just beginning to explore his long-term aspirations to be a writer. He is supported in this endeavor by his wife of thirty-six years and two adult daughters. Randy is a licensed marriage and family therapist who has been a practicing mental health professional for all of his adult life. He aspires to apply the creativity he uses in his work to his exploration of writing. Randy’s passions include his family, yoga, movies, jazz, and Steelers football.

Searchlights Editor:

Susan Bono

Columnists:

Christine Falcone, David Samuel Johnson, Betty Rodgers

Susan Bono is a writing coach, editor and freelance writer whose work appears in newspapers, anthologies and the Internet. She has published Tiny Lights, a journal of personal essay, since 1995, along with its online counterpart here at tiny-lights.com. From 2000—2005 she helped coordinate the Writer's Sampler series for the Sebastopol Center for the Arts. Her short essays and columns have appeared in various anthologies, magazines, newspapers and on the radio. Her most recent credits include Passager Magazine, Red Hills Review, the St. Petersburg Times, the Petaluma Argus Courier, the Anderson Valley Advertiser and KRCB radio's Word by Word.

Christine Falcone has been writing most of her life. Her work has appeared in print and online, and it has aired on public television and public radio. One of her writing goals for 2008 is to find an agent for her recently completed first novel, "This Is What I Know," which was named as a finalist in the William Faulkner Wisdom Creative Writing Competition out of New Orleans. She is currently in a new writing space, painted purple for inspiration, busily at work on another novel -- this one having to do with the nature of violence.

David Samuel Johnson was reared on a mountain in Arkansas. He lived the bohemian lifestyle in the Ozarks as a hillbilly vagabond, traversing the mountainside shirtless and most of the time shoeless, exploring the sensuality of the aromatic, organic-rich soil of the forest floor or the harsh poetry of greenbriers twined around a devil’s-walking-stick. As a kid he wanted to be a writer and own a snake farm when he grew up. His Mama knew she couldn't dissuade him from either goal. When he brought a poisonous copperhead snake home in his pocket, she bought him a book about snakes so he’d know which ones he could bring home and which ones to leave behind. When he wrote his first poem to a girl in kindergarten, she showed him how to use a dictionary so he could spell the word "beautiful." David's goal of a snake farm and the love of his mountain have manifested into a PhD in ecology. David’s dream of writing has evolved from his first poem in kindergarten to essays in newspapers to interview articles in magazines and columns in this journal. He is living a beautiful dream, some of which you can glimpse below.

David the Writer

David the Scientist

Betty Rodgers and her husband, Ken, live and watch birds in Boise, Idaho. A transplant among transplants, she has chosen to learn the local landscape through the lens of her Pentax K10D. Her writing career began at an early age when she wrote plays and coerced her boy cousins to perform them. She has enjoyed a life-long affair with journalism, writing for the Sacramento Bee, the Cloudcroft Mountain Monthly, the Sebastopol Times and News, and the Boise Weekly. Born in Steinbeck Country, she has also lived in Maine and New Mexico. Betty publishes a bi-monthly online newsletter for Idaho writers, a labor of love inspired by Terry Ehret. In 2006, she published A Mano, a book of poetry by the late Vince Pedroia.

Thanks to all who participated this month. It's good to know you're out there! We're looking forward to hearing from you and those you inspired sometime soon! Check this column each month to see what's new. Return to Searchlights & Signal Flares menu for future topics and guidelines.

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