Thursday, October 28, 2010
Landscape and Memory
I've been remembering all the things I love about living here and ran across this little piece I wrote awhile ago.
As we wind through the mountains, past familiar landmarks, a few snapshots remain from our weekend in the city: the lush green of Grandma’s garden, the towering elm and maple dotting the urban landscape, the busy buses and crisscrossing freeways. This weekend in Portland my husband and I return to a memory of home and to our first years together. A comfortable longing for where we began settles in our hearts, but an anxiety also flows through the moment. Is it right to long for the past? Is it possible to recreate the best moments, leaving the worst behind? We had eaten breakfast at our favorite diner in the neighborhood and took the MAX train to the zoo for our daughter’s first encounter with real elephants, bears and tigers. That concrete forest is behind us now as we begin the journey home. I can almost see the zoo animals parading through my daughter’s mind as she is momentarily calm, quietly reading books in her car-seat. My mind drifts to another place of memory, my own childhood. How will my childhood memory differ from hers? How does that memory shape me as a mother?
I smell mossy, wet Douglas Fir forest as we reach the crest of the Cascade range. The scent evokes memories of camping trips, day-hikes and canoeing in murky lakes. I see the ferny underbrush fly by and remember encountering my first banana slug. We played in streams, climbed on giant mossy logs and scraped our way through brambles of blackberry and vine maple. Worms, silverfish and caterpillars inhabit my memory. So does sadness, a broken family and a deep longing for what my child now peacefully takes for granted: security and the knowledge that she is safe with us. Her family is intact. No one is leaving, or moving her out of her life. There is no doubt in her mind that Mommy and Daddy belong together.
Returning from my thoughts I observe the fir outside my window suddenly give way to Ponderosa Pine as we careen down the eastern slope of the Cascade Mountains towards Warm Springs. Something about the thick moisture that lingers in the air in the western forest causes a fossilization of my memory. Thoughts pile up, detritus on a rainforest floor, slowly decomposing like a wet mass of imprinted ideas. My breathing tends to be shallow, saturated and anxious. But as my eyes step out into this conifer forest, I feel the dry air immediately lift a weight off of me. Wide open to the sky, my heart cracks open like packed, dry, lake-bottom dirt and all my trapped memories and thoughts escape on a breeze of juniper and sage. Here I am, heart wide open to receive, ready to love, not bogged down in a broken past. I can breathe again.
The forest opens up even more to reveal the largest of the Central Cascade peaks in the distance; Jefferson, Washington, the Three Sisters. They are familiar now, but still majestic in their own right. Whether it is merely my perception or actual reality, I suddenly feel connected to this place in a new way because it is my daughter’s past, now. This landscape is shaping her memory. I want my daughter to live this wide-open life. This is the gift I give my daughter as we drive home across the expanse of juniper and sage: I want her heart free and wild; able to love.