November 19th, 2002

bazille_summer scene

Memory

Something jogged my memory tonight. Jogged it way back to my early childhood, in fact. I think it was a breeze that was rattling the leaves of the mulberry tree, and the sight of the clouds through which the moon was sending a glow. Suddenly, an image popped into my mind, of an illustration in a book we had. The book was a reader, from the 1920s or 1930s, given to us by a doctor my Mother's family knew, and who had been on the board of education in Long Beach, California for many years. The particular illustration I thought of was one of those familiar drawings of the wind personified as a face in a cloud, blowing. I think there were several of them in that book, and I had probably seen them in other books as well, and in the cartoons that were shown at the Saturday matinees at our neighborhood theatre. But the image which came to my mind tonight was one from that reader, with a big cloud-face blowing up waves on a lake with a large steamship on it. This image triggered a cascade of other images from that book, and I quickly found myself remembering all sorts of things from that time. I began writing about them.

Soon, without intending to, I had another of those posts on my hands. Oh, shameless memory. It isn't enough that I am bogged down in the middle of some rambling story from later years; now, it stuffs another one into my head, this one dragged out from the mists even further back in my life. Well, this time, its going into deep storage. If I let memory have its way with me, I could end up lost in thoughts of crawling across the threadbare blue rug with the pattern of...hey! No! (You see how insidious it is?)

The observation has been made (don't ask me by whom- I'm on a roll, here) that children live in the present moment, the young in dreams of the future, and the old in memory. I suppose I could read my recent mental infestations of memories as a sign of impending senility, but the fact is that I have been subject to bouts of nostalgia since, at least, my late teen years. (Watch me skate onto this thin ice.) I remember (heh) spending most of my 19th year enduring periods of melancholy brought on by memories of times only recently past. In fact, this particular period of nostalgia was so deep that the memories on which I was then dwelling have completely displaced almost all other memories from the time itself. Nevertheless, I have often found myself pondering the few scraps of memory that I do retain from that era, and being pulled back into them. The whole thing gets just infuriatingly meta!

This long-established tendency of mine to go wandering in the lotus pond of the past is one of the reasons I try to write something about what is happening now every day. Since not much of what is happening now is of any great interest, I usually end up writing about the weather, or the deer, or the cats. The mundane is what keeps me grounded, so that I don't turn into some sort of temporally obsessed Narcissus, eternally gazing into the watery reflection of my past. Thus, I do suffer some trepidation when memory takes over my words for any length of time. It is very seductive. Hey. What is that? Sirens? Listen! They're playing my song!
caillebotte_man at his window

Windy and Warm

I'm wondering if they are having Santa Ana winds in Los Angeles right now. We're having the northern California equivalent tonight. I've lived here for sixteen years, and I still don't know what these winds are called, locally. I don't know if they even have a name. If they have been named, it probably isn't after a saint. In the absence of any knowledge of the accepted nomenclature, if it exists, I think of them as Modoc winds, because they come down from the high desert of the Modoc Plateau. Like the Santa Anas, they are warm winds. The day was fairly warm, but, because of the winds, the night is even warmer. I went out wearing a jacket, and had to take it back into the house, so balmy was the dry, autumn-scented air.

There was a bit of wind this afternoon, too. My first sight of the day, as I looked out the back window, was of a rain of golden leaves fluttering down from the tall oaks beyond my fence. All afternoon, I saw them against the wispy clouds which, in the hour before dawn, had stretched in narrow bands of the most lurid pink I have ever seen, in the pale east. Leaves now carpet the lawn, the streets, the paths, layered over the brown pine needles in the warp and woof of autumn. If the wind continues for long, the trees will soon be bare.

The mulberry, however, is at its chartreuse stage. A few branches still sport leaves entirely green, while most of the branches contain only the pale, yellowed leaves. This two-tone effect is most pleasant when the afternoon sun shines through the tree, and, through my western window, I can watch the light play through the fluttering leaves. The mulberry is always the last tree to give up its leaves each year. Many will still lie on the ground, in sodden piles, on the grey and rainy days of December. For now, they sway softly, like a dappled canopy, in the afternoon breeze.

The moon now rises well north of east, beyond the mixed woodland which lies in that direction, and I catch glimpses of its white face between sweeping fir branches and the inky branches of oak and walnut, and the spiky clusters of ponderosa needles. Watching it rise there is like seeing a series of Japanese paintings form and dissolve, each as serene and surprising as the last. Once the moon is nearing meridian, I go out and sit in the deep shade under the mulberry tree, and watch the light of the full moon drench the night, and the shadows dance in the warm wind. It is a good night for deer. Maybe they will stroll by.