Harpo & I are, as we speak, rolling sloooooooooowly towards East Glacier on the unfortunately named ‘Empire Builder’ train. Goodbye Portland! Goodbye civilization! Now we have 16 hours to consider how we ever got ourselves into this.
Return is always tricky – the ground has shifted, even as certain stoic monuments to memory remain seemingly static. Where does memory reside when exiled from the confines or architecture? When the home becomes diffuse, ephemeral & the sense of place becomes a traversal rather than a fixed point?
I find myself returning to certain interstitial spaces – points connecting familiar routes. As the city shifts ceaselessly around me, I can note the change, feel the wind on my face, and experience the familiar feeling of moving between these places.
The smell of the Duwamish’s oily water at Spokane Street. The hidden water access on Alaskan. Cool-Guy park. A bum path next to the Ship Canal in Fremont. The tiny park at 16th and Denny, kitty corner from the Laurelton – a building I’ve lived in many times over the years. A ferry crossing Puget Sound seen from Myrtle Edwards. The park at the west end of the Ballard Locks.
DK Pan and I talked a lot about time and memory; about the city reconstructing itself, and how memory becomes unanchored; how the process of development (without ritualization) produces alienation. How we connect our memories with people and place as a way of telling our own story – the narrative which connects us with our oneric truth.
My path of continued peregrinations, building orbits or nomadic routes considering Seattle a center, has given me space to examine the loss of architecture (and things, as a result). Fixity, it seems, is a life preserver we cling to when adrift on the sea of consciousness. Sometimes it seems like there’s no land in sight….
Recently returned from Virginia, where Harpo & I visited her patriarchal ancestral home I meditate on the deep sense of place that is manifest in such a location. The historical, familial, and personal narrative so clearly rooted in the fields, the branches (to continue the metaphor) unnumbered stories and photos, the leaves moments, meals, and time shared by humans in relationship to that building, built by her great grandfather and grandfather from the trees & stones of the land. Bachelard might consider this family home an anchor – a device to keep us from feeling adrift.
Without this anchor memory becomes diffuse, a diaphanous scrim that inserts itself between our perception and cognition, sometimes almost totally transparent and occasionally and suddenly opaque. Time becomes a shadow, a stain, a watermark on our empirical reality. And memory, when powerful enough, subsumes immediatism like a deluge, immersing us suddenly and unexpectedly.
We move thru these encounters with memory as if in a dream – invisible threads tying us to our past selves, an unexpected tug. Like found keys to forgotten doors, rolls of undeveloped film or unnamed found photographs in drawers, the unknowable depth of dark water, we suggest to ourselves an unlocking, a shared and recorded moment, something under the surface.
Harpo & I recently made a pilgrimage to her family’s partriarchal/ancestral home near the rural town of Gretna, VA. We got to see some real country, cook straight from the farm garden (or the gardens of neighbors), and reconnect with some folks who were super kind to us during our 2013 AT thru hike (hi Lynn & Judy!!).The slow roll of the Banister River. From this point in the bank there was no noticable human development – just endless birch & willow trees & brambles. The only sign of habitation was the abandoned paddlewheel mill, vacant and crumbling.
.A day trip back to the Appalachian Trail to climb McAfee’s Knob & just hang out, you know
Harpo & her pops. We had some fun poking around ruins, beautiful old houses slowly turning to dust, open to the air & the only residents the mud-daubers.