Tag Archives: Recollections

Dimly

1. Valorization

2. Periodically, words bubble up as I read. I think, “That’s a word I ought to use,” and then, “Oh yeah, I have nothing to write.”

3. Not writing, I’ve indulged in

—Doodling

—Considering how to reverse-engineer crossword puzzles from solutions to bizarre clues

—Dreaming of a crossword where every clue yields the answer “oreo”

—Thinking about, without jotting a word, each past juncture in my life

—Reading and listening

—Walking

—Sorting possessions into piles and judging them

—Dealing with those possessions justly and swiftly

—Researching places my extra funds might go

—Wasting time investigating how brains acquire words

4. For years, I logged running miles in the early morning before work, even before weak-tea pre-sunlight. On lucky weekdays, there came a sudden gold show. Landmarks appeared—the pastel house, the defunct plumbing supplier, the missing stretch of sidewalk, the pollocked tree—each sight notching progress. Streets I learned by repetition became rectangles, triangles, and squares, and, when I turned around, my shoes soggy from sweeping my feet through dew, I carried pictures, sounds, smells, motions, memories.

If anyone had asked what I did before work, I could have said. No one asked.

5. My family has a terrible history with sleep. My grandmother’s busy brain roused her in the middle of the night until she became bored enough to iron. For most of my childhood, my mom—reading exclusively between 12 and 3 am—finished three or four mysteries a week. My sister-in-law recounts my brother’s restless nocturnal walks about the house. He’s like Hamlet’s father’s ghost, she says. Just one thought wakes me. One worry, however stupid in daylight, assures I’ll circle anticipation and memory for an hour or so.

How much time have I recorded, barely remembered, just felt, nearly conscious?

6. I could iron, but we just don’t have that much ironing to do

7. Here’s something interesting I learned while wasting time investigating how brains acquire words. Because of our deep instinct to gather sounds, we soak up intonation, cadence, and syllabic stress before birth. Babies whose parents speak French or German cry differently, and, gasping for their first breath, they know what we can’t know fully—how the language surrounding them verbalizes anger, fear, love, and suspicion. It will require a few years to bridge the communication gap reliably enough to say, approximately, what makes them angry, fearful, amorous, or wary. It will take longer to see themselves as some nationality, culture, or tribe.

Though maybe they knew long before.

8. Valorization, the second definition, means “the act or process of giving, assigning, or enhancing value.”

So many things I’ve thought valuable: my science award for a second grade project on space exploration, a paper weight my father gave me that encased a replica of an ancient coin in plexiglass, a plaster of paris bust of Abraham Lincoln I bought at a church white elephant sale, a teacher’s personal note, a student thanking me for helping her reach graduation, one of one thousand Instagram likes I took to heart.

9. The first girl I didn’t scare off was in high school, junior year. Maybe she dismissed my ardor as a performance. Maybe she remained guarded no matter how hard I assailed. Maybe she shared faith in our deep and abiding connection and affection.

I can’t be sure because all I have to fish for memory is the blunt hook of language.

10. When I can’t sleep, I see myself in a press conference beset by questions. I handle it by mimicking a blindfolded plate spinner… in the brightest spotlight…  on a unicycle.

Are dreams necessary for creativity? Though you might appreciate an intense subconscious, must a person live a second vivid life as a dreamer to ignite imagination and invention?

Sleep knits “the ravell’d sleeve of care,” in such hurly-burly fashion. It’s exhausting.

11. On the way to the gym at 5:35 am, I turn to my wife and say, “I had the strangest dream.”

“What?” It’s the indulgent what.

“My mom was on horseback and barged into a herd of bears—like, there must have been 50 bears, cubs and all, moving en masse—and she angered them by kind of thoughtlessly ambling in. So they attacked her and the horse, climbing up with their claws, and grabbing her with wide open jaws.”

“Okay.”

“One had my mom’s head completely in its mouth, but then the horse and my mom veered close to the lake and they all fell in, bears and all.”

“Weird.”

“After that, I called 911, and my mom was fine.”

“So, what do you think—it’s 5:45—can we be out of the gym by 6:15?” 

12. Perhaps it’s aging filling memory to overfull, but lately learning seems like an exchange. I’m always asking, “What am I going to lose?”

Except that’s not exactly it. So many memories are diminished without being lost—the whiff of last night’s sautéed onions clinging to my sweater or the light before snow that exactly matches the time I really talked to a best friend.

13. I ask everybody, “If you had a choice between remembering things and remembering where you remember them from, what would you choose?”

Mostly people blink.

It’s provenance. Which matters more, the thing itself or its origin? I might be satisfied with what I possess—why does it matter where it came from?—or I might want to investigate its creation, the deep ferment or combustion that made it be. 

14. Being here and being there: standing at the Paulina L stop, listening to a book about making the most of your day, eradicating your bad habits, and just generally being a much happier person, then checking your Transit App to know how long the Brown Line to the Loop will be.

15. “Valorization” is maybe too big a word. It attracts undue attention to itself.

People perceive children as sponges for second languages, but what if they just have more room? Once they grow up, some may seek words to slip between “aroma” and “perfume,” between “summon” and “evoke,” deciding between subtle colors and tones. Others will satisfy for whatever.

For them, “Valorization” is positively out. 

16. I used to tell people that my father, a pathologist, might have had a bigger medical vocabulary than most people have a regular one.

Now I wonder if he had enough words even then. What about all the stuff amidst and among the gist and the ginsued, the unnamed and dim, all the lurking, redolent, and resonant things barely there?

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Filed under Aging, Doubt, Dreaming, Essays, Identity, Lyric Essays, Meditations, Memory, Recollection, Thoughts, Words, Writing

Another Attempt

One of the nicest reviews of my book was in Haibun Today. I sent it there thinking it was a haibun, but the reviewer, who I trust entirely, said no. Since then, I’ve been reading more haibun both in Haibun Today and elsewhere.

I’ve learned haibun present minutely descriptive moments, scenes, or statements. According to Wikipedia, they may “occupy a wholly fictional or dream-like space.” All haibun, however, need haiku that communicate, overtly or covertly, an essence of the account.

The four haibun below are new tries. I’m hoping to solicit my reviewer’s opinion on what I have and haven’t accomplished. I’ve included some of my art.

Clippingsedi.

Sometimes memories of crabbing return. The morning sun raised the scent of creosote from the ties of the railroad bridge, and I squatted, tugging—as slowly as I could—the package string. Either the loose skin of the chicken neck wavered like a ghost into view, or the broad green back of my prey materialized from dark. Everyone said they felt crabs chewing, but I guessed. Often, circular rainbows of fat surfaced when just meat arrived. Any hope, and I’d call my sister over with the net. She was swifter, decisive at the right instant. In the wide-bottom bucket nearby, the already captured edged along the walls, claws half-raised against their fellows.

from deep night,

lapping waves, echoes

of passing barges

glasspideredii.

A recent dream happened in many rooms, each weighted with complicated Persian rugs, ornate burgundy upholstery, blocky tables, and mahogany paneled walls. The lamps offered barely enough light to dislodge shadows. Each room, roughly the same, still seemed different, as if only this stage were suitable for this conversation. We moved from place to place, recalling what we never quite said.

sandalwood and smoke

she whispered another name

to call dawn

orchidsediii.

My anger comes out in hints, never visible enough to define. I like thinking it’s veiled by smiles.

a twist of wind

spinning and dropped, flattened,

wheels of dust

When people are mad, it feels like the moment just after someone shoves me. Their faces say distance, the stretch of a landscape moving away, but nothing happened. No one budged, though the room seems changed.

Once my mother spoke to me through a door she wouldn’t open for an apology. I heard half her words but understood I’d gone too far, said too much. Time would never settle our struggle entirely.

a blackbird chooses

now to cry—his brown notes

a song for dusk

lockworksediv.

shattered beer bottle,

afternoon sun, sparks of blindness

salting sight

When sleep eludes me, I think of it as madness I want to charm and trap. Odd but welcome associations of amber and shoes, or rust and old horses, or a gardenia blossom in a bowl and waning tides—any irrationality creeping closer—and I say, “Stay.” If I’m unlucky, sanity reasserts itself, another list unreeling or a new bulb of worry blinking to life. Around the room, points of reflection map depth and dimension. The heater breathes. On a good night, I may hear a voice as if it’s outside my mind and believe it. Then I know sleep summons. I let it. I close my eyes to join.

past midnight

buildings blend into sky,

piles of lost objects

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