Sometimes I think my memories are catalogued like a library, rows and rows of drawers filled with references to time and place, somewhere for my mind to visit when I feel melancholy. Other times I am reminded of these records, like a book that has slipped behind the shelf, a delightful discovery. Memories form part of who we are and contain our sense of self.
On being five – a literary recollection
Most school holidays I would stay at my nana’s, in a red brick post war house that my grandfather built in the 1940s. The bedroom I slept in was my mothers, the furniture was built in and my little bed had a shelf for books. When I was five the shelf was filled with Enid Blyton books, my favourite was ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’, a story about fairies. In the evenings my nana would read to me and I often fell asleep as she read. This would be the last thing we would do each day. A day that had usually been spent in her garden. She taught me all about flowers and plants. When I stomped on the moss, she said to be careful ‘because that is where the fairies dance’, and when I was too talkative, she asked me to whisper, so that I didn’t ‘frighten the fairies’. One day I saw a fairy at the back of her garden. I couldn’t believe my eyes and when I told her she was so delighted for me. She said that very few people can see fairies and I was privileged.
I feel thankful that my nana nurtured my imagination. She has instilled a love of gardens and literature that has remained throughout my life. Many holidays passed by in that little bedroom with the built-in bookshelf and it would be another decade before I was to learn about desire.
On being Fifteen – a literary recollection
Although years had gone by our days were still spent in the garden, and our evenings reading. I loved books. The shelf contained different books now. My nana said I could read anything in the shelf except the book wrapped in brown paper. I opened it to discover the title ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’, by D.H. Lawrence. The next time I visited my nana I brought a torch.
I was relieved to discover the book still sat in the shelf and I couldn’t wait to go to bed that first evening. I slid under the covers and pulled the sheets up over my head. My torch wasn’t very powerful. I lay there in the dark cavern with a pinhole spotlight on the page, two or three lines being revealed at a time. And my torch became like a little camera obscura that allowed me to see into a world that I never knew existed.
I quickly fell into the story of Connie and Oliver, from the moment they met everything began to feel warm. He looked at her as though he was totally self-possessed with a perfect, fearless, impersonal gaze. Before too long she surrendered to him. It was hot under all the bed coverings and I tingled with little pins and needles. It took three nights to read the book and I was exhausted each day desperately waiting for bed time. Days spent in the garden, a perfect place for me to relive this awakening.
It was a deep garden with a soft mossy lawn at its base and ferns overhanging the foliage below. The air was thick and warm and the ground moist. The mossy floor like a plush velvet cushion and with each careful step I took into this little oasis my footprints left a subtle impression of where I had been. My mind was filled with the scenes from Lady Chatterley’s Lover and I knelt down to touch the wet green earth. My fingers sunk into the moss and I imagined what it would be like to lie there with flowers scattered all about my flesh, to feel the coolness of the ground beneath and then the warmth of being enclosed by a body.
This book held the promise of what was yet to come, and I had been changed forever by the discovery of desire. And this act of surrender could be a powerful revelation if it is of both body and mind.
Sometimes I think my memories chase me; as I covet more and more, an insatiable need to be delighted again and again. On other days I feel trapped by my memories and the times they reference as each new day begins; my mind catalogues what has gone before. And my memories are like books in a library. I have no awareness of what will become important; each card that enters the catalogue looks the same, and some will never be borrowed.
And as one season blends into another, I lie in the grass of my garden at home. My fingers patting the mossy earth, and I imagine what it would be to surrender in the quiet seclusion of a forest floor…something to look forward to.
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