This is my five-hundredth column in The Fort Frances Times, my first column appearing in the January 5, 2011 edition. It is not quite equivalent to crossing the Gobi Desert on foot or hiking the Inca Trail of Peru’s Machu Picchu Mountain. Nonetheless, writing four hundred, ninety-nine columns about things that got me thinking is a feat of sorts, for me. And, it is possible, very possible, it has been a long row to hoe for some readers. I say that with a laugh, hoping my writing helped you find your way to your own memories.
I try hard not to repeat myself, but who knows if the ideas that pop out of my brain form some sort of repetitive cycle. It is said if we are lost in the wilderness our walking tends to take us in circles, a well-documented reaction, so who knows if my thoughts do the same. Let’s face it, life is a wilderness, or at least I find it that way most days, with very little that makes sense. I am puzzled a great deal of the time.
Writing for The Times has been a labour of love, and I hesitate to use the word labour because it has been more about privilege than effort. Every single time I sit down to pen my column I am taken back to the geography that defines me and it is as if I have journeyed home in every way possible other than the physical. I haven’t had to drive my car over the long empty road. I haven’t had to brave winter storms or summer rains to get there. All I have needed is my special pen, an empty page, and my comfortable desk chair, along with my memories and ideas and puzzlements.
I have a treasure trove of visions in my head, locked securely and when I conjure up a familiar name, I have an immediate memory, an image that is both clear and precious, and it isn’t always the same memory for the same person. The best part is, I let my adolescent angst and awkwardness fade away and my brain selectively sifts through the inventory of my history, extracting only those perfect moments when my life collided with friends. Oftentimes, I can’t separate the pieces out and I am left with a collage of joy, no one face emerging on its own.
Some mornings, when I first wake, I ask my memory bank to deliver up a single image and more often than not, it is an Annie memory, such a blessing to begin a day with. Then snippets pour in like the gate has been opened – Angie and I at the piano, Tina and her flute, Sherry and I playing hopscotch, Leanne and Michael writing with their left hands that made them seem deliciously exotic, Duane and his Secret Sam Spy kit, Blair and Doug being real life superheroes, Deb galloping on Holy Smoke, Lori’s gentle voice, Jim and Bill and their guitars …
When I was young, I sat on the rocks at the edge of the Rainy River, the same river that watched me grow up. I wiggled my fingers in the water and squished the mud between my toes and thought about where the water had been, what it had seen, what did it remember about where it came from. All its stories were delivered to my feet. I gave little thought to where the river was going and likewise, I gave little thought to where I was going, because I never imagined I would ever have to leave my precious childhood farm. Maybe that’s what children do, they live in the here and now.
I am so grateful to have the opportunity for weekly chats with you. I thank you for your kind notes sent from time to time, reaching out with your own memories, sharing your thoughts that parallel my own. I am in the process of putting a collection of my columns together in a book, to preserve for my children, but really, for anyone who found themselves on the pages of my essays.
As Maroon 5 says – Memories bring back memories bring back you. Thank you for being part of the beauty of coming home.