10 November 2005

"Memory: Where our vanished days secretly gather"

The title above comes from a subchapter heading of poet and philosopher John O'Donohue's book Anam Cara . He writes:

Your soul is the place where your memory lives. Since linear time vanishes, everything depends on memory. In other words, our time comes in yesterdays, todays, and tomorrows. Yet there is another place within us that lives in eternal time. That place is called the soul.

--John O'Donohue, Anam Cara (HarperCollins, 1997).

I have been thinking about art as a tool of memory during the past day. My coworker and I were brainstorming about some children's activities we want to organize at our local history museum currently under construction. She told me about an assignment her elementary-aged daughter had to do for homework at her Montessori school. The teacher wanted each child to create a "heritage box." The outside of an old shoebox was to be decorated by the child to represent herself or himself: sports, hobbies, pictures of themselves, things they like, etc. Inside the teacher wanted the child to collect objects, notes, information about her/his parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc.

What a wonderful idea! I exclaimed. And I thought to myself, I'd like to do that assignment.

I think the cooler edge of autumn is a natural season to contemplate memory, ancestry and heritage. Many religious traditions hold festivals to honor the departed at this time of year. Recently I brought out the photographs of my grandparents to place in our living-room near the other fall decorations. I do this every autumn with great intent. All of my grandparents have passed beyond the veil of life into what Shakespeare's Hamlet called "the undiscovered country." By bringing out their pictures each year I honor their memory and my heritage. Memory sometimes has a way of easing the wrinkles caused by sorrows and frustrations of the past and making them indistinct.

1 comment:

  1. My friend recently commented:

    Hey, I read a couple of your blog entries and really enjoyed them. I was intrigued by the
    "heritage box" as I had thought of something similar to do with our community project. Have you done it?

    All best,

    Thanks for reading, L! I still have not implemented the heritage box idea yet at work, due to the current state of our schoolprograms. But the time is coming when I think there will be an opportunity. In the meantime, I adapted the Heritage Box concept for a women's retreat in March 2006. Each woman who attended the retreat day was provided with the opportunity to add their "hopes" or "goals" to a special box throughout the day. At the end of the day we read some of the women's goals and hopes aloud--without identifying the author to preserve anonymity.