August 20, 2017
All summer, while I slept in my adolescent bedroom and sorted through everything I left behind when I went to college and when I moved to New York, I was thinking about memory. Memory, and nostalgia, and belonging, and though the whole summer through I meant to sit and write something about it I never quite found enough time alone to find my words. I’ve been in DC for over a week and I’ve unpacked my books, hung my art, met with my supervisor, and interrupted work and nesting to visit with friends. But today I struck out on my own and I’ve found a minute to think, here in the shade by the fountain in the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden.
Before I left New York I devoured a book by Rebecca Solnit called A Field Guide to Getting Lost*, and I’ve talked about it to anyone who would listen ever since. It meanders through the topics of loss and lost, drawing connections between the two that are surprising but resonant. In one anecdote I loved, she talks about childhood memories and how they grow less distinct over time. How when she has written a memory it stops being real or alive and becomes “fixed in letters”. Solnit writes of seeing a snapshot of herself as a toddler wearing a shirt she remembers having on, and then losing the sensation of what it was like to wear it now that she sees this “unrecognizable toddler” who lived that memory.
I write this because I need to step carefully. I don’t want to lose the shivery sense of walking back in time I felt this summer when I made my way from the street where I was a teenager, where my family still lives, down a short path through the woods to the street where I was a child, where one of my best friends now lives with her family. It was one of the joys of my summer to turn the corner and step into the brief quiet of that path.