On meaning and memory

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Preface

What if there existed one thing in the world, above all others that could lift hearts, connect minds, and enliven our whole sense of being? The first among us to ask this question was my great grandfather. You might say he was the family progenitor of a whole generation of sons and daughters that thought deeply, who felt profoundly. I never knew him, but the black and white photograph hanging here in my grandma’s house reminds me of myself–or maybe of what I want to be. He stands straight, one hand positioned on a chair, standing stoically, unshakeable in his determination and yet possessed of that keen ability to separate his self from the world in moments of extreme anguish or inexpressible joy.

“Softly, softly turn your cheek and kiss eyes with me.” Those were the words which eventually won over the woman that became his wife. And in that moment, accessing ancient feelings and breaking seemingly impenetrable ancestral walls, their spirits, like two waves, broke against each other in a titanic swirl of motion and noise. The memory of that moment has been passed down through our blood; and as I stare deeply, past the glass reflection, I know. Somehow he knows. Or, maybe, it is that we’ve always been connected–deriving knowledge and fortitude from both our past and future selves.

I used to think that we as humans were in a constant state of motion, always being propelled forward. That at each moment we recreated ourselves into what we hoped we could become the moment before. And as we stepped forward into our future selves, it’s as if the past had simply been subsumed and erased from existence. And in this way, I was able to detach myself from my former life. I could separate myself from those actions, those habits and tendencies that at the core felt unnatural or antithetical to my true sense of purpose. I think that my underlying motivation for initiating that thought was appropriate, but my understanding of the cosmos may have been limited in a way–it most certainly still is.

And as minutes pass, eyes locked with my former self, I know and he knows, we are sharing moments transcendent of time and space. I firmly believe we are all unique souls, with particular aspirations. But far be it from me to try to limit the essence of my true self–my spirit. There is a universal melding that takes place somewhere along the road to infinity where finding it is an act of faith.

Part I

The Alabama sky is dusky once again. Autumnal reveries shake through the trees, dressed in colors, and the slopes of Green Mountain provide the right amount of comfort for the city in its charge. Huntsville breaths in and out, as only a city can, and watches despondently as cotton fields are replaced by the every growing need for urban expansion.

The Cherokee Indians who first inhabited this land called it “death valley.” Throughout the year, seasonal breezes slide into the valley accompanied by a thick permeation of dust and pollen. The resulting allergy attacks they had were so severe that it left the area uninhabitable. Instead, it became a place of burial. A pollen bowl fit only for the dead. The dry leaves, which hang taut and ever expectant from branch limbs, rattle in the cool breeze.

Part II

We lived near the sea. I love the water. I love the way it touches my feet and laps around my ankles. I love the tufts of brown grass emerging from the sand. I love the seagulls that scatter and laugh. We love the sea for its comfort; we’re in awe of its’ passions. Striving, reaching, digging deeper and deeper to feel what it feels. We talk to it with loving words and it rolls back in soothing tones to speak of the joys and pains of the world. We love the sea.

I feel the pain of the sea. It is forever in a transcendental state that reaches with burnt arms to feel the warmth of the earth. It has been rejected by love and is brushed aside by more important things. Disdainfully and with a mocking lip we ask, “what purpose do you serve?”

We shame the sea. My arms are bare and broken, lying limply in the water. I’ve shamed the sea. It wishes nothing but love, not for its own sake, but rather to soften the callousness of the sand so that we might lie softly in its arms. We’ve shamed the sea. It is self-preservation that forces us to pull from the water’s edge.

My parents taught me to how to see myself–to look with care, to see with sincerity, penetrating deeply and asking certain questions of my spirit. And in the pools of my heart, vibrations of my voice cause a swelling of emotion–each droplet, each tear, is timeless. Water, it seems, is life–expansive, eternal and delicate. Our hearts and minds are made of boundless waters and borderless seas in a constant state of motion and repose. I’ve never loved the water as much as I do now. It gives me sight; it lends me memory.

For me, the sea is red; not like the blackness of death, but crimson as a rose with its many-chambered heart.

Part III

I’m writing a book; well, maybe it’s a short story or series of vignettes. Actually, I think I may mold it into a children’s tale at some point. Regardless, I can never decide, thereby securing the hypothesis that I am involved in some sort of perpetual, never-ending plot line. I seem to unfold a bit of it at every second, and when I stop to reflect and see if I need to alter an earlier moment–for example, I just turned to my right and saw a little blonde boy staring with beautiful azure eyes­–I realize that trying to catch a memory is like running through flocks of white and grey and seeing that they are nothing more than the scattering of angels.

 

Geoffrey comes from the great American national park of Alabama. Having been born into a family of writers, journalists, and photographers, he hopes – just hopes – that some of it has rubbed off.