Tuesday, June 16, 2009

With dream comfort memory to spare

I envy writers who can summon the memory of every item in their childhood bedroom and the names of each child in their fourth grade class. My own memory is more like badly spliced 35 mm film stored in acid cardboard and run through X-Ray machines. Bumpy, faded, streaky, erased entirely in places.

I don’t recall dates or names with much clarity but my emotional and sensory selves have a kind of substitute for memory. I can’t tell you when I was married or divorced but I can recite most of “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” because it seared my soul when I read it.

And there’s music. Offhand, I don’t know what year I lived in New York on the streets of the Village, one of thousands of runaway kids. But I can recall with perfect clarity that “The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel was piping out of the speakers at an Orange Julius one night when I felt particularly lonely…. I can date times of my life by music. I was 17 then.

Forward on the rickety tape of memory to deep summer in Sudbury, Ontario. I am lounging happily in a downtown park with two musician friends. They mention Buffalo Springfield but somehow, I’ve missed that part of Neil Young’s career and have never heard “Cinnamon Girl.” Rick and Digger, who are sprawled on the grass, shift into sitting position and softly sing the entire song to me. Deeply emotional, vividly intimate to be sung to. That is my first Neil Young moment.

A year or so later, a Sunday in January - I am vulnerable, cocooned inside myself. I’m walking to karate practice, getting on with life pretty much on auto-pilot. The sky is a clear pale blue and the snow glitters with light. January steals my breath, freezes it in my lungs. . My steps, the only sound at all, crunch thunderously on the snow as I plod along.

The dojo sits alone at the top of a hill and on the other side of the road is an open field, with an equipment shack in the center. I am 50 feet from my destination when loudspeakers in the shack turn on and Neil Young’s voice floods into the cold stillness,

“There is a town in north Ontario/With dream comfort memory to spare, And in my mind/I still need a place to go/All my changes were there…”

Until the song plays to the last word and note, I stand transfixed, listening, looking up at the vast sky, heart pounding.

To this day, I cannot hear Neil Young’s “Helpless” without a chill running up my spine. And if I am in a public place, I try not to weep.

Total recall. But only of the parts of life that mattered most.


herhimnbryn said...


LJ said...

Hi Herhimnbryn.

lauren abrams said...

I loved this the first time I read it, but I stumbled across it again and it meant even more to me this time...you have such a gift, Linda

LJ said...

Thanks Lauren. Be nice if I ever have time to start writing again..

Anonymous said...

I know nothing about it

LJ said...

Nothing about what, "Anonymous?"