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Life is in the details.

December 15, 2008

I don’t know about anyone else, but I tend to have a very detailed memory.

Of course, it’s not in any useful way — not that I’m good with remembering names (I’m awful) or directions to restaurants or houses (I could get lost in my own neighborhood) or anything that might actually come in handy. But I can remember details from things that happened years ago, as clearly as if I had just walked out of the room.

I wonder what it is about  memory that is so selective — if it’s a right brain/left brain thing, a gender thing or just one of those mysterious quirks that is unique unto each person, like fingerprints.

I couldn’t tell you most of what I learned in my Organizational Communication class, but I could tell you exactly what Florence smelled like the first time that I stepped foot in Italy, or what shirt I wore on my very first date when I was 17. I don’t remember what groceries I need to get, but I can tell you how I did my hair on my first job interview or what color the couch was that I was sitting on the first time that I admitted I was falling in love (technically, I was sitting on the floor, but we were next to a couch).

So what’s the point of all of this, of having these extremely detailed yet essentially useless pieces of information at my disposal? I was thinking about this last night and I think it comes down to this:

I think I hold onto and prize these details because they are reminders, promises that life will continue to produce and surprise me with these little things over and over. Perhaps I will never have that “first” sensation again of many things, but I will have seconds and thirds and fourths and beyond. I think sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking that the “first” times for things — in love, in travel, in life, in discovery — are always the best. But are they? Or are they simply clues, hints of what life can offer — lovely inklings that remind us that we may find joy again and again and again, in different guises, costumes, masks and places.

Remembering these things is like some sort of liturgy or mantra, some kind of consistent reminder that I will have these details again. That I will love someone again in that favorite shirt or be overwhelmed at the sight of mountains — that I will savor the taste of thick, strong coffee in a foreign city or memorize the lovely contours of his face over and over again. Life isn’t done offering us new experiences and all we are asked is to be aware — to be still, to open our eyes and to listen.

Joy is everywhere.
I can feel it.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. this0side0of0the0truth permalink
    December 15, 2008 3:43 pm

    “Let the thrill go—let it die away—go on through that period of death into the quieter interest and happiness that follow—and you will find you are living in a world of new thrills all the time.”
    -C.S Lewis

    There is something new to discover even in the old every single day.
    Whoever doesn’t find life super exciting is very silly indeed.

    I don’t know Caroline, there is a lot of joy around to be sure…but I’m not sure there is as much as you might think.
    Maybe there is for you.

    But thats why theres motown after all.

    my cherie amour!
    I will see you soon dear, and there really will be an abundance of joy.

  2. Caroline permalink*
    December 15, 2008 3:47 pm

    I’m going to keep believing that there is an abundance of joy to be had…you know me. I’d be going against my nature to think anything else.

    I love Mr. Lewis. And I know just what book and part that quote is from…sigh. So amazing.

    What is giving me joy today:

    Rosie Thomas
    big, fat, fluffy snowflakes
    tangerine tea

  3. this0side0of0the0truth permalink
    December 15, 2008 5:57 pm

    Long hot shower, All songs considered, rain

  4. Glo permalink
    December 16, 2008 8:30 am

    Bravo, yet another stunning post! I see that you are getting a lot of hits too!

    I had one of these moments today when I was taking a tuk-tuk home from my university here. I realized that it was probably my last journey home from the place that I had walked/motorbiked/tuk-tuked and taxied to and from a hundred times while I was here. And instead of making myself have that “ohhhh, this is my last ride home” feeling, I just enjoyed the ride. It wasn’t any more beautiful than the other rides I’d had, but as a whole, the rides were beautiful.

    Ps. I am home in 4 days! This means we are one step closer to reuniting 🙂

  5. Caroline permalink*
    December 16, 2008 9:00 am

    Well thank you! 🙂 I am really pleased at the good reception that this blog is getting. It’s giving me confidence to continue moving forward with focusing my work and career more on writing. I may never be a Don Miller or a Rob Bell, but I can be a me, so I’m trying to find out what my voice sounds like.

    Have a safe trip home my dear — I can’t wait to see you!!!!!

  6. James permalink
    December 16, 2008 12:17 pm

    I think you have overlooked something right in front of you in saying that your detailed memory is “not in any useful way.”

    A detailed memory is one of the best qualities you can have in the world of writing. Because, in my humble opinion, the best writing out there is sincere, and based on real-life events, even if it is fiction.

    Kerouac is sometimes called “the great rememberer” by other fellow writers in his clan, because of his enormous remembrance of detail, his ability to fully describe the essence of a person in a few lines, to be able to remember the small happenings of an event that make a story worth reading.

    Steinbeck has a quote someplace, I don’t feel like looking up the exact words, but it says something about how he doesn’t like cameras, because they are so much surer of things than he is.

    So if you have a mind that can capture events of your life, it will make your writing that much more beautiful when you describe the taste of coffee in a foreign place or trace with words the wrinkles and furrows of a face… this makes your writing honest, sincere… and true.

    Which I believe to be the only thing worth reading.

    Think of it as a gift. It is not, perhaps, trivial that you remember the smell of Florence, but that the smell stuck with you because it is full of meaning.

  7. Caroline permalink*
    December 16, 2008 1:30 pm

    I love that — and it’s true.

    My deepest motivation for writing, for creating pieces that are a reflection on who I am and what I care about and what I experience, it’s because I want to express truth in ways that feel human, feel real.

    I really appreciate and love your comments, James. I feel as one artist to another, we understand each other. 🙂

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