Last week, in the midst of an errand-running drive around town, I had a memory flash of the summer of 1968, when my parents sold our house in Northeast Minneapolis for a mobile home in a nearby suburb. I was driving down 29th Avenue Northeast, quite near that old house, when an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia mixed with absence expanded in my chest. That feeling was so powerful that I altered my route to stop at Target for a notebook, then sat at a nearby park to scribble down everything I could before I lost the thought. I vowed to keep a notebook in my car for future moments like that. They seem to happen to me more often lately.
Perhaps this is a function of growing older, this visitation of memory that cuts across some mundane daily task. Maybe it’s the result of knowing my daughter will not be living under my roof much longer. This could be the very definition of middle age – images of the fading past and the ever-sharpening view my life’s gradual stop juxtaposed with the ever-present question about why I am right here right now.
This disgruntled existence offers ample opportunity for poetry. There are endless ways to analyze that which has happened and gone, but those flashes of memory that happen at odd moments of the day are the points at which focus intensifies. This is what poetry captures so well: the searing flash of a past image, the acknowledgement of an absence, the moment of illumination. An exploration of some old memory occasionally results in a few tears or a good laugh, then it gets solidified into a poem that works to capture the very essence of the emotion dredged up with the memory. There is no room for generalization in this kind of work. In fact, to generalize would be to cheapen the experience: a poet needs to hit the jugular.
This is not to ignore the present. All those past occurrences put us squarely where we are and that which is right in front of us deserves the same meticulous attention. My daughter will be home shortly. I need to go take a look.
TODAY’S KINDNESS LINK
If you click on this link – http://thelabspps.com/ – you’ll discover the website for The Lab, a special education arts and wellness program of the St. Paul Public Schools in Minnesota. The idea is that creativity is a way for students to be emotionally healthy and successful and The Lab tries to provide opportunities for just that. Volunteer opportunities are available for adults from the community. Check it out. Pass it on.