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  • “I remember” hits smack dab into the heart of memoir.
    It can produce a smattering of unconnected memories;
    for instance, I remember low, long Buicks, Jane’s dress,
    big feet, horses in a field, cucumbers, helicopters, applesauce,
    Victrolas, yellow chalk, knapsacks – or you might sink into
    one memory of your father that fills your full ten minutes.

    Natalie Goldberg

    Note: I am reading Natalie Goldberg’s superb book about writing a memoir, “Old Friend From Far Away,” and doing the timed exercises she offers. She writes:”Now begin with ‘I remember’ for ten minutes, and see where it takes you.” Here is my first response to this excellent provocation. Try it! Sprouts welcome!

    I remember the smell of burning chestnuts at the wagon-vendors on the sidewalks near Central Park, in New York in October.

    I remember getting ill at the London Airport and being taken to an old WW2 hospital in the country where I was quarantined alone for a week with all those ghosts and war memories haunting the place, and how kind the nurses were.

    I remember riding across Hay Lake at the ranch in Arizona with an old cowboy who said to me, “Any damn fool can make a horse jump around. It takes a real horseman to calm down a skittish critter."

    I remember the first time I saw snow, when I was very young and we were on the train going East, and we stopped in Albuquerque and everything was white, and I picked some up with my bare hands and it felt tingly.

    I remember when my Father took me outside one night and pointed out Orion’s Belt in the heavens. This is one of the few memories I have of him.

    I remember one summer in New York, how hot and humid it was, and how I ate some fresh peaches and green grapes one Sunday morning and took photographs of shop windows along Madison Avenue, and how exciting that was to me, to find hidden beauty and little surprises in those ordinary window displays: angels, glistening silver services, second hand kitchen ware, oriental rugs.

    I remember flying into the Soviet Union, and looking down at hundreds of miles of vast, brown wasteland, and reflecting on these boundaries we create in our imaginations that create wars and hostilities in which we demonize whole countries and populations.

    I remember the surreal blue of the carved pools at Athabasca Falls in Canada, and the way in which swirling river water has carved beautiful forms out of rock over millennia.

    I remember what it felt like when I heard the news, like there was a huge emptiness that opened up inside me, and a feeling of falling through thousands of feet of airspace, and knowing things would never be the same again.

    I remember that Halloween party, in the summer house by the Sound, when I felt so lost and alone and out of place, and how I went out and sat on the cold sea wall, and wept, listening to the black waves crash at my feet.

    Recommended: Natalie Goldberg, "Old Friend From Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir." (2007) Free Press.

    (Photograph by Alex in the 3-D world of Second Life)
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