A Sonnet

“I wander” starts the simple song. I know

The rhythm, how to walk, but not the way.

I watch as others scatter on the road

Each scramble nine directions hurriedly.

An open bag of wind unspools my will,

Spins me into schools, houses, sheets, and arms—

Not one’s a home, but they will do until

I steer out of miles and into hours.

The course charted with whys—uncertain winds—

Comes clear in shadow dreams and memories—

To a sea of grass lapping autumn woods,

And last night’s dress hung until morning.

You whisper, “No more wandering for you.

This is your home. This all you have to do.”

Magic Words

I wrote this years and years ago. Later, I sat down on a stone wall in a tony neighborhood in Baltimore to wait for a bus, thinking about nothing other than the weather—it was a late spring, the sky was all but cloudless—when I realized that the stones were swarming with ants. I quickly stood up, and brushed many, too many, off my pants. I knew what I had done. I laughed, and started walking.

ANTS

I fall asleep on a park bench. What a long day it’s been. I wake up to a dull itch all over my body. I think, this is what I get for falling asleep on a bench. I scratch at my side, and in my hand: ants. Everywhere ants. I am being eaten by ants. I can’t get up; they’ve already done with most of my legs. I am going to be eaten away by ants.

As they chew at me I think, why couldn’t something have taken me whole, all at once? But there are no whales swimming between the buildings, waiting to swallow Jonah. No bengal tigers, orange striped, royal, ready to leap from office doors and dispatch me in one great kill.

No. I’m being eaten by ants. They take one pincer-full at a time. There must be millions of them, and as many other kinds of insects under the bench absorbing the flow of blood. I look up and down the street, hoping no one has noticed. Who but a fool would be eaten by ants?

I feel a tap on my shoulder. “Aren’t you?” she asks, “I’ve been dying to meet you.” She’s beautiful. Of course she’s beautiful; I’m being eaten by ants. She tells me how much she has looked forward to meeting me. “Why thank you,” I say. Please don’t notice, please don’t notice, please go away.

Then a man in a suit. “There you are, if you could just sign the contract, the advance money will be wired to your account.” My account? Advance money? I’m afraid to sign. Do I still have hands? I would look, but what would I see? Ants, ants, everywhere ants.

Packing again

I am unpacking and repacking old boxes. I have no fantasy that I will throw away old essays or my notes from Joyce and Woolf classes. But there are things I threw into boxes as deadlines approached, and now, when I look at them, nothing. I have whole boxes of emotional and intellectual cul de sacs.

Some of it is technological detritus. Phone cords? Old phone earphones? Some are records from past lives. A checkbook from Pittsburgh? A W-2 from Binghamton? There are kindnesses. A condolence card from my father’s funeral. There is a sweat stained baseball cap from a beer festival. Short ceramic candlestick holders and half burned candles. Another hank of phone cord.

There are more ringing memories. As she was moving from her home of forty years, my mother sent two packages of photos and records from my youth that include a hand made report card in which I earned hand-made A’s in subjects no school ever taught and a photo of the Varsity Swim Team with a dour me in a letter sweater. Other things. Almost twenty years ago, I set aside a bag of Philadelphia Inquirers containing my father’s obituary. A windup nun that shoots sparks as she walks patrols the corner of a now empty box.

These will all make the move, except, this time, I will reopen each box when I settle into my next home. I will spend time going through some of the boxes with my daughter, just to share strange pictures of her father and family, odd toys, and other remnants of my goofier life. Other boxes I will map out—actually going back over notes and essays.

And then, of course, there are the dozens of notebooks containing scraps of thought, dreams of beginnings of stories, hints of recipes, names collected and noted in lectures. As I was packing, I noticed a phone number on an otherwise blank page. There is no name, no feathery reference, just a number. Some mysteries will remain mysteries, and they will travel with me, just as surely as certainty will.

The Planet of Memory

IMG_6913Every time I reach a particular traffic light in Norfolk, I can hear, clear as a bell, the not so gentle prodding that “You can turn right on red from the middle lane. There are people behind us.”  Heading west out of Norfolk through the Downtown Tunnel causes a surge of ineffable joy, even when it’s just a trip into Portsmouth. The long drive across the Bay Bridge Tunnel reminds me of the day I took my daughter to drop flowers in the bay to commemorate the day my father fell into the water.

BigRed9There is hardly a street corner, a stop sign, or a stretch of highway that does not bring back flashes of memory. I stood on that plot of grass, took photos of the flooding at my church, and then sent them to a friend. I walked past the giant number “9” at West 57th in New York City with another friend, on our way to the Hard Rock Café. There is a house on the back way into the Paoli Shopping Center that my father told us belonged to Chester Gould, the illustrator and writer of the Dick Tracy comic strip. This seems as dubious a claim as that Dr. Seuss lived in a house visible on the hill above Yellow Springs Road—my father had a predilection for harmless invention.

Before I learned the names of streets (which are still all but meaningless to me), I carried vast mental maps of all the places I had been. Even now, some fifty years later, those old memory maps are vivid.  When I travel to places where I lived or visited as a child, I see two (or more) places at once—the heights of trees and plants, the placement of curbs, buildings, or playground equipment, and sometimes even the sunshine or snow shimmer against each other.  I know which one is real now, but the other waking dream of a place asserts itself.

IMG_8216I have read that places become memorable when significant emotional events have taken place there. Memory formation is my hobby horse. What constitutes a significant emotional event? What allows the creation of two, three, four, more memories to occupy a single green exit sign on the Route One into Bath, Maine?

I am moving from a place that I have lived for fourteen years and heading to a place that is entirely new. I try to venture forward without insisting on emotions—instead of North, South, East, and West the cardinal emotions of Joy, Anxiety, Hope, and Despair each create on some new direction, some new map point. And yet, I have taken my daughter, and watched as she skipped down Main Street in Warrenton, or happily ate blackberry ice cream at Moo Thru in Remington. A place takes shape and becomes part of the memory planet on which I walk.

Echoes of Suicide

Here there be triggers…

The suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain set off klaxons across all media. People—friends, family, and experts— shared memories, formulated reasons, and dispensed advice. And in my little corner of the world, I quietly melted down as I revisited the suicide that upended my life.

I drove my friend, Jennifer, home on the night she committed suicide. She was more than my friend, she was also my supervisor, colleague, and minister at the church where I work. After her death, I went into crisis mode, helping my congregation as best I could through what was, for some, a challenging year. Because of the timing, no minister could serve our congregation for the year (a neighboring congregation lent us their minister on a once a week basis, and she checked in on us). I talked with a counselor about the events. Friends checked in to make sure I was in reasonable shape. I was.

In a moment of anger, one of my friends suggested that she must must have known it would have been him or me who would have discovered her. I knew then, as I know now, that such calculations or considerations are never present in any meaningful way in the mind of someone who suffers from a mental illness strong enough to cause death. However, that never stopped me from playing and replaying the conversation we had on the night I picked her up from dinner (her car was in the shop) and drove her home.

My rational mind has assured me, and continues to assure me, that nothing I said could have caused her to do anything—or for that matter caused her not to do what she did. I was in the company of a person whose decision—insofar as any decision was actually possible—was already made. And yet over the past few days expert after expert says, “Reach out. Talk. You could save a life.” So my imaginative mind scurries relentlessly into every corner of possibility. “What ifs” pile up like bread crumbs in a tower to rival Babel. And while my rational mind wins the day, I realize this conflict has been with me for years.

The hardest thing I grapple with is the knowledge—certain and horrible—that either there was nothing I could do for my friend, or that I missed an opportunity to do something. The second choice leads to a horror show of self-recrimination. On most days I avoid that. The first choice leads to other struggles, primarily, what difference can I ever make with anyone?

Surely, this is not true. I am reassured repeatedly by the evidence of my experience that I do make differences. Routinely, daily, in the lives of those I teach, of those with whom I work, and of those I love. And yet I daily face unilateral behaviors and actions from people surrounding my life about which I can do nothing. And every time, there is a little (or not so little) twinge. Driver heading two blocks the wrong way down a one way street? Twinge. Student refusing to do work? Twinge. Congregant refusing to meet volunteer obligations? Twinge. I am leaving out the big ones. They are there too.

This happened during the summer after my family had traveled to China to bring home our second daughter. My friend had been at her birthday party in May, and had joined us at my birthday party in June. Jennifer died in July. By November my wife and I began separating. I moved into my own place in April. It was a full year. I am aware now how tangled each and every interaction I had that year, and in the years since, have been with those feelings of guilt and powerlessness–a raw and indefatigable impotence and ineffectiveness.

One of the members of my congregation recently asked how my move was going. I am leaving the congregation I have served for eleven years, and the school where I have taught for nine, and heading to a new school, and no new church, at least not right away. We conferred briefly on the feeling of being in control of the process, and how that was appealing to me. He said that he understood. I too knew it was important, and knew I had felt out of control for some time. My church, by the way, has had six ministerial teams over the eleven years I have served them, with the immediate prospect of two more in the next three years. And we are moving to a new building—a good thing. Still, that twinge, what some might call a trigger, is so wrapped in my in church life, and my life here in Norfolk, that is is nearly impossible to continue.

I know people will tell me, in the most anodyne fashion, that control is an illusion, and that I need to let it go, practice a little Buddhist non-attachment, and set myself free. Or that I need to get tough and face my feelings with Spartan fortitude. And for god’s sake don’t talk about them. But I do not seek detachment, even when the consequence is suffering. Suffering is fine. And I can try not to feel too attached to my feelings, but really, who thinks saltpeter in the milk is a solution? I would rather deal with the struggle. Even four years later. Even forty. In the end, the struggle makes me stronger.

As for sharing? What the hell. I write. This isn’t a cry for help. And it is no “J’accuse!” unless I am accusing myself. I usually wait to write until I have teased out the germs of an idea or feeling until it has grown into words. I admit that here on the blog, I let some unpercolated thoughts trickle in. This one has been in my head for days. Or years. With any luck, the words will be a bridge between us, and not a wall. And with even more luck, perhaps these words will help someone build a bridge in themselves to something they haven’t imagined yet.

What I Watched About Love—Dr. Strangelove

Dr. Strangelove (1964)

Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Starring

Peter Sellers as President Merkin Muffley, Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, and Dr. Strangelove

George C. Scott as General “Buck” Turgidson

Slim Pickens as Major “King” Kong

Sterling Hayden as General Jack D. Ripper

I did not see this as a Sunday night ABC Movie of the Week. This had to be a Friday night movie, starting at 11:30 or 12:00. I watched it by myself. It is a black and white movie, but I was well used to that. Almost all the horror movies of my youth were the black and white movies of Universal, or American… Besides, the first television I remember was a black and white set, which made the Wizard of Oz only a little less magical.

Why does this movie make it onto a list of movies about love? There is only one woman in the cast, Tracy Reed as General Turgidon’s “secretary,” and her part reveals more about the men than it does her. And at the end of the film, Vera Lynn sings “We’ll Meet Again” over a montage of hydrogen bomb explosions. What I didn’t know when I first saw this movie was that “We’ll Meet Again” was a soldier’s anthem in World War II; it marked the hope for those (don’t know where, don’t know when) sunny days. To me it was just dark irony.

I grew up in the company of boys. I had two younger brothers. I was in the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. Almost all my playmates were boys. We played “tank” on the school playground, draping our arms over each other’s shoulders and marching pointedly across the field. I went to an all boys private boarding school from 9th-12th grade. Boys playing at being men was what I knew.

Already, by my teenage years, I could see the pitfalls. I was aware of the passionate intensity that could overwhelm sensibility—just as Buck Turgidson demonstrates the the guile of a B-52 pilot screaming over the countryside to deliver his payload. I had experienced the misbegotten “fairness” doctrine—just as President Muffley tries to be fair with his Russian counterpart over the hotline. I had witnessed the driven madness of conspiracy that illuminates General Ripper, and the dedication to duty that Colonel Guano defends. Dr. Strangelove’s and Major Kong’s maniacal genius and drive was often held out as a, more sanely but only just barely, goal. Only Mandrake’s befuddled competence stands out as a lone vision of something like sanity—and he is a stranger in a strange land.

Where is the place for love—strange or otherwise—in a world that totters toward Armageddon? Romantic love is the counterpoint to the well-meaning incompetence, or belligerent dedication of the world of men. Without it: self-destruction.

Thoreau wrote in Walden that “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” In the late sixties and through the seventies, I didn’t know Thoreau at all, but I was naggingly aware of another desperation: one borne of the recent history of perpetual war and nuclear weapons. Those bombs waited like an exclamation point at the end of every thought about war, from World War Two, through Korea, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and then the Vietnam War. I often wondered who the men who bore responsibility for the weapons were, and if they were anything like the all too human men in my life. There came a point—it had passed to my way of thinking—when our weapons outstripped our ability to know how to use them. Desperation—existential anxiety—was a low thrum beneath all the humor, all the politics, and all the intensity of my teen age years.

And love? Could love stand against destruction? Imagine that. Only some equally powerful, equally misbegotten, equally passionate, dedicated, driven, and genius form of love, which is to say a love that was truly strange. How long would I try to fly that banner? Years.

What I Watched About Love–Two For the Road

What Marriage Means

Two for the Road (1967)

Directed by Stanley Donen

Starring Audrey Hepburn as Joanna Wallace and Albert Finney as Mark Wallace

I remember seeing Two for the Road before I was 12, and that cannot be right. I was probably 15. I was delighted by the editing—how it jumped back and forth between the five different time periods, from scene to scene and back again. It was like nothing I had seen before, and it made perfect sense to me. And the dialogue was witty to the point of casual cruelty. It was familiar to me because there was a premium on sharp elbows at dinner table conversation in my family. As the boys became old enough to be no longer seen and not heard, we entered conversations by jousting our way in. Later on in life, a woman I was dating asked how we could be so mean to each other. We had learned it early, and it stuck.

More than anything else this one struck deep because of Audrey Hepburn’s performance. She was 37 when this movie came out, an she played a character who ages from about 20 to 30. Finney is meant to be older than her and was 7 years her junior. Besides the simple matter of years, her transformation is the more amazing of the two. She is both more hopeful and more sad over the course of her character’s aging. Finney remains more static, which is one facet of his masculine character.

A note here: I had crushes on a number of actresses when I was younger. I was unable to distinguish between the characters and the people playing the characters. And I only knew the actresses from a limited number of roles. I had no idea that Catherine Deneuve starred in a number of French films, many of which were far from chaste. I had seen none of Audrey Hepburn’s early work (Roman Holiday, Sabrina). There was simply no way to track down the movies. And besides small notices in Time Magazine, I knew nothing of their lives. I watched according to what was on television, and developed infatuations at the whims of unseen programmers.

At the beginning of Two for the Road the Wallaces, now ten years into their marriage, drive past a bride and groom in a car after their wedding ceremony. “They don’t look very happy,” Joanna remarks. “Why should they? They just got married,” Mark answers. The movie dances through their relationship, specifically tracing a series of five car trips through the French countryside as they travel from the north to the south of France. Their banter is breezy, charming, sarcastic, and bitter, building to crescendos of “I love you” before tumbling back into doubt and resentment. Marriage seems like an unresolvable puzzle, especially to Mark, and toward the end of the movie he asks Joanna, “What can’t I accept?” She answers, “That we’re a fixture. That we’re married.”

Hepburn glows when she looks lovingly at Finney. This must be the look every man wishes to receive from the woman he loves. She captures the look at several stages of the development of Joanna’s feelings toward Mark: from naive hopefulness through the first trembling of doubt, to disdainful resignation, and finally to generous acceptance. Did I understand the complexity of her feelings? Not at all, but I recognized the continuity, and as much as the look, how could a man not want to be loved through all his difficulty.

Growing up, I had no idea how relationships worked. My parents’ marriage was simply a fact and a mystery to me. I learned little about love and romance watching them. Nor were we close to my aunts and uncles and their families or the families in our neighborhood. I could not gauge how families were happy or unhappy. And this was never discussed at home. The only thing I knew was me, and I knew, and was told, that I was difficult. I may not have possessed Mark’s arrogance, but I understood early on that men in particular acted one way and felt another, and that to display doubt was nearly unforgivable. Or so I felt taught, and so I acted. I knew I harbored secret flaws—or not such secret flaws—and there was only one person who was going to love me in spite of them, and maybe even because of them.

At the end of the movie, Joanna tells Mark, “But at least you’re not a bad tempered, disorganized, conceited failure any more. You’re a bad tempered, disorganized, conceited success.” He isn’t angry or upset by her comment. He knows it, and ten years into their relationship, he is happy not to keep his secret from her. She is willing, even happy, to keep it with him.

I wonder now how the movie would play if the roles were reversed, if Joanna had been the arrogant architect, and Mark had been the more steady presence. I wonder what less traditional role I may have played had I seen that possibility earlier in life. But as Joanna tells Mark as he asks her his “What if” questions, she answers “I don’t know.” She has learned to live with the uncertainty. I know I have to accept what I am, which is something I struggled with as a teenager, then as an adult. I have begun to accept the uncertainty. And some of the flaws. And I have stopped expecting one person, even one person like Audrey Hepburn, to keep that secret.

Thanksgiving Dinners

The holiday season is upon us, and it is a time we gather with people. Well, to be honest, I gather with people year round. For me, holidays are more a way point, a place to aim for during the journey, and a time to take stock and reflect. When I look backward, I can see the faces of friends who have gathered at my table, at all my tables, and not just at the end of the year festivities. There have been Bastille Day dinners, and Friday night dinners, lobster feasts, and barbecues, as well as Thanksgiving meals. I don’t know that I ever really expected all those people I have cooked for to remain at the table year after year, but in reflection there they go, drifting off into new arrangements, seated around distant tables.

When I think about the holiday dinners I have made and attended, while the courses have remained the same, the people at the table have changed nearly every single year. Of course there is the family—my brothers, my mother, and while he was still alive, my father. My own family, the family of choice, has shifted over the years. Both my brothers are at or just past twenty year marriages and their wives, and then their children have held stable seats at our gatherings, but I have brought four or five different friends or partners or, in one case, wife to holiday meals. I’m not sure what my family thinks of this. I’m sure they were reasonably pleased that the revolving door had stopped spinning when I married, but then that relationship ended as well.

And before this all seems too mawkish and wistful, the holiday table has never been a place of “what was,” or “what if,” but almost always “what is.” And maybe because nostalgia, or its future looking younger cousin, desire, have provided no overwhelming gravity to either pull me back or towards some land other than the one in which I reside, holidays have not had for me that tinge of regret or loss. Still, I am cognizant of the changing faces, and I wonder where they have gone, and also wonder who might be at the table this year, or the next, or the next.

The only twinge I feel is that I do not think that this is what other people feel. Do other people have the weight of memory and expectation to draw them somewhere? What must that be like? What must it be like to spend twenty or more years gathered with the same people? I feel sometimes as if I am missing out on something, that I lack some key that will unlock a door to this experience.

And yet. And yet there is a simple untaintable joy in seeing new faces, even in imaging where the old ones may now be seated. I picture tables in rooms that I have never seen, with gatherings peopled by a mix of friends and strangers, and in some inexplicable way, I am there too.

Exit 7A


I have traveled along the New Jersey Turnpike many times. When I was a kid, my parents would take us to New York to visit their parents. When I was in high school I would travel to swim meets with my school. In college, I went to Great Adventure with a collection of friends. After college, I had a girlfriend who lived in Freehold, and drove there and back  to visit her in my first car. I later took dates to Great Adventure. Most recently, I headed north with my (now ex-) wife and family to visit her family in Ocean Grove, NJ. Today, I took the familiar exit 7A to attend a workshop on the Jersey Shore. I can recall all or parts of all the trips I made along this highway, but I didn’t make it so often that it became rote. I remember leaving from Steve’s home out toward Exton, along with Chris, Darius, and Julie. I remember driving to, and then from Ginny’s home in Freehold. I remember the warm spring air across snow plowed into mounds in the Lawrenceville gym parking lot. I remember riding the Ferris wheel with Marie. I remember missing the turn onto Rte 18. I remember the radio signal fading out from WIP close to where the NJ State Police building was along the turnpike. I can remember feeling happy, sad, angry, jealous, confused, frustrated, thrilled, elated, confident–all along this same stretch of road.

As I drive along this road, I feel as if I am accompanied by several versions of myself, each one traveling the same path to different destinations, either alone or in the company of friends. I wonder what habits have shaped my travel, and me, and how the habits formed over time. I wonder what it would be like to wander over this path–and a dozen, a thousand other paths–for the first time. “You’ve analyzed this enough for both of us,” someone once told me. Of all my habits, analyzing–what I will call wondering or remembering or reveling or pondering or considering or questioning or figuring or honoring or respecting or holding or living–is perhaps my most ingrained habit. It isn’t second nature; it is first nature. What would it be like to just do–either guided by feelings or by someone else’s direction–without thinking?

I once used the metaphor of a path in the brain to demonstrate how memories are made and habits formed. I told students to imagine someone walking through woods over and over until a dirt path had been worn into the underbrush. walk along that path enough and it becomes more like a rut. As soon as the path takes hold, it begins to seem like there is only one way through the woods. I said that once a neural pathway had forms in the brain, it becomes a little like that deep hewn path, and that will power and determination alone are insufficient to the task of changing it. I was trying to disabuse my students of the notion that addictions or mental illnesses like depression could be combatted by force of will alone–that there is no shame in seeking help. I was also trying to show how deeply ingrained habits and patterns in our lives could become.

Maybe this kind of thought is simply a habit for me. Maybe others simply do not need to reflect and wonder. I don’t know what that would be like. I am reading William Finnegan’s Barbarian Days, and he writes about being a young surfer and learning to surf a particular break, and how surfers–the epitome of “go with the flow”–patiently learn the dynamics of each place they surf. They intimately learn the combinations of wind, tide, and depth. And then make surfing seem effortless. Thinking is effortless for me–not easy, to be sure–but something that comes as naturally as breathing or eating. I barely need to daydream, because the visions, the thoughts, the fleeting glimpses and sometimes lengthy gazes into the breaks of the day come involuntarily.

 

 

Something about memory

Once you can imagine how images and sounds get turned into bits of binary code, which you can then play back on a cell phone, you can begin to conceive of memory. Brains experience the world as a pattern of firing neurons—small chemical explosions in our heads that can be reignited over and over again. When Yeats writes, “I went out to the hazel wood because a fire was in my head”—it’s memory that inspires him on the journey that ends with him picking the “silver apples of the moon… [and] the golden apples of the sun. Memory of what? Who knows.

Memories aren’t just about things—they are about all the thoughts and feelings we had when we encountered those things. I talk to my students about making memories “sticky”: giving them more purchase in their brains. A memory will take greater hold if there is a feeling associated with it. For instance, my emotions (happiness, sadness, everything else) run close to the surface and deeply too—they are whales and not minnows—and when I see a new thing, or learn a new thing, I attach, without even intending to do so, an emotion to the thing. Go figure. I was happy about learning the constitution when I was in high school, or the great chain of being when I was in junior high school (or, or, or), and those emotions made those things more “sticky.” At the very least, learning has made me feel happy, and I am blessed with plenty of sticky happiness.

For Yeats, the odd transformative associations: a hazel wand that becomes a fishing pole; a little silver trout that becomes and glimmering girl; the moth-like stars; the hollow lands and hilly lands; are ways back to memory and to inspiration.  We tend to think of inspiration as a vision of something yet to be made, something that exists primarily in the future, but our future vision relies on what we already have seen.  The inspired poet turns the past into future with protean grace.

When memories fade, it isn’t so much that the patterns dull, so much as the ways back to those patterns fade. Maybe think about it like this… Imagine that you have a room in your house in which you have a beautiful painting. The door to the room has a lock. You lose the key to the locked door. The painting is still in the room, but you cannot see it. You haven’t lost the painting, just the key to the door in which the painting waits for you, still bright and beautiful, still reminding you (but no longer) of the day on which you first saw it, the weather, the person you were with, and what you had done all morning on that day. If only you had the key!

The mnemonic device called the “memory palace” is a means of making memories “sticky” and organizing where and how they are stuck. The stickiness is not simply an emotion, which can be an incredibly random and unpredictable placemarker (we don’t tend to organize our emotions in a clearly coherent pattern so much as ride on them like waves), but a familiar place, in fact some place which we are already memorized, whose dimensions, smells, colors, and secrets are so deeply ingrained that we can call them back instantly and without effort.  Yes, we bind new memories to older established ones.  We put them on coffee tables and window ledges, in drawers of dressers, at the bottoms of garment bags in our parents’ bedroom closet (where they sometimes hid Christmas presents).

I will admit that I like the idea of this device more than the one I use.  My memories are bound to map like structures, to roads and routes, airport terminals and the backs of buses. Sometimes they lead to places, even palaces, but mainly they are blue lines on yellowing maps. “Why do you need to know where we are going?” a friend once asked, “I can tell you where to go.” “Because,” I wish I had answered, “Every road leads to a new memory, and if I don’t know them, not only will I be lost, so will these memories.”  The trick for me is that since the atlas of my memory is fairly large, adding a few new maps, even if they are revisions of older ones, is not particularly onerous or difficult.  Of course, the trick is to revisit those maps, to crack the binding of my memory, head down old roads, and re-visit places.  And new places?  The placement of puddles, the spread of trees across streets, and colors of cars in driveways—all these inscribe themselves on a map, illustrate a chart, and add themselves to me.