Poetic memory

Drew and Matt at Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens, Maui, 1991

Drew and Matt at Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens, Maui, 1991

“The brain appears to possess a special area which we might call poetic memory and which records everything that charms or touches us, that makes our lives beautiful.”
Milan Kundera

Memory, we are told, is highly selective and not always accurate.  We may remember a time or a place as being so full of wonder that it’s hard to imagine a reality that could live up to our recollection of it.  Maybe we are looking back on a mentally enhanced version of what actually happened, as if it was retouched in some sort of cerebral Photoshop.

Or maybe not.  Sometimes, as in the photo above, we have clues that our memories are not mistaken; in the words of Dave Barry, we are not making this up. Sometimes the poetry was present from the beginning, not composed over time by nostalgic delusions about a magical moment frozen in our consciousness.

I think Kundera is right about the poetic memory.  It’s a sort of neurological scrapbook; the repository of all that has made life wonderful for us, and when the present moment becomes almost unbearable, we can wander into that corner of the mind, and see the colors and hear the lovely cadences that can’t be captured by grammatically correct sentences.

What scenes from your past sprang to mind when you saw the words “poetic memory?” What verses will be added today?


  1. blseibel

    Thank you, I will try to revisit a beautiful poetic moment when I am feeling down. The first one I thought of was of a beautiful mountains meadow during a week long horse pack trip into the beautiful Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana, in fact, a lot of my poetic moments are from Montana. But yesterday’s bright blue sunny Sunday following Saturday’s snowfall on some of the remaining red and yellow leaves was very poetic.

    • I think Montana would indeed be very poetic; I hope to see it someday and find out. The sunshine on what remains of the autumn leaves has been spectacular. Snow already?! Of all the forms of weather, snow might be the most poetic, although rain would be a close second in my book. I hope you will have time to visit lots of your memory’s poetry. Maybe you can even put some of it into words. 😀 Meaning, actual poems…you have already begun, with this comment!

  2. Ah, memories. I’ve had quite a few lately but none as poetic as this. I’ve been going through old photos for weeks now so it stirs a great deal of emotion in my heart and mind. Darling photo of your boys.

    • Thanks, Marlene. Going through old photos is indeed a sort of emotional minefield. What a tangle of mixed emotions they bring! Some (such as my high school yearbooks) bring mostly a feeling of relief that those years are over, despite some happy moments. Other photos– of friends who’ve since passed on, of those who disappeared from our lives for various reasons, and even some of friends who are still present– can leave us transfixed for hours, laughing, smiling and shedding a tear or two for all that has gone by so quickly. I have to be careful about getting out the photos. I can waste spend WAY too much time that way.

      • I’ve been working on a photo book for my niece for Christmas (I hope). My son is scanning in slides I haven’t seen in 35 years. They were his dads and he took all the photos so I had none during those years. I’m loving every moment of it. Yes, I’ve lost lots of time which is why I’m way behind on my blogs. 😦 It does jug the memory and mine is pretty rusty. I wish I could do it more often.

        • That is so cool that your son is scanning the old slides. It’s like discovering buried treasure. Good luck with the photo book! Your niece will love it. Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

          • Right back to you, Julia. Hope your day is festive and happy.

            • Thank you Marlene! We had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner with many folks from our church family. It did feel quite festive and happy. 🙂

  3. Anon E. Moose

    “Nothing is ever as good, or as bad, as I remember it.” Carlyle Hedden

    • I certainly hope that proves true of these excruciatingly difficult weeks since his death. Daddy, we all miss you more than we can say. Sometimes I imagine you smiling down on us and telling us not to worry.

  4. raynard

    Julia, the last month or so” It’s been song that never ends.. It goes on and on my friends” ( thank you Lampchop I digress).We got to meet Susan before ” she got back on” her Cannonball Run to Florida and then home.. I could talk about my wife’s Aunt Ella’s memory when she was showed pictures of her late sister who’s birthday would of been yesterday. Now play ( imagine) Barbera Streisand’s The Way we were” playing in the background. A friend and old neighbor who I went to H.S with called me after 25 years. He’s dealing with 2 forms of cancer now. He was quite surprised that I remember some of the old neighbors that I have not seen in over 25 years. I can ” in my photographic memory see the house I lived in and house on that street and who lived in them..It makes me more grateful and appreciative that I didnt” bury or surpress old memories. Now tie all this in with living with someone who can’t remember from moment to moment and thinks you are ” someone from their past that you are not”..If it’s true,” your eyes are the window to your soul, your mind can be a ” VCR/DVR connection to your soul as it” records what your eyes sees.. I think that was my ” public service announcement for today.. I digress.. Be blessed and encouraged and have a great day..

    • Raynard, it was fun to imagine you watching someone else’s Cannonball Run for a change. You mentioned your friend and the memories of old neighborhoods. At Daddy’s memorial service in Georgia we saw one of our neighbors from the neighborhood we left when I was six years old. I talked with her for quite awhile and remembered the names of almost all the children (and many of the adults) on our block. It was wonderful to realize how much I remembered of that long-gone time. Sadly, she died suddenly and most unexpectedly just a few weeks after we saw her at Daddy’s memroial service. Like you, I am grateful for my memories, and sad for those who have lost their ability to differentiate between then and now. The VCR of my brain is junked up with far too many old tapes, some of which I wish I could erase, but no such luck. So I try to play only the “golden oldies” and stay away from the B-list bad movie scripts, hee-hee. I hope you too are encouraged and blessed this week! Hugs to Mary and Ms. Ella.

  5. I’m brought back to a time when, as a child, we lived in a housing project comprised of working class families of various ethnic backgrounds. Each respected the others challenges in life as well as what was required to provide for their families. They proved to be immune to animosities toward each other and it was reflected in their children who knew no differences as they played together; even for one who was handicapped and never barred from any of the fun.
    That is the tradition of past dispositions that is so sorely missed today.
    Happy Thanksgiving, Julia and family.

    • Alan, I loved reading your description of your neighborhood. I would not want to have missed growing up in such a neighborhood myself, where it felt at times almost like an extended family. It’s so sad how little we know each other anymore. The law can mandate curb cuts and accessible buildings (and rightly so!) but the heart is the most important place to practice inclusion, and as you mention, there have always been among us those who know how it is done. Thanks for reminding me of that. Happy Thanksgiving to you, too! I am thankful you are here with us.

  6. Sheila

    Julia, I am always rushed with memories, at any given time. I can quickly go to recent days in beautiful California or go to North Carolina, but both times shared with family. I know your heart is filled with memories, too. I treasure the comments here (in the form of memories) of Mr. Carlyle and also Larry. Please find comfort in knowing they are being thought of during this Thanksgiving time. Your words are always so special and food for thought. My prayers are crossing the distance between us! 🙏 Love to all, Sheila

    • Thanks, Sheila, for your understanding, and for being here to share this time with us. We continue to need and appreciate the prayers! Hope you and all the Vann-clan have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  7. Carolyn

    Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving. I will be busy for awhile, Jennifer and family will be flying in a a short visit, first week end of December, it is an early anniversary get together. We all can’t be together Dec. 18 th. so David and Jennifer decided on that week end.This is our big 50 th. I will drop you a note after all the visiting is over. Hope all the family will be together for turkey day. How did Jeff’s doctors visit go, hope all is well. Hugs and love, Carolyn

    • WOW, Congratulations on 50 years together! That’s quite a milestone and a blessing to celebrate. We will not be with family tomorrow, so we are having Thanksgiving dinner with some of our church family. Jeff got some bad news from the oncologist last week, but as with so many times before, we are adjusting as best we can. Hope you have a great Thanksgiving!

  8. HarryS

    He asked Jack Nicklaus, “What was the best golf shot you ever hit?”
    He replied, “I don’t know, I haven’t hit it yet!”

    That’s the way I feel about my concept of God as I understand him.
    I have yet to know him as I will know him.

    I’m Harry, grateful 12th step-er. – Georgia, US of A.

    • HI HARRY! I love the quote from Nicklaus. How wonderful to realize that our best is ahead of us. I am grateful too, for so many blessings, including everyone I have met here at this blog. Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  9. Carolyn

    Happy Thanksgiving to all. Hope you have family with you and enjoy each other. How as Jeff’s last doctors visit. I will send you a note later on about how things are with us. Love and hugs to you all.

    • Thanks Carolyn, the same to all your family. I am so happy you are here with us! ❤ ❤ ❤

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