The afternoon had passed to a ghostly gray. She was struck by the immensity of things, so much water and sky and forest, and after a time it occurred to her that she’d lived a life almost entirely indoors. Her memories were indoor memories, fixed by ceilings and plastered white walls. Her whole life had been locked to geometries: suburban rectangles, city squares. First the house she’d grown up in, then dorms and apartments. The open air had been nothing but a medium of transit, a place for rooms to exist.
The four of them stand in the cockpit of the Misdemeanor as they motor from one town to another. They pass their house, which is not theirs any longer. Libby cuts the throttle, and they stall there in front of their sprawling memory. The four of them have come up for the closing; since all of them are owners, they all must be present to sign away this place. They have given most of the land to the Maine Preservation Society, and the house, they have sold to a family who promises not to tear the whole thing down, though they know that is a lie. The oak is yellow and peeks from behind the house. The glossy white windows of the great room look down upon them. It is cold and they all wear their foul-weather gear, bright-yellow slickers, except Gwen, in a red poncho to accommodate the swell of her belly. Libby keeps one hand on the tiller and the other she slips into Tom’s hand. He gives it a squeeze and then puts his arm around her. Danny moves from the stern to stand between Tom and Gwen. They all stand on the starboard side looking at the house. Libby and Tom, then Danny, his hand resting on his brother’s shoulder, and Gwen next to him, her arms crossed over her protruding belly, her hair long and dark hanging down her back. She is no longer a beacon, but a buoy in her poncho, red right returning. The sky is gray and low and promises a choppy ferry ride to the mainland, but there in the safe haven of the harbor it is calm and windless, and the house isn’t empty, but expectant. The flat water, dark green now, lies empty, the float pulled out the month before. Going from town dock to town dock, there is no need for a tender. There is no way for them to come ashore, even if they wanted to. A house like this is not supposed to exist now. It comes from another era. It is a ghost, like the schooners that sail through the thoroughfare every summer. It is an aberration, a figment. It is their great shingled memory.
― Sarah Moriarty, North Haven
You are lucky to be one of those people who wishes to build sand castles with words, who is willing to create a place where your imagination can wander. We build this place with the sand of memories; these castles are our memories and inventiveness made tangible. So part of us believes that when the tide starts coming in, we won’t really have lost anything, because actually only a symbol of it was there in the sand. Another part of us thinks we’ll figure out a way to divert the ocean. This is what separates artists from ordinary people: the belief, deep in our hearts, that if we build our castles well enough, somehow the ocean won’t wash them away. I think this is a wonderful kind of person to be.
―Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
If you’d rather live surrounded by pristine objects than by the traces of happy memories, stay focused on tangible things. Otherwise, stop fixating on stuff you can touch and start caring about stuff that touches you.
—Martha Beck, “Stop Worrying”
I found one remaining box of comics which I had saved. When I opened it up and that smell came pouring out, that old paper smell, I was struck by a rush of memories, a sense of my childhood self that seemed to be contained in there.
We should have stories in common, I found myself thinking. We should have stories, and jokes no one understands, and memories that we know will stay alive because neither of us will let the other forget.
Regular maps have few surprises: their contour lines reveal where the Andes are, and are reasonably clear. More precious, though, are the unpublished maps we make ourselves, of our city, our place, our daily world, our life; those maps of our private world we use every day; here I was happy, in that place I left my coat behind after a party, that is where I met my love; I cried there once, I was heartsore; but felt better round the corner once I saw the hills of Fife across the Forth, things of that sort, our personal memories, that make the private tapestry of our lives.