This month, I wrote words and posted images relating to the landscape of memory. I shared poems, photos, quotes, and more prosaic thoughts related in some way to memory, nostalgia, longing for place, remembering and forgetting, landscape, dreamscape, landscape’s memory and memory’s landscape, the intersection of the layered historical physical world with personal memory, the frames that both landscape and memory use to contain and order our focus, the landscape of childhood, the landscape of devastation, how memories lie and tell the truth, the fragmentation of memory, how landscapes shape us and our memories, etc. All the posts are linked to this page. Thanks for visiting.
Day 1: (this post)
Day 2: Most of Me is the Memory of Where Else
Day 3: Debris
Day 4: Every Landscape An Accumulation
Day 5: Meadow
Day 6: Waterbody
Day 7: Arcadia has always been a pretty lie
Day 8: Vanishing
Day 9: Locating Sadness
Day 10: Fishy
Day 11: Secret Landscape
Day 12: Mire
Day 13: Thirteen Landscape Links
Day 14: I disturb that place by breathing, by my heart’s beating
Day 15: Tempo/rary
Day 16: the feeling that only memories are real
Day 17: Don’t objectify the cactus
Day 18: Stranded
Day 19: The Persistence of Memory
Day 20: trinity of dampness, salt, and seagull cries
Day 21: Unfolding
Day 22: alone in the car
Day 23: Living Room
Day 24: Garden of graves
Day 25: colour wiped from the landscape
Day 26: no singular event
Day 27: Someone unrecognizable about the open the door
Day 28: Eventide
There’s a wonderful Tumblr page called Memory’s Landscape. It’s a combination of prose, poetry, photos, and music about memory, nostalgia, longing, what we remember and what we forget or misremember, the haze of experience that both grounds us in time and leaves us untethered to the here and now. It’s about the landscape of our remembering selves; it’s about the landscape of our selves, which are constituted of memories.
Memory’s Landscape is the creation of librarian and poet Greg Sellers, who also understands that not only does memory have its own landscape, but the landscape of the physical world is innately connected with the landscape of the human mind. He posts the most moody, atmospheric photos of both the natural and constructed world, landscapes of loss, of longing, of wistfulness, places that feel elemental, surreal, eternal, dreamy, fragmented, haunted.
Both landscape and memory are kinds of frames of “reality,” of what’s objectively experienced, seen, sensed, felt, known. Estonian theatre artist Liina Unt, in “Encounters in Landscapes: Scenography, Landscape and Memory in Estonian Open-Air Performances” (in TRAMES: A Journal of the Humanities & Social Sciences, September 2008) writes:
If memory acts as one of the framing devices for landscape, then landscape equally delimits memory. Landscape acts as the horizon or border that connects certain scenes, events or stories into a structured composition that is connected to the particular place. The relationship is dual: landscape sustains memory while memory keeps the landscape from altering too much.
As visual landscape — whether the earthen, celestial, or aquatic vista that we’re looking at or living in, or a representation of such in a painting, mosaic, etc. — frames experience and connects scenes into a meaningful whole, our facility of memory does the same, focusing our attention on some elements of experience and weaving them over time into a “structured composition” that’s rooted to us uniquely. Landscape and memory both perform the work of connecting disparate elements into a meaningful whole, an ever-evolving picture or story that makes sense of what we experience.
It’s interesting to think about physical landscape itself as “a vast source of cumulative memory stored in a layered structure” as Liina Unt (above) writes; over time, landscapes become layered with elements, and past elements are rarely erased entirely, so that, “metaphorically speaking, landscape is a palimpsest,” bearing visible and invisible traces of its previous forms; the invisible traces are what’s remembered of it — “personal memories, family stories, legends, historic events” and possibly ghost stories, dreams, visions, what we call supernatural phenomenon — which are intertwined with the visible physical landscape that bears scars, marks, traces of it form over time. As Ruth Heholt and Niamh Downing write in Haunted Landscapes: Super-Nature and the Environment (2016), “Places are always marked by what has gone before, by the people who populated and shaped the environment in many different ways, by the weather of millennia, by the habitations and actions of the non-human. Layers of memory and action are embedded in the landscape alongside the layering of the earth’s history in stone.” In a way, landscape has its own memory.
I’m also interested in the realm not only of physical places, what we might call real places, but of dream spaces, some of which don’t seem to correspond to a consciously known or remembered real place. How do dreamscapes interact with memory, and memory with dreamscapes?
“My childhood landscape was not land but the end of the land, the cold, salt, running hills of the Atlantic. I sometimes think my vision of the sea is the clearest thing I own. I pick it up, exile that I am, like the purple ‘lucky stones’ I used to collect with a white ring all the way round, or the shell of a blue mussel with its rainbow angel’s fingernail interior, and in one wash of memory the colors deepen and gleam, the early world draws breath.” — Sylvia Plath, from “Ocean 1212W” in Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams (1977)