The Newness of Reminiscence

The "Conspirators" in at Serra Retreat, Malibu, CA, 2011
The “Conspirators” at Serra Retreat, Malibu, CA, 2011

The great, curving expanse of grey, green Pacific sprawls herself out, greeting me from the other side of the dining room window. The view is three years older than the last time I sat in this spot. But, in my spirit, time stands still and alone in its warm embrace of these moments.

The constant hum of the cafeteria machinery competes with the singing of birds just outside the window, heralding a new day from the courtyard, verdant and blessed under the watchful eye of St. Francis.

My ambivalence seems strangely out of place here in such beauty. But when places like this meet with the nose-to-nose memories of those dear ones who once filled it, an otherwise unsullied joy succumbs to a deeper, more demanding sense of peace-filled reticence. It is like holding water in a cupped hand. It’s nourishing properties must be administered cautiously, with care, lest any thoughtless action sees it lost to the thirsty, unforgiving ground. Crusty-lips and dry throats never taste its life-giving goodness if eyes are taken, even for a second, from the elusive prize so tenderly offered.

It was three years ago when last I stared out this window. But there were others then, those whose warp to my woof, formed the tapestry of my inner life for a short time. Their solidity was bedrock to my wayward heart. When seen through 38 eyes, a view becomes an interpretation; a shared vista, each eye contributing to a puzzle so much greater than the sum of its parts.

Their eyes are missing here. Now, today it just looks like water.

What lessons might there be for my soul here, this week, in this place, dripping and fat with the complexities of reminiscence? When one like me, so given to encasing experience in the rose-colored clothing of the perfect past, returns to dine on memory, will I find nourishment, or just stale candy? Can I remove myself from this proclivity long enough to truly see what is new and emerging? Can I avoid the lesser, but easier and more alluring, joy of carrying around my interpreted memories in the baby blanket of nostalgia? Or, will I find the courage to open them up to the sun’s warmth, now three years older, but also newer, with new tales to tell and new songs to sing?

This week, indeed, this very day, I open up tightly clenched fingers and release the past into the white hot brilliance of a new day. I will let myself be blinded by this brand new sun. For when I can see once more I will see with new eyes, now made stronger with the thickness of their own scar tissue.

Broken bones, once healed, are made stronger. Broken hearts, once mended, feel deeper still. Broken time, once re-imagined, builds unbreakable bridges, upon which one may traverse from then to now and on again.

Today I will seek tomorrow through yesterday.


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