Monday, September 12, 2011

Memory As Medicine

Memory As Medicine

It was getting rather late and a fine mist was falling as I zipped along down a famous Southern street on my way home from my knitting group, The Whiskey Knitters. (Never fear, knitting was all I did.) Just ahead on the left, I could see the art museum sitting up on the hill like an ivory treasure chest, silently soaking up the glow of its spotlights, its doors now locked up tight, its great works in repose till morning. Across its wide stone face stretched a banner advertising the new exhibition by artist Radcliffe Bailey, the title of which was “Memory As Medicine”, and though I was not drunk on whiskey, I did find these words intoxicating. They kept my mind buzzing all the way back home.

Memory as medicine. How marvelous. As someone who yammers on about the importance of creating wonderful memories, these three words were like catnip. For when one’s circumstances or surroundings lack the spiritual nourishment necessary for an unfettered mind and a happy heart, sweet memories can be sublime places of mental retreat. Good, good medicine indeed.

Dotted through my home are little reminders of wonderful hours that to a visitor’s eye might seem utterly unremarkable. To me, however, each one serves as a magical talisman capable of whisking me off to other places, other days, by the mere fact of its presence. See that tiny stone? The one the colour of a thundercloud, shaped like the newest moon? It was brought back to me from Tintagel by a delightful friend the year before he died. I keep it lying atop a stack of books on Arthurian legend and each time I hold it in my hand I hear the faint sound of sea wind rushing through Merlin’s cave; I see my friend grinning at me from the hilltop above. The gothic painting over the baby grand? I purchased that with my earnings from the only song The Songwriter and I ever wrote together. If it catches my eye when I enter the room, I am immediately transported to the afternoon we spent throwing lines back and forth, laughing like kids. That tiny conch shell was picked up on Edward’s first trip to the beach. That painted mirror was once hanging in a microscopic antique shop on a Paris side street - I carried it all over Europe in my luggage, wrapped up in sweaters and shawls - years ago.

And the photograph at the top of this post is one I keep hanging in my kitchen. Not the greatest picture ever taken, I realize. The composition is not particularly good. I am caught in mid-sentence, my cheeks flushed from a very long hike up a very long hill. So why is it special? Because if memory is medicine, this photograph is, for me, the healthiest elixir imaginable, for it represents one of the most perfect days of my life. A heavenly blue sky of a day, one in which every single second, from dawn until midnight, was one I could happily stay in forever. Come with me and I’ll show you just a little of what that day was like...

An early morning spent writing, always good....

A walk around a lake....

A hike in the hills....

Approaching a storybook house....

At the gate of a storybook garden....

Is that Peter over there?.....

Seconds after this photo was taken, came a thundering sound over the hill to my left as a black and white sheepdog herded his flock directly across our path, close enough to touch....

And I sat for quite a while drinking in this view from an tiny building where the great poet himself once wrote.
We share the same birthday.
I almost heard him whisper....

I could go on and on, but I know how boring it can be to wander around in the memories of others. That is the most wondrous thing about memory, I suppose. It is good medicine tailored specifically to the patient. My memories are not yours. Yours are not mine. But they all can serve as balms to bad days, antidotes to the disarray of modern life.
Take some time out and visit some of your own best memories.
See how much better you feel.

Oh yes, and if Edward could choose his favourite memory?
No doubt he would pick the day we brought his best friend Apple home to stay.
Just look at that smile on his face!
(We should have realized how big she would get by those paws.)


  1. I have enjoyed sharing your 'Hilltop' memory.
    If memory is medicine then blogging is the spoon.

  2. I have thoroughly enjoyed visiting your wonderful blog, everything about it is delightful!

  3. What a wonderful post, as I read it I thought of the "strange" things people would see laying around my office, like a small pile of chestnuts that I picked up along the champs Elysee in Paris on my husbands first trip to Paris with me.

    Thank you for taking me back to revisit some beautiful memories.

  4. What a wonderful post. It's practically a poem. And the photos! I was delighted to see those.

    "Memory as medicine."

    As one who takes a lot of medicine, my immediate thought upon reading this was that medicine can certainly help a person, but it can also screw him up thoroughly.

  5. I just knew you were going to relive a day in the Lake District! It IS such a beautiful place, and to think I followed in your footsteps up that pathway to Hilltop just a few months ago!

    If only there was a medicine to make it possible to turn back the clock and spend those very special days over again! I have a list of days in places I would give anything to have another chance of visiting.

    Mary X

  6. Pamela, this is just what I need to hear today, to banish I think my worst memory, that of 9/11/01. I am going to walk around the house this eve and touch all the little talismans I collect, and let those happy memories and good thoughts fill my head again. And Tintagel! A flood of good memories and Cornwall and the rugged coast and sea; Memory as Medicine, yes indeed. Though truthfully, the two little dogs now at my feet may be the best medicine of all!

  7. I did. I really did. I saw Peter jump out of the picture and hop around my desktop. Oh, how I yearn to visit Hill Top on day. I know I will. Your memory was just the medicine I needed right now.

  8. The power of memory is a wonderful thing. On a difficult day, or on a night when sleep eludes me, I can charm up a memory to keep me company,to soothe and to relive a happy day.
    Lovely photos, all of them.

  9. You're right about Edward. PON's love company - whether two or our legged. Edward the companionable .

  10. I love these countryside pictures! very good views :)

  11. Hello Pamela

    Yes, memories are good and I am happy to have so many good memories!


    Tracy :)

  12. You glam, glam, glam thing you! I can attest to the fact that you look every inch as glamourous today. :)

    Ah memories, the stuff that life is made of. We need them and you have beautiful ones here Pamela. I love all your photos.

    What I am dying to know....the lyrics to the song you and the Songwriter created....another post someday?

    Best wishes Pamela for a lovely day!

    Jeanne xxx

  13. I do agree about memory Pamela. Because of my illness we have been unable to go abroad this year (we were planning on going up the inside passage to Alaska) but I have spent many happy hours going through old photoalbums and reliving holidays in the Rockies, the Canyonlands, the coast of Noway - memories are wonderful things.
    I love that photo of you and the two dogs - you all look so happy.

  14. Oh Pamela, so many of us needed this post right now. You are truly a beautiful woman inside and out! Thank you from the depths of my heart!

    As I write from from desk I look up at my bookcase and see many talisman's from such wonderful memories and friends.


    Art by Karena

  15. What a beautiful post. I will do as you advise. I love visiting my best memories and feel so grateful for all the restorative power they have. Just like reading a treasured book, they can certainly "serve as balms to bad days, and antidotes to the disarray of modern life." So well said by you!

  16. Yes, such a lovely post.
    I think you are almost as passionate about the English countryside as I am.
    As I get older, I revisit the past more and more.
    Loved Edward greeting Apple! I wonder if dogs do have memories?
    Obviously they remember places and smells, but do they look back?

  17. Before my father passed away he wrote a note to himself about memories, stating it another way - "Memories are what we put in the bank for another day to draw on when we need them." I, too, have talismans all around inside my home, but I have yet to catch up on trips to England you so vividly describe with your writing and photos...and I like the spontaneous photo of you in mid- sentence..

  18. Lovely post - and you're so lovely in your photos! Though I've never been there, I recognized Beatrix Potter's home. Recently I had the wonderful experience of reading Peter Rabbit to my barely two-year-old grandson who was visiting. The next night his mother, who had not been there when I had read to him, said that he was asking for the book on bunnies and did I know what he was talking about. I was delighted for I had wondered if the story and the unfamiliar British words were too advanced for him. He had even taken his mother to the bookshelf where I kept the complete volume of Potter's works that was high out of reach. He had remembered my pulling it off the shelf! So, there's a memory to cherish - reading to my first grandchild and opening up new worlds to him that had delighted me at a young age.

    And as for Tintagel - I never made it there, but I spent a glorious few days in Carmarthen, Wales, where I dragged my mother to every castle and place with any ties to Arthurian legend. I felt very close to Merlin at the time, no doubt because of the enchanting writing of Mary Stewart. My mother died 24 years ago, but those memories of our lovely trip to Europe so long ago still burn brightly.

  19. These tangible momentos of special memories are what make our houses homes. They provide warmth, charm, and connection...I can't imagine not having these treasures around to bring memory filled smiles and comfort when needed, they are such a gift. Thank you for sharing yours and Edward's with us...they are special indeed...especially Apple's cute paws (I want to give them a little sqeeze).
    xo J~

  20. A very cathartic reminder of what we in the U.S. and many around the world are experiencing today...

  21. It has been quite awhile since I've visited, Pamela, and I enjoyed seeing such beautiful photos of one of your favorite places to remember. It looks very peaceful!

  22. I've never before consider memory as medicine. Thanks for planting the idea in my elderly brain. I like it; I like it quite a bit.

  23. i just spent this afternoon with
    m c beaton's agatha raisin in the cotswolds... then i roamed the highlands with hamish macbeth.
    i love england and plan to return someday, so your post was delightful.
    the idea of memories as medicine is magical. i value so many, but never thought of them that way. yet when i'm low (which actually is quite seldom) i do find myself remembering the happy or funny moments. better than pills by far!!
    thank you for another brilliant post. i love how your mind works.
    tammy j

  24. "Memory as medicine"...excellent! Your post was thoroughly enjoyable and the day 'was' perfect, that's easily seen through the camera lens.

  25. Pamela...this is exactly why, two years ago, I vowed not to buy anything that was not absolutely necessary. I took a long look around my house and realized I have this treasure trove of beautiful things that carry so many memories. I know why, where and when everything in my house was acquired and I spend time looking, loving and thinking about every single thing. That is how it is supposed to be.

  26. Fascinating trip inside...thanks for sharing it!

  27. Pamela, all your posts are so very special. This memories, is all I have of so many gone before me.
    My phone book is smaller every year I have stars by their names and when I see them I cry.

    Do we go like the flowers and Fish? Is there a Heaven or is Heaven on Earth?
    I asked a very religious man after my Husband passed on. He started to tear up, said he just lost his brother and was wondering the same question. yvonne

  28. Wonderful post my dear..Hilltop is the place to be..

  29. Not only Peter, but memories of Swallows and Amazons in these views.

    Ah, memory. My PhD thesis was on memory and literary creation. But it hasn't spoiled the wonder of it.

  30. Memory as medicine - love it. Wonderful post and gorgeous photos. Thanks for sharing.

    As I read it, I looked around my untidy cluttered office at the 'memories' I've collected over the years. My office no longer looks cluttered ... it looks a very happy place to be. :)

  31. I love the name of your knitting group – hilarious! I like that Memory as Medicine slogan too. I really like that opening shot of you because it’s natural. What a magical day for you to remember – thanks for sharing it with us.

  32. this is good post.
    and you can go here

    tanks very much.... :)


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