Today is my birthday, so I thought it would be appropriate to reflect on my earliest memory. Which birthday, you ask? Well, let’s just say I’m very happy with my retirement so far...
For a long time, I thought my earliest memory was of riding a pony in a ring beside a road. I remember the textures: the tooling on the saddle horn, the pony’s coarse mane, the incredible velvet of his nose. The luscious aroma of horse and leather. And I remember wailing with disappointment when I was lifted out of the saddle. My parents confirmed that this happened the summer I was two, which makes it a pretty early memory. They also claimed my first word was “forthy.” I’m not sure about that, but it’s true I’ve loved horses since babyhood.
Then, when I was 18, I went spelunking with some college friends. The cave was shallow, cool, well-explored, and damp, and we were properly equipped with ropes, helmets, and helmet lamps. At one point I was skootching on my back through a narrow passage when my lamp went out. It was rather scary, but the group leader called out to encourage me. I inched toward my friends’ voices and the glow of their lamps some thirty feet away. Relief flooded through me at the touch of their hands. We returned to campus exhausted, gloriously muddy and filled with the exhilaration of exploring.
That night and for many nights afterward, I dreamed of the passage. Over and over I slipped along through the moist darkness with tons of rock above my head. Sometimes the dream segued into other adventures on that outing--the drip of water, the flare of a lamp in my eyes, or “chimneying” up a vertical passage by pressing my back against one wall and pushing up foot by foot against the other. Over the next few months, as new experiences came my way, the dream faded.
About a year later it returned once more. Different this time. The passage was still wet, but now it was warm. There were light and voices ahead, but I was not making any effort. I simply…moved along. Most important, I had no fear. No thought at all. I existed in a timeless space, impelled by a strong, inexorable power toward whatever was to come. The next morning I realized that the cave experience had awakened a birth memory.
So yes, I remember being born. I remember the passage. The wetness, the warmth, the pushing, the sudden chill, then light and sound and warmth and comfort. And that’s all I remember. From that day to the pony ride, my memory is blank. The dream never returned, maybe because I had identified it, or maybe because I never went spelunking again.
It’s a remarkable memory--one I share with Ray Bradbury--and I like to think there is some sort of connection between the spelunking and the birthing. Something beyond the physical similarities. Maybe it’s something like this: there are passages in life. Some we choose, some we face willy-nilly, but all are challenging. Some are painful; some are smooth. We may resist going through them, we may be pushed, or we may have to repeat them. Sometimes the light at the end is hard to see or believe in. We may not remember what came before, and we certainly cannot know what will come after. With luck there will be light and comfort, but there is no guarantee. I wish I had some wise insight to offer, but I don’t. All I can say is that so far--so far--the passages have left me exhausted, muddy, and exhilarated.
Art is not the only thing that can be FRAMED.
When a long-lost painting turns up at Brush & Bevel, a decade-old mystery is reawakened. What really happened to artist Jerry Berger and his model Abby Bingham? Was it a murder-suicide, as the police proclaim, or was it something far more sinister?
Gallery owner Ginny Brent and her loyal staffers, Sue Bradley and Elsie Kimball, each take a different path to unravel the mystery. Together, their discoveries start to form a cohesive whole. But as they get closer to the solution, they discover to their horror that art is not the only thing that can be framed.
Nikki Andrews has worked as a picture framer, craft store clerk, and administrative assistant, but in her real life she is a writer, editor, and songmaker. She is a member of Talespinners and the New Hampshire Writers Project, and has published two science fiction novels and several short stories. When she’s not at her desk, she might be releasing salmon fry on the Piscataquog River, making jams or sweaters, or exploring her surroundings on foot, bike or snowshoe. She lives near a waterfall in New Hampshire with her wonderful husband, a possessive cat, and assorted wildlife.
Ebook available: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B015JWZHWY
Print available: http://bit.ly/1PMnKCB
My blog: www.scrivenersriver.blogspot.com