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Collective Memories: Insights of a Forgetful Reader

Gael Fonken- Kaleidoscope Journal, 2005

The following statement, 'All existence is meaningless' is actually full of meaning. That is the irony of language. LESLIE MARMON SILKO There's something about writing that's like armor to the soul. ANONYMOUS The irony of nature is that is as empty as it is full. There is something in every inch of it, yet still nothing that cannot and will not be eroded away, like a rock is washed away gradually by tiny drops of water. Only through memory can we grasp the content of nature; its fullness is always extending beyond itself. That which is seen absorbs the seer. Coming from and returning to our collective consciousness, memory is what keeps us from getting lost. Memory gives us the map upon which to plot our course.. But then who is to say that our memories correspond with what is REALLY there? Do we see obstacles or do we make them happen? How is it that we know when to stop before the invisible walls that we build? Do we enlist transcendent (re)sources to remind us of what evil or does some outsider come to snatch us away from harm? Could there really be a devil out there or do we construct it/him to make up for what we are unable to remember about ourselves, our friends, our enemies? Is our/your God out there at some safe distance, or does he/she emerge from within to surprise us? Do we make our fears into gods, or do we dare to embrace that singular Oneness who has dared to love each usand all of us? Is it better to enter into the divine like one would climb a mountain, or do we learn best by sitting at a distance, like a dry patch of earth ready for rain? Today I discovered that Luis Owens, a famous Native American writer, is now dead of suicide, leaving the wife and two children he wrote of so intimately in his last book (I Hear the Train, 2001). It is hard to focus my thoughts, as the passionate, earth-loving words he wrote keep coming up in my memory like the hot breath of a ghost. His insights seem almost hyperreal to me now. The fullness of his soul dances in my mind as I demand to know why. Where in all this openness was the wall? I hold his wife and children in my memoryas well as the others he wrote about so vividly. They poke out of my mind like stick figures in a cartoon movie that has no way to end. Like old-time theater goers, we are left sitting in the dark as the severed film on the reel spins loudlyflap, flap, flap, flap, flap. Do we dare to reload it? Do we dare enter his life again? Or is it better to forget his leap into heaven, and anchor life once again on old mossy stumps? How thirsty are you? The crow lifts off the ground, heavy with curiosity flap, flap, flaphigh into the sun-baked sky. We are what we dream; no more no less.