Aesthetic Visions: Catalysts for Memory

There comes a time when I must refill my emotional dregs.

Often it is because of some great catharsis from the past few days or weeks, but sometimes it just kind of hits me–a sudden understanding that I need to get away, to a place I consider a sanctuary, and just refill. Depending on the type of emotional draining that happened, the sanctuary’s position will change. Today, I knew I needed to be around people, so I went to the second-most place guaranteed to fill my tired soul–Barnes & Noble. A place full of my two favorite things, books and coffee.

Usually, the forest fulfills my need for emotional centering, but that would not work at the moment even if I felt the need to go there. It is too cold, dangerously cold, the weather outlets say, and I find myself missing the gentle warmth of April, the flowers and trees heavy with green, the need to shed layers instead of don them.

There was an impetus for this sudden wanting for summer.

A few days ago, during a scheduled grocery run with my Dad, I happened upon a scented candle. It was a scent I knew and loved quite well, ‘clean linen.’ Many find this a boring scent, but I always loved its simplicity and, well, cleanliness. I had recently swapped it out for candles smelling like pine trees and forests and winter nights, but I’d felt need for a change, so when I saw the Glade candle labeled with that oh-so-familiar scent, I picked it up and inhaled.

Out of nowhere, a memory.

I was fourteen. I sat in my old bedroom in Virginia. Afternoon had fallen sleepily on our three story, wood-and-brick house, and my windows were open to let in a breeze tinged with honeysuckle. A song of gentle warmth and slow happy days echoed through my room as I read the twelfth book in my favorite saga, The Legend of Drizzt, and reveled in the easy peace of lingering childhood.

Another, right after it, of a warm June night. I was barefoot, belting out my heart and soul, shattering the silence of the mountain. My skin smelled of bug spray as I sang a wordless tune, caught up in the beauty of the stars and their firefly counterparts swarming around me. A warm breeze ruffled my hair, which had gone long and golden with summer, and I wanted for nothing.

The memories were so strong, so sudden, and startling in their ferocity. How many candles scented with ‘clean linen’ had I smelled in all the years? And yet, that single candle in January, standing amid the eleventh aisle of Wal-Mart, left me reeling with a recall unlike anything I’d ever experienced.

“Triggered like a tripwire
Every time I breathe it in.”

The memories seize me again now as I write them down–so strong I am there once more, reliving those unremarkable summer times before reality cruelly pulls me back.

“Like a time machine rebuilds the past,
our memories return.
Like remembering the ashes
before we burn.”

Since then, as if the memories sparked something else within, I have found myself dreaming of summer. I’m tired of empty tree branches stretched skyward, scraping at cloudless cerulean blue with bony fingers. I’m tired of cold that takes my breath away no matter how many layers I wear.

I’m tired of frozen extremities, of curling into balls at night to keep warm and endless gray days of wintry mix, but it’s only January. A winter this bitter will most likely stretch into March, bringing with it the terrible flu season it has entailed. April will probably come before warmth sets in to Virginia’s climate, and yet still, the ache remains.

“Research says that the only way
to keep memories intact
is to lock them away and close the doors
until countless years have passed.”

I have not yearned for summer like this in a long time.

It was easy to hate summer while living in Mississippi. Weather there was always hot, always heavy. Winter was a welcome–albeit, short–relief, and was always over before we had the chance to recover from humid temperatures and wish for them to come back. Here, that is easy. Winter is as long as it should be, and I am properly wishing for the next season once it arrives. Though this year, my wishing came a bit too early.

“I guess that explains why the strangest things
can conjure up the past,
and forgotten time will find
its long way back.”

In the long run, I prefer winter. I always have. Not just the temperatures, which are wonderful for someone like me who is often too-hot, but the aesthetic of the cold and snow and chilly winter winds. But when cold abounds without snow, when holidays are finished and leave nothing but dirty gray ice in their wake, I can’t help but long for green and growing things.

“Cause I feel like I’ve been sleeping through
the better part of this.
Laying dormant through an endless winter
that doesn’t even exist.”

Again, those summer memories return, and I have to fight to quell the rising tide of nostalgia in my chest before it consumes me in the middle of this crowded, public area.

I know I can make more memories just as good as those, or better. Of course, that is my rational side speaking. My emotional side–the side that still believes herself to be that fourteen-year-old girl dreaming of magical worlds strewn across the sky–longs only for the simplicity of a time I had almost forgotten until I caught the scent of a wayward candle.

“A memory, clear as a bell.
A story I will try to tell,
Maybe this time, without words.”

–“Atlas: Smell”
Sleeping at Last

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