Friday, March 31, 2017

Mental Imprints

There are circumstances in my life that for one reason or another have clearly imprinted themselves on my mind; they reappear like a Polaroid photograph in reverse. At times, I receive a flash from the past as clear as a picture print. Unlike many memories which slowly fade, eventually dissipating like a wisp of smoke, something about these circumstances forbid me to forget them. Certain smells, actions, sights or sounds bring back those memories with the impact of a punch in the gut.

One of the clearest instances of this occurrence is the time I snatched a box of Arm and Hammer Baking Soda from the unattended back door of Bob Howell's mini mercantile. This happened in Bluff a long time ago, when I was too young to know better and too foolish to understand the ramifications of my misdeed. I had absolutely no use for the product, but the opportunity presented itself and I seized it. When I arrived home with a brand new, unopened box of this handy dandy product, my parents became immediately suspicious and soon unraveled the mystery of its appearance.

Not only was I appropriately punished for my indiscretion, I was also forced to return the booty to Mr. Howell and give him a full explanation of how it had come into my possession. From that day forward, the trademark I perceived to be "Thor's buff bicep and thunder thumper," has symbolized truth and honesty to me. Arm and Hammer also works well for indigestion, which reminds me of pain and suffering, which reminds me of deceit and humiliation, which reminds me of trust and virtue. A complicated chain of emotion to be sure, but an effective metaphor.

A more pleasant mental imprint emerges when I experience vertigo. My initial memory of this feeling was formed when I first spotted my future wife as I spun around an indoor roller rink. I was so impressed that I fell in behind her to get a better look at her . . . technique. I became a bit dizzy spiraling around the hardwood floor and keeping my eye on the prize. Flashes of light from the disco ball, high volume reverberations of 70's rock and roll and her Levi's 501 jeans caused me to experience a fatal attraction. After speaking with her, the deal was sealed; beauty and brains in the same package were too much to resist, and I was hooked. Whenever I see that woman, I become weak in the knees, light-headed and altogether messed up.

Our three kids also cause these flashbacks. When I see a young woman expecting a child, I relive my children's emergence into this world; the depth of love and emotion I have for them washes over me. When I smell baby lotion, see children laughing and playing or hear a Disney tune, I envision precious moments of their young lives.

The color pink, a sharp wit, body casts and volleyballs make me think of Alyssa. With McKale, it is homemade gift cards, wild flowers, sage green eyes and quirky smiles. The sound a basketball makes on hardwood floors, a bat connecting with a baseball, blue eyes, mud baths and, unfortunately, blood on my hands conjure up images of Spenser. The mental imprints are clearly visible, powerful and emotionally charged.

In the trading post I am privileged to work with family, friends and a menagerie of uniquely creative artists that effectively alter my memory patterns. The smells of sumac, sheep wool and juniper cause past interactions to leap into my thoughts. The feel of mohair, the texture of baskets or a sliver from a juniper sculpture conjure up specific mental pictures from my past. The taste of such things as mutton stew, salted fry bread, pinion gum and even Bluff's red dirt cause me instant replays of memorable moments of long ago.

I am not exactly sure why and how these mental imprints are possible, but they are very real for me. I am often surprised by the clarity of the visual recall I experience and the intensity of smell, taste and emotion that revisits my senses. These moments mean a great deal to me. I am hopeful my mental capacity does not fail and coat these occurrences with layers of mind-boggling dust, impeding my recall with concentrations of sticky, aggravating cobwebs. If I can keep my virtual reality system up and running, I hope to add more of these precious moments to my somewhat overloaded hard drive.

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