Archive for August 1st, 2022


July is gone and we stumble forward into the dreaded, steamy days of August. I wish I had better memories of Augusts from the past but somehow such memory fails me.

Maybe that’s a good thing. Sometimes the fading or loss of a memory allows us to move on.

This thought came to mind when I came across the poem Forgetfulness from former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins. At its beginning the poem describes forgetting the author or title or plot of a book or even whether one has read that particular book. It struck a chord because it’s a feeling I have experienced many times in recent years.

A back bedroom of my studio is a makeshift library with bookshelves lining the walls. Even the shelves in the top of that room’s closet are stacked with books. There are hundreds and hundreds of books picked up over the decades.

To be honest, I have not read them all. Probably the majority of them. There is too little time and too many other demands on it.

But more troubling is that feeling when I enter the room and scan the shelves and come upon a title and can’t quite remember if I have read it. I might think I have but can’t pull up any of the details, can’t recall the idea behind the book or even vaguely remember the style or rhythm of the writing. I’ll pick it up then and start reading a bit before suddenly recognizing something that makes me realize that I have indeed read this book before.

But it still feels like a mystery to me, and I have no doubt that I will be no less surprised by any revelations the book might offer if I continue reading now as I did the first time.

Those moments make me chuckle a bit but also make me a little sad. It just feels like evidence of something lost. Oh, this book might not be of any great significance in my life so perhaps it is no big deal. But what significant things might have also been misplaced in the corners of my memory?

Maybe that’s a coping mechanism that emerges as we age. You can’t regret or worry about those things you have forgotten.

Oh, well. Or so it goes as Vonnegut would say.

I urge you to give a listen to the reading of the poem at the top. It’s over the top of a film of San Francisco from 1904, two years before the Great Earthquake of 1906. I have watched this video (without the Collins poem) several times before. It’s almost like meditation. The straightforwardness of the camera’s path and the chaos of the crowds and the vehicles that constantly cross it make for interesting observations.

It has the wistfulness of a lost memory of a book.

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