“I don’t want to think of how much damage we did to this magnificent world, what pains and erasures you now abide because of us, what ghostly, amputated feelings you suffer because we live on in you.”
I read today that memories can be passed down to future generations in our DNA. Amazing.
So you: do you stand sometimes, at the top of a snowy mountain, and feel fear for seemingly no reason?
I ask because there was this time. I’d gone skiing, but I was afraid. I hopped off the lift and stood staring out at the vast gorgeousness of clear, bright blue against the slant of sparkling white—and promptly sat down and removed my skis. I put them in my lap and decided to gently scoot myself down to the bottom.
But ski pants are slick. Before I knew it, I was sliding down the mountain like a greased sled. I’d thought I’d made the right, careful decision, but suddenly I was taking out little kids, whizz-by apologizing, soaked through to my underwear with a snow-road rash down the back of my legs.
Do you have these kinetic memories in you? We were a generation of poor choices.
You may not want me in you. I understand. We failed you. We drank it all in or took it for granted or skinny dipped in it or bungeed from it or wrote poems about it or made big-budget movies about its destruction, but we took too long to get it together.
I don’t want to think of how much damage we did to this magnificent world, what pains and erasures you now abide because of us, what ghostly, amputated feelings you suffer because we live on in you.
I think of little Margot in Bradbury’s "All Summer in a Day," with her memory of the sun something like a copper penny. And then: her understanding of the sun from beyond a locked door. If you feel pain—if there is a vestigial joy that gives you pain, I’m sorry.
But if you feel a vestigial faith in people when everything in your world says you shouldn’t—that’s me, too.
Does Old Rag Mountain still stand? I once hiked it wearing Keds—flat, slick shoes—in the rain, slipping everywhere. But: autumn in the Shenandoahs. So high, everything was an ocean of fire-red and gold. And strangers, up that high, kept extending their hands.
Do you have that memory in you, too? If you ever find yourself here, look to the people still extending their hands. That, in the end, is how we didn’t lose it all.