Highgate

Wednesday

Last night


...I kept Jenny up late, because i couldn't sleep - i was exhausted but, just before i fell away, all these memories and smells started filling up my head. It was a very strange sensation to the point where, a more than a few times it took me a moment to clear the past out of my eyes and comeback to my bedroom. Something triggered it; I'm sure - a smell or something i looked at; though while an occasionally sentimental person, I'm not all that nostalgic; my past has never been as interesting to me as my future, and while some days my present doesn't seem all that thrilling, i also have a good imagination that can fill in the blanks. I consider myself lucky in these ways.

Earlier we had been reading - me, with more Sebald; who continues to amaze me with his prose; if only i had my copy of "Vertigo" w/ me right now... [You, however, take delight in the ship, despoiling the lake with sails. I will go down to the deep. Plunge, thaw, go blind, become ice. In the tram, Dr K. is suddenly convulsed by a violent aversion to [mr.] Pick, because the latter has a small, unpleasant hole in his nature through which he sometimes creeps forth in his entirety...] Jenny was reading Tom Robbins... am i being ignorant to suggest that only girls like that guy? probably. Am i writing right now to put off the fact that i have a huge project due at the end of the month, and i'm totally stuck right now? definitely....

We finished the last hour before bed with an oration of Lovecraft's "The Festival" one of my very favorite and very short stories of his; his description of a sleepy evil new england town perched on the edge of a wintry Atlantic ocean during the yuletide is amazing and just short of fevered. And we get to listen to the church bells toll across the street every hour; and count them... Jenny counted 12, i counted 11, i'm sure it was midnight.

It was something maybe in those stories, or that we talked about reading a Bellairs novel next time; or some Poe; i'm not sure... But i started thinking of the way light came in through my Australian friend Jess's bedroom windows, and how there was always alot of beach sand on the floorboards; how their was this small picture of Bob Dylan that i hadn't ever seen before right above the lightswitch by the door... how i had a picture of that room somewhere; but i could remember where. How Jess came to visit me in one of her many tours of the world; and i barely had a moment for her then, and right now - i had nothing but.

Mostly thoughts out of context; scenes and alot of smells; i think my olfactory sense is better than my memory; None of them bringing back a slew of emotions though; it felt alot like having to sit through some familial slide show around the holidays, i couldn't leave the room, i was required to be there, even though i wanted to sleep.

Eventually Jenny noticed my discomfort and started asking me questions about this and that - and to her credit, even though it was after midnight; she seemed actually interested in hearing all my disjointed brick-a-brack. She's a very good listener. Afterwards i finally fell asleep, but this morning i woke up feeling very strange; i didn't have a single dream last night, that i remember, but today feels much like one. Even as i'm sitting in this terribly sterile office, sitting at my desk listening to keyboards clack and phones ring, i can't shake the feeling that the volume is turned down, or that i have cotton in my head; and that gravity is just a little bit unreal, a little less constant.

We don't pay for heat at our apartment, and i assume it's because no one has done any repair work in there for years; our windows look to be the same windows that were installed in the 1940's, and now they're loose and rattle when it's windy. Some effort has been made to install some outer storm windows, they tend to jam open, or skip rails. Last night the window by the head of my bed was letting in a constant drift of icy air, even though I'd tried my best to secure the storm window, and had taken a rather large scarf and jammed it into the sill for insulation; it helped a little.

6 comments:

The ARBitrator said...

I think I remember a school trip, probably fourth grade, where we went to an old farm place. We were inside what I recall to be a converted barn type place where we churned butter and made candles. You probably don't remember that. . . but I recall that for you, the smell of the place somehow brought back old memories. It did nothing for me!

Tmoore said...

Ha, yes - i remember that, it was last year that figured out that it was Shelburne Farms!

The ARBitrator said...

Oh, that's where it was! I don't remember where half of the places we went on field trips were. The other half. . . were the Shelburne Museum!

I was just thinking that for us the memory of being in grade school is now an older memory than any 'old' memory we could have had whilst still in grade school. It's all relative, ain't it. . . Oh, sorry, I'm rambling!

jay said...

Smell is by far the most nostalgic scent for me. Whenever is smell fresh cut grass, it immediately brings me back to the Little League fields behind C.P. Smith elementary school, and leads me on to a string of memories connected to it--the feel and pinging sound of a baseball hitting an aluminum bat; the sight of grass growing from the cracks in the neglected tennis courts; the smell of pot & the cool walls of the dugouts in high school...

Your nostalgic blog has been the catalyst for my nostalgia...memories breed memories.

Undead Molly said...

(Read this whole article at http://www.macalester.edu/psychology/whathap/UBNRP/Smell/memory.html)

It is first important to understand the physiology of olfaction. The primary olfactory cortex, in which higher-level processing of olfactory information takes place, forms a direct link with the amygdala and the hippocampus. Only two synapses separate the olfactory nerve from the amygdala, which is involved in experiencing emotion and also in emotional memory (Herz & Engen, 1996). In addition, only three synapses separate the olfactory nerve from the hippocampus, which is implicated in memory, especially working memory and short-term memory. Olfaction is the sensory modality that is physically closest to the limbic system, of which the hippocampus and amygdala are a part, and which is responsible for emotions and memory. Indeed this may be why odor-evoked memories are unusually emotionally potent (1996).

It may be significant that olfactory neurons are unmyelinated, making olfaction the slowest of all the senses. It not only takes the brain longer to perceive olfactory stimuli; the sensation of an odor also persists for greater lengths of time than do sensations of vision or audition (1996). The fact that olfactory receptors are the only sensory receptors directly exposed to the environment may also help explain the relationship between olfaction and memory.

Tmoore said...

interesting - thanks for the science tip Molly; I find my olfactory sense tingling in the strangest of places sometimes. If i go into a bent franklin's that sucker goes into over drive, to the point where i can develop acute anxiety. i have to really try not to get sweaty when i walk around in one of those places. I think it takes me back to being a kid and getting dragged in there by my mother or grandmother, and having to suffer the endless isles of fabric crafts, candles and garland.