Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Memory Walks

What is it about the human mind that so enjoys retracing its steps? On a recent trip to New Orleans, I greatly enjoyed finding the hotel we stayed in when we eloped there 15 years ago (today) and the restaurants in which we ate such memorable meals.

You'd think that each new trip to a place we would be more interested in visiting parts that we haven't been before. And we are a little, but in most respects we aren't. If you rent a little house somewhere for a week or two in the same town, don't you take great pleasure in finding a little bakery or restaurant or store that you love so much that you frequent it while you're there? And then when you come back, you've just got to go there again and get that cafe au lait, or dim sum or whatever it was that you associate with it.

I think it's because we lose access to so many pleasant memories in our daily life. We become preoccupied with mistakes we've made, regrets we've had. I recently learned that the word resentment comes from the French, "re-sentment" literally feeling again. All too often we spend time cultivating and harvesting bad feelings instead of good.

But when we return to a place we once spent time in, whether for a weekend or for years, we are magically given access to pleasant memories long dormant. The smell of a given street, the taste of a dish, the color of a flower, are where we store our treasures. Ah, forget that, they are our treasures. How good that something within us wants to open up those boxes covered with dust in our mental attics and play.

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