The persistence of sense memory.

The Fates have scissors. Photo by Zac Gilbert.

On a whim of wanting to hear a particular song, I listened to a summer mix I started three years ago. I’ve added to it, deleted some; but it’s a long list and hearing it brings so many moments back instantly. Music, in a lesser but similar way, is a memory trigger like scent / smell. Visceral. And a visceral response is a true thing, or at least a real thing (which may be the same after all).

Triggers are interesting; perhaps under-examined or recognized in our lives. I’m not talking about demonized or scandalized triggers often writ large in gobsmacked, reactive media. I mean little others; day-to-day. Responded to, but not necessarily thought about. Powerful but often fleeting.

I lived in a building about 15 years ago in which the woman who resided below me had a stove-top coffee maker (never saw it, but knew). Every morning on my way out to work I’d smell the coffee and it placed me in my grandparents’ house, where my grandma had coffee at the ready, always. (Lauded coffee, sworn by, percolating on the big old gas stove.)

I didn’t drink coffee when that memory set; was a child— but it was such a comfort, to smell that strong-to-nearly-burnt, familiar stove-fired brew in my Brooklyn hallway, years after my gram had merged with the infinite. I relished it like a long-lost hug.

Often they are unexpected things that become touchstones or cornerstones of memory— gold threads in the tapestry. They are almost never the things planned or architected to be so. The strands are chosen by the Fates (else cut with their scissors— they edit for fun). Try, of course, but the best way to curry favor with those ladies is to live authentically. (That word has been highjacked, too, but it doesn’t change its denotation, its true meaning.)

Say some words!

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