by Jennifer on January 28, 2008

ocean.jpgThe past has a way of rising up sometimes, like an old stone foundation somewhere in the woods that is revealed one spring after a few days of hard rain. One week, on a walk through the woods, it isn’t there. The next, it is.

Though, at times we expect the past to tip its hand. At family gatherings that have a history of tension. A funeral, with people at odds. We brace ourselves for it, and shoulder against it, ready to push back. But sometimes. Sometimes, without any warning, it’s right there in the path ahead of us, against our toes before we even see it, and we stumble.

Yesterday, I came up against just such a thing. Something from far, far back, all the way back to late childhood. Something I thought was particular to my family– a punishment– because it was so singular in nature. Or so I thought. Learning that it happened to someone else was so sad to me. Startling, and sad.

I can’t help thinking about how, at any time, a memory or an event can come up through us, unbidden. Just like that. It reminded me of something I wrote for my book a couple of weeks ago, and I’ll share it here. It’s just a paragraph or two, and it’s still rough, but here it is:

Maybe that is how it is after all, for all of us. Are we not just skimming across the surface of all that has gone before? All of our history beneath us, not behind us. How tempting it is to think of things the other way, on a timeline of the years, to put things behind where they cannot catch up to us. When the truth is, anything we have experienced lies beneath, where it can pull at us like the tides, yank us down with its undertow, or split the earth beneath us.

Or. If we are really lucky, something from our past–something good–will carry us along in its current and deliver us, maybe just once, safely to shore.

I’m hoping that the good currents, the ones that come to us with the force of something happy and sweet, will be the strongest in the end. I have hope.

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Jodi January 28, 2008 at 4:47 pm

I love “skimming the surface across the surface of all that has gone before”

Well, OK, I love it all. It’s wonderful.

Jodi January 28, 2008 at 4:48 pm

ok. i know i misquoted you. i suck.

HRH January 28, 2008 at 5:17 pm

You write beautifully. It made me sad too. I can’t wait to read the book…

Brenda January 28, 2008 at 5:40 pm

My thoughts are to whomever it was that made you face this past again. We all bump into those ugly walls unexpectedly. I guess it gives us some kind of feeble solace that we were not the only ones with unpleasant experiences, but we certainly don’t like that being because it happened to someone else.
OK, I was only “there” part of the time. It wasn’t me. But I relive parts of your past just as you do. And I hate it.

But I also relive the wonderful times we’ve had since those childhood days, and I’m grateful for those times and for you.

Mrs. G. January 28, 2008 at 9:01 pm

Me too. Well put. That undertow is tricky stuff.

slouching mom January 28, 2008 at 9:58 pm

I think you’re right. The past, in many ways, is a misnomer.

flutter January 28, 2008 at 9:59 pm

This is gorgeous.

JCK January 28, 2008 at 11:17 pm

Thanks so much for sharing this piece. It floats.

I’m sorry for the challenges, but hope that writing will steer it in a light direction.

suburbancorrespondent January 29, 2008 at 5:49 am

Wonderful analogy!

cce January 29, 2008 at 9:31 am

I’m not sure we ever truly digest anything. It all just sits there, deep in the bowels of our subconscious. Some if it is regurgitated every now and again, and some of it remains trapped down there, emitting the occasional burble and a trace of gas. We are everything that’s come before.
How’s that for an analogy…history as partially digested food? Yours was better, beautiful even. I catch your drift.

ByJane January 29, 2008 at 12:32 pm

Wow! And wow! again. For the writing…it’s stunning, and I haven’t even processed the ideas yet.

Kellan January 29, 2008 at 1:13 pm

This was sadly beautiful Jennifer. I am a big believer that the good will will out over the sad or frightening or horrible. I think it is true that our past is just under the surface – it is there to remind us – keep us humble or thankful. Nice post – take care. Kellan

Landon January 29, 2008 at 5:02 pm

It’s lovely and truthful. I’ve always talked about old memories “bubbling up” so I suppose I rely on a water analogy too.

Tootsie Farklepants January 29, 2008 at 10:59 pm

Wow! This is impressive! Truly beautiful prose.

flutter January 31, 2008 at 2:03 am

nice new digs, lady

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