Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Roots of Our Tree Worn Useless by Time

This is a continuation of yesterday's post, "Sound of One Tree Clapping in the Theater of Time".

I do physical work these days. Oh, it isn't hard labor, I'm not breaking rocks on a chain gang nor am I hoisting 100 pound sacks of cement on my shoulder to load on trucks. I often am lifting and moving cartons that can weight up to 50 pounds, hanging stuff on rods above my head or climbing a ladder to place some heavy object on a 12 foot high shelf.  You never sit down, I am always on my feet.

It is exactly what I wanted after I was forced into "retirement" a decade ago. I enjoy it.

This isn't my first experience with physical employment, but most of my prior brushes were in my youth, doing stoop labor in farm fields or loading flatbed trucks. Most of my adult life my jobs have been mental. Writing itself is a mental chore. The heaviest thing you lift might be a ream of paper to put in the printer.

Several of the positions I held over the years were challenging and I'm not going to indulge in any false modesty to sound humble, I enjoyed meeting those challenges because I was a fairly smart guy. One of my strong suits was my memory. As a child and a younger man I had an almost photographic memory. I say almost, because I believe a truly photographic memory is when someone can look at a piece of media and remember it verbatim all the time. I could do that with things that interested me, not so much with things that didn't. If this had not been the case I would have done better in Geometry and conjugating latin verbs.

Memory is highly useful for a writer. Things written are pulled from experience, so it helps to remember those experiences. If you write a novel, it is important you can remember what a character did on page 10 that effects what happens to that character on page 210.

Walking through life is much like walking through this woods. Memory helps you find your destination down the many trails, often blind paths.

Now someone may say bad comparison. "You aren't walking to any destination. You are just walking in a circle."

Wrong, I am walking toward a destination. First of all, I am trying to find my way down to the river. Secondly, I am looking for new trails to explore and what kind of secret scenes they may reveal and lastly, I will be seeking an exit destination route out of these woods back to my car. The only reason you think I am aimlessly walking in a circle is I expect to find all my destinations within a couple hours.

If you pause to consider it most of what we do in life is going in a circle, it is just over a longer time segment. You rise in the morning and drive to your workplace for a few hours and then drive back home. You walk to the grocery store to pick up a loaf of bread and you walk back home with your purchase. You fly to Los Angles for a six day vacation and then you fly back home where you drive to work the next day and then drive back home. Circles, over and over and over again throughout your whole life. You don't really go straight to a destination and not circle back unless you move to a new home. I know something of that, probably more than the majority of anyone reading this. I've done that move to a new home 18 times in my life.

When I go out walking I look for new paths and think of new opportunities to explore and to stifle monotony. It is like going through life finding a new job. You find a new destination, yes, but you circle back and start that circling all over again. But it still helps to remember where those destinations are and how to get there, and get back if necessary. It helps to be able to remember where you have been and where you are going, just like walking these isolated trails.

These trails may look much alike, but there are subtle differences and if you can't remember this, you get lost.

Speaking of memory, do you remember Golden Guy. He was standing by the river at the beginning of my post,  "Sound of One Tree Clapping in the Theater of Time"? He was the mystery man or statue that appeared in the photograph, but hadn't been seen by the photographer when he took the picture. Suddenly, here was this lone figure standing on the icy shore holding something in his hand, a bow, a fishing pole or a staff.

Where did he come from? Why was he there? Why hadn't I seen him when I lined up the camera shot of the distant geese?

I didn't know the answer until I enlarged the shot.

The mind is a marvelous instrument, but it can play tricks upon itself. There was no man; there was no statue. It was but the reflective beam from the early morning sun off the ice and water, an optical illusion.

My parents are in their nineties. When I visited them this past Christmas my father was reminiscing about parts of his life. In doing so he paused and said, "The hard thing about being old is all the guys you knew, all the buddies you palled about with are gone."

That is the curse of living long we touched upon in my last post, being alone because our loved ones have gone before us.

I think I can deal with that loneliness if it comes, but I think there is a worse state of being alone.

Our brain is like a tree with roots that feed everything we are and know. What happens if our tree is partly uprooted and only a few tendrils remain and they are damaged. Of all the negative possibilities of aging I fear the uprooting most.

That to me would be the roughest path to hike.

I have a friend who has two friends stumbling onto that dark and narrow trail.  He has taken some steps to try and be a help, which can be difficult when you are only a friend and not family. But we all need look out for each other when we can.

I do not know the worse aspects of this uprooting. Is it worse for the victim or for those around them? It is not easy to see a loved one or friend begin to disappear before our eyes, to see them gradually forget all their humanity. It is certainly not anything I would want to inflict upon my family.

I don't know how the afflicted person feels. What goes on inside the brain as it becomes more and more disconnected from memories and functions? Is the person aware or are they lost alone in some odd fantasy land? When someone in the advance stages begins to scream is it just some disconnect between dead brain nerves or is it that they are aware of not being aware and suffering because they can't reach out anymore? I have no idea, but it is not the way I would want to end.

To lose my mind to age would be the ultimate horror of aloneness.

What about me at the moment? Have I come to any destinations? I can see the river, the creek, now down below my path. I haven't seen the way down to it yet. I do see a sign this trail isn't as lonely as it seems, here on some trees is a sign that many others have come this way and left their mark.

We all try to make contact with the world in one way or another. Here are dozens and dozens of carved names and initials in the tree.

Now my goal is to get down to the shoreline of the creek.



Ron said...

Can you believe that we've been "forced into retirement" nearly a decade now? I would never have predicted this when I began to work for a bank in 1965. I thought for sure I would retire at the end of 40 years with a gold watch. Where did we go wrong Lar?

Ron said...


I think the "circle" is the secret to the universe. All the planets are circular and our lives go in a circle if you think about it. We come from nothing and return to nothing. In other words "What goes around, comes around." I think the sphere is the key to unlocking the mysteries of the universe and why we are here.