"Now for you and me it may not be that hard to reach our dreams,
But that magic feeling never seems to last.
And while the future's there for anyone to change,
Still you know it seems
It would be easier sometimes to change the past."
Fountain of Sorrow - Jackson Browne
This morning I rummaged through a box of old photographs trying to find a picture of my daughters when they were young. My ex-wife always dressed the girls up for Easter.
In the back of one Easter picture was and old white Ford Maverick that I drove back and forth to school. The car's presence let me know that the picture was taken back when I was going to school, and we didn't have two nickels to rub together. The girls were so cute and young and innocent and loved. I can remember being happy, a little stressed to be sure because of our financial situation, but very happy nonetheless.
I saw some a lot of other pictures too and each one reminded me of days and things that I haven't thought about in years, mostly of happy moments filled with strong emotions.
I started to wonder when I let that past get so far away from me. It seems like there's a dark wall of fog or something that has divided my life into the long ago moments when I truly felt alive and engaged and this somewhat frightening now when I struggle with so much freaking baggage from the past that I have to jettison the bags without even paying much attention to what is lost just to stay on my feet and stumbling forward.
The late John Prine, God that seems so strange to say, wrote a song named Souvenirs that talked about this very thing.
"Memories they can't be boughten
They can't be won at carnivals for free
Well it took me years
To get those souvenirs
And I don't know how they slipped away from me"
When did those memories so precious and valuable and fraught with meaning become merely old photographs and souvenirs? And what do we do about it? We all know that sitting in easy chair thumbing through old picture books is not a good way to live. But are we just supposed to forget about them people, emotions, and times?
Don't worry, I'm not going to go off cheesy rant talking about how we owe it to them who are gone to remember. I'm more concerned about what it means to the forward journey especially since the world outside has gone all crazy and seems out to get me.
I'm been trying to figure out when my life became divided into the part where things were bright and full of potential and into the crazy viral now when all the television newscasters are using the phrase, "Unless you are over sixty-five," to calm the fears of the everyone else.
If we are being honest with each other, the news has been fucking batshit crazy for years, and we have all just ignored that fact. They lie, and they tell us only what others want us to hear. We can't trust them people to tell us the truth, so it's easier to just ignore them and binge watch old television shows instead.
They tell us that what is causing our anxiety now is the uncertainty of life, the fact that we can just die because we need something at the store and the not knowing about what the future holds.
But, come to think about it, This has always been true. There has never been certainty in this world. There never was a guarantee that we could get up and go to work in the morning and be able to safely go to sleep that night. And as long as death has inhabited the shadows of earthly existence, which has been forever, we could never rightly say for sure what the future would bring.
All this virus has done is the strip away our illusions. It has shown us that we waste an awful lot of time and effort on unimportant stuff, and that a lot of the people who we listen to, depend upon, worship and throw money at, really have no more material substance than a popcorn fart in a strong spring breeze.
I thought all day on what do with them old memories, and I finally came to the conclusion that they should never make me mourn for the past and should only be used to help me to ground myself in the moment so that I can move forward with more solid footing by learning what there is of importance that binds both my past and my future together.
I can put all them memories and photos in a gold miners pan, add some water, and shake it all around. Then when all the deleterious substances and worthless debris has been removed, maybe I can spot a nugget or two gleaming up at me and add them to my collection of good stuff worth keeping.
Then maybe I can collect all that I find, melt it down. pour it into a form, make a bar of gold, stick it in my pocket, and call the whole thing even.