Mack Williams: Associations throughout life
In addition to the associations in which someone can belong, their are other “associations” which the mind makes. These are often the chance connections which join stored memories with current, observational stimuli (not to worry, this is far from being a psychological treatise).
Childhood memories have a “shelf-life” of use far longer than the day they were “shelved.” Like certain elements of the Periodic Table, they have an extensive “half-life,” but eventually, that life comes to an end on the same date as that of their “stockman.”
As is the way of the living mind, our stored memories can be attached to the latest newscast, the latest popular song, the latest snapped photograph or the latest “hyped” movie from Hollywood (with this one, as Spock said to McCoy: “Remember!”).
These “mental couplings” can be quite surprising!
So follows a mixing of the old with the “up-to-the-moment, “en vogue” or “whatever” (and I do mean “whatever,” which will be evident at the end of this piece):
A recent afternoon peek through my “blinded” window told me that snow was beginning its gradual build-up.
Before then, winter’s scene was the “precipitationless brown” of dormant grass mixed with black and gray tree bark.
The snow, having become “terrestrial,” was beginning a slow rise, but nothing like the speed with which it had left the sky.
Lichens added a certain light-green color to the tree bark and tombstones of the adjacent cemetery, but such cold, rootless, pale green was in poor imitation of the deeper, “warmer” green that spring brings.
Then, the weakest stage of a “lighter-gray” began to methodically cover the ground, as if being “daubed” from an aerial palette.
I thought about those times in my childhood along the Old Concord Road, when a surprising (at least to me) overnight snowfall came.
Our house, with its two coal stoves and plenteous blankets was mostly warm. I woke up sometime before dawn one morning, my first act of the day being to pull aside one blind slat (as I recently did) and take a look.
I must have instinctively felt the cold from the night’s lowest level, which had seemingly become “solidified” into something even colder. Darkness was exchanged for a thick, ghostly white, as something more dense than the sun’s darting photons of energy had stolen the night’s shadowy base.
Despite it being long before sunrise, that basal brightness had already preceded that of the sun. It was almost as if a spinning, self-sufficient earth had brought a “dawn” of its own to that calendar day.
Now I remind you of this particular column’s beginning, concerning the potential of memories being coupled to anything of the present, and I mean “anything” (that’s just the way the mind works, no apology needed). With that new connection, the “old” again seems “fresh” (or at least, more “with the times”).
So here’s my latest “old-new” connection (word to the wise: in a part of my cheek once occupied by molars, my tongue presently rests).
On that early 1950s, pre-dawn day, I only saw the snow’s eventual “white,” my having being asleep during those gradually changing shades of gray, progressing from darker to lighter.
But based on my latest, best efforts of discerning observation, I noted that the number of gray’s variations in the lead-up to that most recent, brightest white, totaled nowhere near fifty.
(Please remember what I said earlier about the mind’s “associations” needing no apology.)