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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Art of Memory

     Learning by memory was, until recently, considered an important part of an educated person's learning. My father, who is nearly 80, can still recite "Gunga Din" and "Men of Cardiff" on the spot.
Lately with electronic distractions and different teaching techniques, memorization doesn't seem to be a terribly important of the learning process. I believe it is called rather dismissively learning by rote.
     Today I was moved by how important basic sensory memory is to the  emotional part of the brain, at least to the brains of cats. Neurogists tell us cats are very similar neurologically in  make-up to humans,which is how they justify vivisection feline work.   Pictured above is Luna, who was adopted nearly two years ago on the day of an almost complete lunar eclipse. She came from a home of 40 cats, accumulated unintentionally by an elderly gentleman in Rockland, a near-by town. In December of 2007, the house caught on fire and was lost; the cats were rescued by the Rockland fire department and slowly adopted out by the  people at the wonderful Knox County Animal Shelter. These cats are still known as the "Rockland Fire Cats" and people remember their story. (I was in a drawing class with a firefighter this summer who wanted to know all about Luna's welfare, after he discovered her origins.)
     Luna arrived here with some lung damage and severe trauma about 3 months after the fire. I  just let her be. She lived in the studio, wedged up on a shelf with a pile of fabric. Occasionally she would
forget herself and make forays into the communal area, usually at night when I wasn't obviously present. She has adapted well, but anytime there is a trauma-a trip to vet etc. she retreats to the studio. Is feels like we must start over each time.
     Today I lit a match to light a candle and the smell of the match went directly up her nose. She went rigid and disappeared into the studio. I found her a couple of hours later still panic stricken, still hiding in between a pile of fabric. That a sense of smell could evoke this response nearly 2 years later was amazing and sad and yes, I know that Proust told us about senses and memory quite a while back, but to experience for myself was quite powerful.
     This episode in the life of my household made me begin to think about the 1930s quilt tops I have begun to buy to have made into bedding for my family. It was scrap quilts like these, made by my great-grandmothers, that first made me curious about the art of quilting. When we were little, sleeping under one of them was a treat of some sort. The first one I bought  is on my bed and is shown above and I do sleep peacefully there .It worn on the back, by  the unknown people who have washed it and slept under it. It is a wonderful feeling to be linked back through the generations to my foremothers in Tennessee and Missouri. There are so many ways memory can function.

1 comment:

  1. I am not sure you will remember me but I met you about 20 years ago at QSDS with Susie Shie. I smile when I see your works from time to time and pray you do not have those awful migranes. I have had my ups and downs with Lupus but if I am able to work I find a sense of serenity and quiet calm. Imagine and Live in Peace, Mary Helen Fernandez Stewart

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