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Seasons of Memory

by Dr David, Editor / Publisher

When my daughter was five or six years old I told her, "You are not going to remember all of your childhood. You will only remember certain things." For the next couple of weeks she would on occassion turn to me, while we were engaged in some activity or other, and ask, "Daddy, do you think that I will remember this?"

I remember New England in the summertime. I do not remember the overcast days stretching into weeks, nor the cold, slush and snow until that memory is forced upon me. Perhaps that occurs in response to a gray sky and landscape in a movie I am watching. Then I feel a sense of dread. So too, the cloudy, chilly days we've been suffering recently inspire in me something akin to Post Traumatic Stress. Veteran of so many years in New England that I am, like a war veteran panicking at a loud noise, I get upset when the weather is bleak.

I don't miss much about living in Connecticut. One thing, though, for which I am nostalgic is ridng my bicycle each morning, with breakfast and a notebook, to do yoga in a green, outdoor space. Within a 20 minute bike ride (and usually less) of home there were dozens of large, verdant expanses to choose from: parks, colleges, school athletic fields... My favorite place was on top of a small hill, in the shade of an enormous oak tree at the edge our local high school's humongous playing fields, far from the building and students. In my prime, I would do a 40 minute session of yoga, followed by breakfast and the writing of a few poems... every day.

I still ride my bicycle every day. I still do 40 minute sessions of yoga each morning, but most days I dp them up on my roof. I haven't written any poetry for a while, but recently I'm feeling inspired in that direction.

Saturday's though are different. Each Saturday I deliver my girlfriend and her bags of woven clothing to the Organic Market. Then I go off, a very short distance away, to park the car close to Parque Guadiana. There, on a grassy stretch of the park, I spread out my little, light blue rug and perform my yoga routine.

At that time of day it's just me, the dog walkers, the park maintenance guys and the few people passing along Calle Potranca on the other side of the hedge from me. It's a wonderful moment, bien tranquilo, especially before I jump into my full-throtle sales mode, not sitting down for 6 hours.

Part of my routine is a series of sitting forward bends. This series I finish wide-legged position with my arms extended behind my back, forcing my torso down onto the ground. (It's a sitting pose like the first photo above, but with arms extended behind and up like the second photo.) On my roof I point my chin like the woman in the green leotard in the photo. In the park, because there is grass, I keep my face down, pressed lightly onto the ground.

The tree below which I practice, last Saturday, quite suddenly, had lost many of its leaves. The ground was covered with them. My face was pressing them. My nose was smelling them. There, in that awkward extension, I experienced a wave of another type of nostalgia for the land of my birth; this time, not summer, but autumn in New England.

Smell is our most primitive sense. The olfactory nerve runs from our nose to our brain, without break, without a synapse where its impulse is passed along to another neuron. Smell is our strongest sense. Consider, you can stand an ugly sight or sound much more easily than you can tolerate an ugly smell. Consider also that our sense of smell most strongly jogs our memory.

Opening up my house in Vermont after it had been closed for a week or two was a delicious experience. Yes, the cedar paneling that lined the place emitted an exquisite perfume. Yes, there was at play the superb psychological association of having just arrived in the sanctuary of my vacation home. But there was also that hint of mustiness of a place that had been shut up for a while, not stale, but like the aroma of wine just uncorked. That musty hint propelled me into my childhood, transporting me to the lake cottage my family had when I was a young boy,

It was a ramshackle, old thing, whose mustiness probably included a bit of mold. But the life of the party, where any summer Sunday were often entertained both my mother's and father's extended families (10 siblings between them), was outside: the grill over the firepit, the picnic table, the wide lawn, the shallow lake (really an extensive pond). There was where this suburban boy was initiated into nature. But last Saturday, there in Parque Guadiana, with my nose in the grass, it was not summer of which I was reminded, but fall.

I do yoga because it stretches my body. I ride my bicycle because it stretches the endurance of my heart. I write because it stretches my creative impulse, exercising my emotions and intellect, putting me in touch with sentiments perhaps themselves a little musty. It's good to open the windows and air the place out, to uncork the bottle, so long in reserve, and drink the wine. Smell is as primal as it gets. Enjoy the bouquet.


Dr David is looking for authors to contribute to San Miguel Sunday. He is also looking for people who want to add more meaning to their lives. See his new website below.

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