As a society, it seems we have lost the art of committing things to memory. If we need to remember something, we Google it. In the old days, people could recite sonnets to their lovers. There are stories of prisoners of war staying sane throughout their captivity by holding onto great swaths of Scripture they’d memorized. I was in awe of a professor in college who could quote poems and passages from literature as if she had written them herself. What a wonderful thing to make something beautiful and uplifting your very own, to lock it away inside so that it becomes a part of you no one could ever take away. You could bring it out at will in your greatest times of need, or even just in moments of boredom.
What would you like to have written on your heart? How could you go about committing it to memory this week?
Ample Time: Become an oral storyteller. Learn the stories of your family and your ancestors and pass them on to your children and to your community. My great grandmother’s second husband was the most amazing storyteller I’ve ever known. Granted, I was a young, impressionable child when I was his audience, but I remember being utterly captivated by his stories. They ran the gamut from Native American folk tales, to nursery rhymes, to stories of his own youth living in both Alaska and Mexico. Of course, I don’t know if even the ones he told about himself were true. It wasn’t until I was a teenager long after his death that I discovered the tale he told me of a mongoose saving his life from a snake when he was young was actually Rikki-Tikki-Tavi by Rudyard Kipling.
What made him great was that he completely owned the stories. He was totally blind when I knew him, so he couldn’t read books to me or write his stories down. It was like he had an entire library inside of him, and could pull up the most fascinating yarn for any occasion. And it breaks my heart that that library disappeared along with him when he died. I wish I could remember everything he told me. I wish someone had the foresight to record him speaking. The oral traditions of our cultures are dying out, if they haven’t already. If you can make the time, learn the stories of your heritage and your culture. Use the technology of today to record them, but try to keep them in your mind as well and learn how to pass them on in the oldest of human ways to communicate, orally.
Limited Resources: In high school, an English teacher made us memorize “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe. Back then, I swear I had a near photographic memory. I rarely had to study anything for very long before I could recall the entire page and read it in my mind as if it were still in front of me. I don’t know what happened since then, but that skill is long gone. There is now a No Vacancy light blinking in my brain, and if something new crams its way in, something old gets shoved out.
I am currently getting into poetry. Probably because I only have the smallest windows of time in which to read, and I can actually finish a poem. I am absolutely enamored with Mary Oliver. I would love to have command of some of her words that resonate for me. I think I will try to memorize To Begin With, the Sweet Grass from her 2009 book, Evidence. Ok, maybe pieces of it. It’s long and I have many other things on my mind, but I’ll try. What will you try to remember? Here are some good tips on how to go about it.
Busy: Write out a short prayer, simple mantra, scripture passage, or inspiring quotation and tape it to the back of your phone, on a post it on the edge of your computer, on your bathroom mirror, in your car, on an index card in your purse, wherever it will be in your face often. Look at it whenever you have a spare moment. Say it out loud until you can say it without looking at it. Make it yours and draw upon it this week for wonder.
Please come back and share with me what you’ve written on your hearts.