Posts Tagged ‘Griffith Park Los Angeles’

Things of Memory

Think for a moment about a treasured photo of you as a child. Of the surroundings, of your smile or the frown. Maybe your childhood home is in the background of the frame, maybe you are playing on a swing at the park with friends. You get the idea.

Hide and Seek © SR Euston

In viewing even the most forlorn snapshot, tantalizing memories and strong emotions can be illuminated instantaneously. The dark cover of unconsciousness momentarily lifts. Certain parts of the brain become stimulated in strange and largely unknown ways. The result can be conscious memories that startle with their impact.


That two dimensional memory-evoking photo you imagined above captured maybe 1/100 of a second of your life. In middle retirement age, this equals about two trillionths (1012) of one’s life so far lived. Seemingly even more impossible, those memories dancing on such ephemeral waves continually widen, like ripples from a stone tossed into deep azure waters. The waves move rapidly in mysterious ways.


Sometimes the flashing memories break on one another, so to speak. A peaceful but undramatic black and white picture of sycamores somewhere in Southern California miraculously leads me to the Sunday drive along Los Feliz Boulevard near the Hollywood Hills to meet my Aunt, Uncle and cousins at Griffith Park in Los Angeles. I’m imagining we are going to have a picnic of potato salad and sandwiches. Are my grandparents going to be there? I’ll be playing softball catch with Uncle Vern.


What about the photo of my brother playing “hide and seek” behind the tree? Was it only a pose? Or was my brother captured peering from behind the sycamore, my father yelling, “freeze — I got your picture, son” ? (Was there a call of “ollie ollie oxen free free free?”) I’m sure it’s summer. I can smell the lawn, the leaves, the air. And I wasn’t even there.

I know the other picture of Dick in the park was carefully composed — my father’s romantic 1930s photographic eye is in full play here.

Brother Dick, 1936 © SR Euston


More than simple memory suffuses such mental wanderings. I can only explain it to myself–very poorly– as a complex of full body sensations, a sort of rapid fire full mind and body transformation of the past. How otherwise can these park photos next lead me to a change of seasons, scenes of October brown sycamore leaves. I see them under the mottled whitish bark of spreading sycamore limbs; I hear the sound of my crumbling the big tinder-dry palm-like leaves between my hands;  I smell the slightly acrid but wonderfully evocative autumnal scent; I see muted, subtle autumnal tints of a southern California October. The mental waves are dancing now. The time is late afternoon, and we are driving home from the park. It’s near Christmas. The San Gabriels are bathed in a mauve purple light. Our 7′ Douglas fir ornament-filled Christmas tree will be glistening in the low winter’s light that glances through the window.

What’s next in this cascading alter-world? I will watch the lights on Christmas tree lane out my bedroom window tonight. I love to look at them through a blurry rain-distorted window pain. Not tonight though, but sometimes it does rain around Christmas, even in Glendale.


In writing the above few paragraphs, about 1900 seconds elapsed. This means my memory wanderings in a lost world of Los Angeles have lingered about 180,000 times longer than the time it took my father’s Kodak, with its folding bellows and strangely dimensioned

2 1/2″x 4 3/4″ negatives, to capture several 1930s pictures, the visual cue that seemingly started the above cascade of thoughts and reveries and sensations.

First Christmas Tree 1930 © SR Euston


Photography is remarkable. The memory is more than remarkable. I’m glad it’s unexplained.   SRE


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