Saturday, April 12, 2008

Puddles of Memory

Clara and I finally walked down to the pond near Superior Drive this afternoon and took turns looking through my binoculars at mated pairs of red-breasted mergansers, blue-winged teal, and buffleheads. No photographs, I'm afraid, but we talked about the Olympus E-410 as a twentieth anniversary present to each other next June.

The narrator of the novel I'm currently reading, E. Arnot Robertson's Ordinary Families, is an avid birdwatcher who loves to watch the birds, both on shore and at sea, along the stretch of the Suffolk coast where her family lives. Her name is Lalage, which is Greek for "chatterbox": an ironic name, since Lallie prefers to keep her thoughts to herself; she says little and observes much. When the novel opens, she's remembering the events that took place when she was ten years old, and she describes beautifully the peculiar awkwardness and grace of a heron, and the precision water landing of a trio of shelducks. Looking back, she feels exactly what I was attempting to describe in my post earlier this week when I spoke of "puddles of memory." She writes:

Those three shelducks, with the heron that had drifted delicately from one clump of trees to another on the edge of the marsh the year before, still fly through my memory of those days, with the troubling graciousness of a child's sense of some new quality in familiar things—still cut, in a grey and in a cloudless sky, wider than any skies seem nowadays, the lovely lines along which I hold them transfixed in movement—still may be recalled in clearer detail than the people or the circumstances in which, at the time, I was really more engrossed.

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