Recesses of memory
Last week I went to a Girl Scout alumna meeting at a local camp. Although I’m a Lifetime Member of Girl Scouting, I haven’t participated in any activities in probably 20 years or more. I was curious to see this outdoorsy camp set on a peninsula – from what I have heard about it I was guessing it to be very much like the Girl Scout camp I went to every summer as a kid, with cabins and a gorgeous natural setting. Apparently this one is being divested from the local council (e.g. they are selling it) in the next year or so, which makes me sad because I would love for my daughter to have camp experiences close to home like I did.
I was also was curious to connect with Girl Scouts in the region, but I have to admit when I showed up l felt a little out of place- everyone who was there was much older than me. Boy, were they super excited to see a “young-un” in their midst. I felt a little silly playing the cutesy games and eating the flowerpot pudding with “dirt” from Oreo cookies (although I must admit that was quite creative). I kept glancing at my watch wondering how long I had to stay before the length of my visit could be considered courteous and “respectable”.
But then after an hour or so the song sheets were broken out. And there in front of me were the lyrics to so many songs I sang at Girl Scout camp as a kid. I haven’t seen these in probably 25 years. Hadn’t thought of them.
But, wow, I started tearing up just viewing the words! Seriously, real tears.
And then, when everyone started singing, I knew all of the songs. All the melodies, all the words, all the memories of camp came flooding back. It was powerful and extraordinary.
Funnily enough (or perhaps not funny, synchronicity seems to be all around me these days, I seem to be living in a flow state recently) – I have just this week been focusing on this new layered piece inspired by the Jamie Wyeth painting “The Wind”/“The Tempest”, and his story of how he was painting from the recesses of his memory without even knowing it. He writes in the book about his “Farm Work” exhibit that he was painting a girl and her goat, but that the painting was flowing in such a vivid way he kept wondering if he had dreamed this girl and the goat. And then, he realized in horror that he was painting from his memory of a Scottish painting that had been on the wall of a restaurant he used to visit regularly with Andy Warhol. He was powerfully re-creating that other painting through the recesses of his memory.
Inspired by this story, I’ve layered a piece around the English folk song “Nonesuch” (“that which is like no other”) – and have been thinking a lot about where inspirations come from, and how our memories can hold images and music for 25 years, outside of our conscious awareness. And then, when we start painting a girl with a goat, or see Girl Scout camp song lyrics on a page it all comes flooding back.
I’m not sure I have anything profound to say about it all. I don’t know how it works, but I can say that when those memories flood it is a blessing indeed. And I hope you like the music that came from these musings.
The wind is blowing fast and near.
The wind is drawing fast and near.
The wind is dancing
building fast and near.
are floating stirring blowing whirring drifting
paint my dream.
(Copyright 2014, Catherine Marie Charlton)
Video: Catherine Marie Charlton with Lynne Claire Morse performing “Nonesuch” at the Brandywine River Museum of Art, April 16, 2014