‘There is a ladder.
The ladder is always there
close to the side of the schooner.
We know what it is for,
we who have used it.’
Adrienne Rich Diving into the Wreck
There’s been a lot of nostalgia in my life over the past few weeks. Old photos posted on Facebook, an 80s playlist for a friend’s 40th birthday weekend getaway, late afternoon martinis with my husband and sister talking about our wild teenage years.
I am used to thinking about the past. I use my poetry as a form of incremental autobiography, capturing my past and my inner landscape glimpse by glimpse, poem by poem. Adrienne Rich’s metaphor of diving into the wreck is an important one for me. It speaks to me of the act of remembering, the sense of shock and awe of what is found, memories that need restoring to make sense, the role of the poet as archaeologist.
But there is a different flavour to remembering as a group. It becomes a tool for recovering what is shared, and this sense of shared history forges bonds of connection.
As a child and a teenager I never realised how many memories would be carried into adulthood, and that those hefty memories could be as heavy or as light as I chose. Sometimes memories come crashing in, or I come crashing into them. Sometimes I have not chosen the ladder and have instead dived down too deeply. I have not taken the proper precautions and I’ve been reckless in entering a wreck which is crumbling and dangerous. I have found myself trapped.
It’s not like that when I remember with loved ones. They are the hands reaching into the dangerzone, hooking me around the waist and dragging me free, free enough to observe the wreck from the outside. I do not have to go down with the ship.
When I am writing it is necessary to dive down to the abandoned ship alone. But this is okay so long as, from time to time, I remember to visit the wreck with friends and use their perspective to forge a shared history. Our sense of connection helps build my permanent ladder to safety.
And if, on occasion, we take a daytrip to the wreck with a delicious violet martini in our hands, then all the better…