Tag Archives: Marie Cardinal

things to hold on to, things to let go

Sadie just left for her new life on a country farm. We’ve had ample time to prepare for her departure, and because she’s visited the farm several times already, we know she’s happy there. All of this preparation makes her absence much less sad than it could have been. Letting something I’ve loved for a long time go to a better home is OK. Besides, in my mind, Sadie will live happily ever after. I will never have to suffer those days of watching her in pain or the agony of deciding to put her down.

While I’m able to let go on this point, I still hold on to ridiculous pieces of someone’s past, not sure where to file them. These two photographs were tucked inside of a rare book by Marie Cardinal that I picked up at a flea market in Lausanne, Switzerland. I have held on to them for the past ten years, not knowing who the woman is, but imagining she looks something like Cardinal. I’ve studied the pictures over the years and tucked them back in the book again, forgetting they exist. It’s almost as though I’m the guardian of someone else’s memory, a memory now vacant of meaning and waiting for my story to transpose itself there. Will my new photo replace the paper copies making the meaning now mine? Am I the new home for this adopted memory, a better place for the image to live on? Or is it now up to me to decide if the photos should be discarded, laid to rest, put down and out of their misery?

Advertisements

uncertain hoarding moments

Now that our departure is likely delayed for a few months, I’m a bit stalled with the project of this blog. I was at the point of beginning the serious removal of things and sifting through the real items of importance, including books or clothes that I’m not quite sure about. Today, as I started a new research project, I dipped into a packed up box and pulled out two theory books I wasn’t expecting to need. I also have a mental list of items in my campus office that have to come home to help me.

In addition to the physical aspect of hoarding and my current uncertainty, there is the parallel activity of memory hoarding that occurs. I was beginning to feel emotional about experiences that I thought were the “last time for a long time” such as our university’s pathetic bowl game that had me momentarily choked up. This, too, has gently subsided as I float along uncertain about the next few months.

from Elisabeth Fechner, Souvenirs d'Alger

This reminds me of a literary snippet that I cannot immediately locate in which the author, Marie Cardinal, complains (paraphrased in English here), “Had I known this was the last time I would see that beautiful port, and that sun on that sea from that angle, I would have soaked it up and treasured it.” Instead, she felt robbed of that memory because she left her homeland when it was still rather peaceful, fully expecting she would return. Then when (an expected) calamity struck, she was cut off for about twenty years, forced to remember her homeland and painstakingly recreate it in her writing. Cardinal was most definitely a memory hoarder who obsessively rewrote Algeria. I wonder if I might someday nostalgically rewrite my home or if my sense of home is sufficiently destabilized to keep my nostalgia at bay.