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This morning I watched the light on the opposite wall shift, from blue to silver to gold.

For awhile, even as the darkness chased the light, I read Nuala O'Faolain's memoir, of her drunken, exhausted mother and feckless columnist father, of Oxford romances, of fumbling in the dark, terrified of pregnancy in 1960s Catholic Ireland. Of men who treated women badly, and women who treated each other badly, and so on.

It is a frank, beautifully detailed book, the kind of book chiseled free from waste, what we believe to be so important at whatever age, what we allow to accrue around our sorrows, burying them, packing them into the recesses of the unconscious. (We truly are Rilke's "wasters of sorrows"!)

The grinding noise outside, emitted by a machine of mysterious purpose, made me grit my teeth, and bury further in our bed, despite all the responsibilities that waited beyond the door. But here I am, writing, remembering the light cast on my wall, entangled with darkness, the sorrows of a wintery night.

O'Faolain's friend is right: the soft, even irresponsible vagueness of remembrance cannot capture "the hard stroke of recherché". Writing is not remembrance, it is research, the active collection of memories, insights, dreams, people, feelings, etc., and then the brutal chisel of the mind, connected by synaptic impulses to fingers typing patterns into a keyboard, one finger dashing to backspace over the remiss phrase. Writing is the urging forth, through the reverb of false emotions (what we think we should say), to something new and even terrifying. Remembrance is too much like embrace, too forgiving a word for everything that has passed, between us, between me and others.


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