The Cast of Every Memory

All my memories are set at the same time of day. And time of year, I think.

I don’t know why. Don’t know what causes it. But it’s happened for as long as I can remember. And with memories as far back as I can remember.

When I was a kid — no, not so far back as to be a kid… No, when I was a teenager, I think, I went with my parents to visit family in Scotland. I remember going with them to the harbour in a small village in Aberdeenshire to look at the boats. I’ve always lived inland but – perhaps because of that? – I love the sea and harbours and beaches and boats and such. And I remember walking along the quay and looking into the water. There were locals and other tourists around; people working on their boats; gulls. There was a blue sky with a few cumulus clouds. Sunshine.

It was a long time ago. Detail may be foggy. The brain doesn’t actually remember nearly as much as we think it does. It remembers the basics, and then fills in the gaps procedurally as it goes along. Still, detail aside, I know — I know — that that visit was in the middle of the daytime.

But if I call it up now and examine the memory, I see a late afternoon in late summer; maybe early autumn. I see the gold light of fading day and the shadow of encroaching dusk. I feel a sharp, cool breeze from the sea. The shadows creep higher; night approaches.

That moment — that fading gleam of the failing day — that is the cast of every memory I bring to mind.

I remember running around the woods just outside my old village with my friends — and though I spent many such times with them in full daylight, I remember only that light of that same low, late-afternoon sun, and that chill stir of the air.

And I remember the lake. Sitting on the shore on a late summer afternoon; that same light; the same brush of winter cold around my arms and across my face and through my hair. I remember the rippling of the water and the dance of the insects over the surface. I remember a person I never was, watching a lake I know well, but never saw quite like it is in this memory that isn’t a memory.

Which makes me wonder, if all my memories look much like this, are any of them really memories at all?

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