Most traveling folk like me have a reason for not being able to stay in place too long. Some just have itchy feet and a whole boatload of curiosity. Some people maybe got hit by a curse generations back, and if they stand still too long it catches up with them. Me, I have memories.
Memory is a strange thing. Some people keep nearly all of it in their heads with external cues that can trigger a replay or association. For me, memories swirl and eddy about the landscape as I walk, as though time were running in parallel layers. Sometimes I swing my path wide to avoid a particularly nasty undertow, sometimes I plunge right in and step sideways halfway into the past.
Places I’ve spent a lot of time I can see countless ghostly versions of myself and the people I’ve been with, until the landscape becomes positively choked with them like a garden full of morning glory and honeysuckle that leaves the air thick and cloying and hard to breathe.
Sometimes I sit where we first met, and watch the conversation play out again, muffled because sound is the first thing to fade. I wander from memory to memory following a trail, spending time with the shades of the past because I can’t see the present anymore.
Sometimes I wonder if ghosts are really just someone’s memories that up and walked right out of someone’s head, or maybe got revisited in that place so much that time thinned out just enough that most anyone sensitive can peek through.
Either way, sliding through time like that gets dangerous. Footing becomes uneven and it’s usually a sign that it’s time to be moving on. In a place the size of the Emerald City, I’ve been able to do a lot of my moving while staying local, but I’m still sometimes a creature of habit and that betrays me.
Sometimes I wonder what it’s like to live in other people’s heads. I wonder what other people see when they look at a park they’ve spent hours hanging out in. If the people who spend their entire lives rooted in place are able to keep their memories inside their heads where they belong.
Sometimes I grab on to someone in the here and now, as an anchor to keep myself moving through the present. Something that is too real to be me remembering backwards or forwards.
Keeping my nose in a book helps keep the memory ghosts from getting out of hand. For awhile I exist in someone else’s world though I’ve been known to sideslip just a little too far and disappear into the pages of a book. Invisible until I return from my adventures, or perhaps I’ve managed to sidle a universe over and have become part of the story for a time.
Words have power. They can pull you in and even bring the dead to life for a time. For as long as you allow imagination and memory to coexist there’s no telling where you might end up, or how real it might be. Words have let me live a thousand lives in a thousand worlds, and I have learned more of humanity than I ever could alone.
I’ve thought about trying to be more normal, but when the world is a canvas I can paint with my mind, why would I limit myself? Words become my palatte as I try to paint a map through the amazing multiverse I am lucky enough to inhabit.
Today my hat is off to Sir Terry Pratchett who taught me that funny can be serious, and how to find the absurdity in life without taking it personally. As he wished a bulldozer crushed the hard drive with his unfinished stories and I can’t find it in me to blame him. Who could have finished them? Who could have lent a touch so deft that you’d never know? He is gone these years now, but if I walk into the hall where I got to hear him talk, I will see him once again dispense his particular wisdom as the audience goes wild. At the end memory was the one thing he didn’t have enough of, so it seems fitting that my over abundance should serve to keep that moment alive.