If These Walls (or Fields) Could Talk

Nov 10, 2023 | Welcome Column

Did you ever go back to someplace after many years away? It could be almost anywhere – a place you used to live, a restaurant you used to frequent, a lake or trailhead. It’s amazing how evocative places can suddenly remind you of things you did or how you felt, long ago.

There are some folks who believe, or sense that these feelings – these “vibes” – persist in these places and that even people being there for the first time can get these feelings. I can’t speak to that, but I do think it’s natural, normal and maybe even healthy to let parts of the world act as batteries, storing up memories and emotions to replayed.

On a more personal level, don’t souvenirs exist for this very reason? You go to the Eiffel Tower when you’re nine years old, but you buy a trinket there and thus imbue that flimsy souvenir with the power to make you remember things and relive old memories for many years to come. They are like talismans we use to cast memory spells.

Sometimes, the memories aren’t even mine to invoke, except from imagination. I got to play the Sweetwater Music Hall some years ago, and it’s one of the very few times my nerves really jangled when playing a gig. I got there early to hang out and soak up the ambience and when I went to the green room and thought of the pantheon of musical giants that have come through that room and strode onto that stage, I had to take deep breaths to slow my heart down.

I think most folks who have been to any of the CBA Father’s Day festivals and later find themselves on those fairgrounds for some unrelated purpose, are often flooded with memories of days and nights spent pickin’, grinnin’ and singin’ on those acres of dusty grass.

It might be a mistake to rely too heavily on things to evoke those memories – things get lost or broken, inevitably. Favorite places get paved over or turned into Black Bear Diners.

At some point, you don’t get to choose when you will be visited by unexpected evocative feelings.

I often play at residences for seniors, at various stages of their lives – the line between them and myself grows ever thinner. I have seen folks who are tired, and confused – with all the angst that come with those realizations – smile and react ecstatically to hearing music. The music touches memories that can no longer be summoned at will.

If you no longer know your name, your friends, your home – imagine the thrill of a piece of music that bores right through the fog and lets you revisit past joys, even if you can longer verbalize them.

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