Last summer I read a book about writing called Wild Mind, by Natalie Goldberg. She offered a number of exercises for the reader to try, and one was called “I Remember.”
At the time I was struggling with how to write about Arthur and my relationship. The topic was so big and the amount of material so huge I didn’t know where to start.
Ms. Goldberg suggests that you start a sentence with “I remember” and just let your mind flow. I was amazed at what came out. The first day I wrote for three hours without stopping. I spent days doing this, and now have pages and pages of precious memories to enjoy over the years. You can also try ‘I don’t remember’; that will spur another sort of memory.
Here are a few of my memories; you’ll see I wrote them as if it was in a letter to Arthur:
I remember our first date. I almost didn’t go. I was really uncertain whether I wanted to start dating—I had just moved to San Francisco, I was ending another relationship, you were older—but I had promised you and I hate breaking my word. By the time I showed up for the movie, Airplane!, we barely had enough time to get to our seats before it started. I don’t remember watching the movie, but I remember you always saying you were afraid you were scaring me off because you laughed so hard during the film. We went to a sidewalk café afterwards. I had a glass of wine, making me feel so grown-up and sophisticated in a San Francisco café. We talked. And it was the talking that hooked me. I can’t remember now what we talked about, but there was something there that was new, that made me say, I want to see this man again.
I remember watching you shave. This was in the first years of our relationship. I remember sitting on the sink, feeling like I had all the time in the world, loving that feeling, loving watching how you moved your hands to follow all the curves and hollows of your face.
I remember playing in the waves with you when we lived in Florida. We would spend hours in the ocean. You showed me how to dive under a wave at just the right moment, or how to bob over the wave like a roller coaster. Then we’d swim out past the waves and lie on our backs and float.
I remember sitting on the rock wall at a random pulloff overlooking the Grand Canyon, watching dusk fall, waiting for the full moon to rise. Car after car rushed into the lot behind us, people hurried forward and snapped photos then dashed away again, frantically looking for the perfect spot, the iconic experience. We were content with our spot, and we inhaled the canyon over the course of two or three hours, just sitting. The full moon rose right in front of us. Phenomenal.
Note: Another interesting exercise from Wild Mind: “I am, I am not.” This can be an excellent tool for self-inquiry.
Edit: a friend commented on Facebook that she had done this for her mother in a letter a couple of weeks before she died. What a beautiful gift to give someone.
I found another photo from that day at the Grand Canyon, one of Arthur that I took as the sun was setting. I love the expression in his eyes.