Thursday, December 14, 2006

Pearl of memory...

Memory like a pearl of great price...
(Image from Wikipedia)

Persistent readers will recall my blog entry of November 15: Memory and Mortality. In that entry, I noted that "[i]n one of my recent websearches, a randomly surfacing obituary in the The Dallas Morning News [had] caught my eye" because it announced the death of a man whose much younger sister had been a close friend of mine at Baylor University.

Within only a few days, this friend from the past left a message, and we got back in touch. Margaret -- for that's her name -- has recently reflected on this odd chain of coincidences and yesterday left a message about them:
Last Thursday night I took [my daughter] Gabrielle to a lecture and book signing by Lois Lowery, author of The Giver. She's a photographer and children's author, you are probably familiar with, but anyway, one of the neat stories that she told was about a friendship. When she was about 9 yrs old, her military family moved to Japan. She imagined that she would live in a flat roof house, sleep on the floor and wear kimonos, but to her surprise when they drove up to the military housing and entered the gate, it was Anywhere, USA. The military had recreated small town American neighborhoods complete with shipping and cinema. Because of the animosity and fear of the Japanese, and vice versa of the Japanese with the Americans, mingling of cultures was discouraged on both sides. Without her parent's knowledge or permission, she would ride her bike around Tokyo. She came across a school with children about her age, and would repeatedly ride by that school, engaging in eye contact with one little boy. 40 years later she was standing on the stage with other Newberry award winners and soon after became friends with a man from Tokyo who was also receiving an award that day. They exchanged books that they had authored and he asked her how she knew how to write in Japanese. After talking about when she lived in Japan and where he had gone to school, he asked "you weren't the little girl on the green bike, were you?" What are the odds of that happening? Beautiful story. I am struck with a similar amazement in our lives crossing again recently, who would have thought you would have read my brother's obituary months after the fact, and my nephew reading your eulogy, within days after it posted.
I read this and replied:
Thanks for the story from Lois Lowry, whom I hadn't heard of (neither with nor without the "e"). It sounds like an illustration of what Carl Gustav Jung called "synchronicity," "i.e. a pattern of connection that cannot be explained by direct causality."

Not that Jung's 'explanation' really explains anything. "Fate" would be an attempt at explanation, I suppose, but potentially without meaning, for fate is just some implacable force. "Providence" would be a more more satisfying alternative since it offers meaning to be gleaned from a purposeful coincidence.

So ... perhaps there's some purpose in our meeting, which has been unexpected, but I wouldn't venture to speculate too much on what the meaning is ... though you might just need someone to talk to sometimes, a better alternative than carrying on conversations in your head (which, of course, I've done over the years, as I once told you).
Well, the synchronicity extended into the evening, for as I was sitting down for my daily dose of poetry, I noticed that I had -- some time ago, I no longer recall when -- placed an extra bookmark further along in the poetry anthology that I was reading. I wondered why, and when I checked, the poem on that page was a well-known one by Gerard Manley Hopkins: "Spring and Fall," the first line of which reads:

Márgarét, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?

I was struck with a vivid memory of having read this poem one evening to my friend Margaret nearly 30 years ago. "What a coincidence!" I thought, and re-read all of its lines:
Spring and Fall

to a young child

Márgarét, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves, líke the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Áh! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow's spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.
Still musing on the coincidence, I then turned back to my bookmark for the day's reading, only to discover another synchronous twist, for there I found Robert Herrick's poem "Corinna's Going A-Maying," which begins:
Get up! get up for shame! the blooming morn
Upon her wings presents the god unshorn.
The very lines that I had used when I went over one fine spring day during the Easter break to awaken an oversleeping Margaret for a walk! The shining "[sun-]god unshorn" had already risen high, making the lateness of the morning thus high time for a walk.

But time doesn't wait.

And now, we see ourselves in the mirror a generation older, the walks are all thirty years into a receding past, and the sun has risen and set over 10 thousand times since.

And yet one day, as if to whisper that there may be more than the incremental passing of moment into memory, as though to tell us that the past is but a footfall distant, perhaps little more than a handsbreadth away, we find ourselves mysteriously touched by synchronic things uneasy to explain.


At 2:40 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

Don't you go asking me "How do you do it?" again. That was really lovely.

At 2:45 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Jeff. It's sometimes a matter of ending on the right note.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 4:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should really get "The Giver" to read with your children. It is a great book and used by tons of teachers in elementary schools here in the U.S, as is "Number the Stars", which she also wrote. "The Giver" sort of reminds me of "Anthem" by Ayn Rand, only for children.

Great post, by the way.

I sure wish she would have mentioned the name of the Japanese author!

At 4:05 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Cynthia, perhaps if you Googled Lowry's name, along with other information, you'd find the story online.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 5:06 PM, Blogger Kate Marie said...

Lovely, indeed.

At 5:13 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, KM.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now why didn't I think of that? LOL And guess what, it is the author I was thinking of, Allen Say! Another great author! Very cool.

At 12:10 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Cynthia, I guess that's what makes me such a 'scholarly' researcher...

Jeffery Hodges

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