Just a Snapshot of Time

I’m not a world wide traveler…

My High School Cameras

But I have traveled enough to know that the wonders of creation surround us at every corner of the globe. I have taken thousands of pictures, from the days of film loaded cameras, to the simplicity of my digital camera. Though I have no real memory of a Polaroid, it must be that one showed up in my hands a time or two.

And we could enjoy the amazing transformation of a picture appearing before our eyes.

As I woke this morning (daylight saving time in full force), I had a memory of learning to fly with my instructor, Wes, who would later vanish in an ice storm over Cook Inlet, back in the mid 90’s. Alaska can be dangerous flying. We learn about icing, sudden storms, downward drafts of currents coming off the mountains, and the upward drafts that can slam you into a mountain. We learned to pack survival gear for every flight. Just in case.

Here’s the thing. The memory never happened. In my mind’s eye I could see our training Cessna 152 practicing maneuvers and suddenly we were in a spiral, spin, and flipping flopping every uncomfortable way you could imagine. Immediately. My mind went to my 3×5 index card and I walked through the steps necessary to regain control of the airplane and successfully land. It worked. Success!

The memory felt so vividly real. I could see the plane from outside the cockpit and watch the plane gyrate, finally wrestled back into normal flying. It was like my mind grabbed from so many sources of data and pulled them together to make it seem like it was happening to me.

But it did not happen.

This gave me pause to consider all the snapshots of life that we have stored away, how they are recalled, and now, how they can be seamlessly pieced together to form a new memory. Even a false memory.

What gives? A phantom memory? Memory gaps? Brain damage? Parallel universe bleeding over into mine?

I do know we can create memories from unspecified sources, places we have never been, things we have never been involved in. We can even force ourselves to forget something unpleasant, or something we wished we had never experienced. That being the case, I guess it’s just as easy to create new memories from the ether.

It’s like the brain pan needs a reboot, and defragged, and rearranged…

More than likely, the memory came as a result of a conversation with a student pilot in Anchorage. Yesterday. And a family member who hasn’t flown in a while and is coming north for vacation. And the fact that I had an un-enjoyable flight last Wednesday… Crowded plane makes for discomfort… Really, driving is better than flying! Even if it takes 32 hours longer than the flight.

Again, I realize we can manufacture our past. Vividly recoloring the memory, stitching false events into a timeline, and pulling things out of the air like a magician.

It’s like we are hallucinating our memories, true and false, into reality!

That is probably a good reason to take many photographs, start a journal, record your life so you keep the jigsaw puzzle in correct order.

But, what do you do with all the photo’s and journal books when your life is ending? If you are my kids you promise a bonfire. Maybe the Smithsonian will take them. Or simply take them to the grave for an archaeological find in a few centuries.

My thought this morning: If I could take the snapshots of your life, what kind of timeline would it suggest? Where do I place the bad memories? Good memories? How would I stitch your life into a story worth getting to know?

I have grand memories of my teen years. Especially. Mostly good. I’m sure there were some bad moments. But mostly good. At the drop of a hat, a memory will pop into my mind:

I remember rebuilding my first carburetor on my 1964 Ford Falcon. I bought the car wrecked from my neighbor. 95 dollars cheap! We pushed it into my yard and I started the repair process. Front end parts from a wrecked 1965 Falcon, along with cleaning and degreasing – eventually a car to be proud of. Two tone. Back was original blue. The front was 1965 aqua. The front never matched the back… But it got me to school, church, and out on dates. 

And at no time do I remember taking snapshots to record my journey! I was a high school photographer and I never took pictures! It would be different today!

If only my kids could have seen those days…




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