The Poetic Memory IV

By Stu Whitley

This is the fourth post in a four-part series.

It may be that memory is the Well of Wisdom: this idea is central to Celtic mythology. In Celtic lore, the well is situated at the centre of the Otherworld, the spiritual source, the land of the dead. Where it gushes up, pilgrims drink from it using a skull as a vessel, thereby creating a direct link with the dead. At the well of Llandeilo in Dyfed, Wales, this practice continued into the twentieth century. The skull was said to be that of St. Teilo, the ruins of whose church loomed over the well itself. The voices of the wells, usually feminine, were released in dreams. Keepers of the wells were considered to be oracles, dispensing analyses of past conduct, future guidance and even the whereabouts of lost objects. The image of a well as memory seems apt: if we had the capacity to let down our bucket sufficiently deeply, what universal truths might we find? I think it’s arguable whether we have enough rope on the well’s spool. The intuitive proof of this lies in the toss of the coin accompanied by a wish that, at one time or another, has gripped the imagination of all of us: the wisdom of sacred water. I sit silently beside a dark well so deepthe splash of tokens echoes faintlylike distant, mocking laughtereach arcing coin that tumbles undercarries a wish for, what? serenity?

I wrote of the ‘editorial memory’. By that, I mean the mind’s capacity
to organize thoughts into their essential message, to synopsise, cull,
re-frame or otherwise adjust what we have heard or experienced so that
we can cope with it, or at least participate in the filing of
particular things. This is not always helpful: after all, we may be
contumaciously dismissive of something that turns out to be quite


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Aging as a Conversation II

By Elizabeth Russell

View the first post in this two-part series.

The conversation about age begins when we are born and continues throughout life. It may be written or spoken. It may come from our mothers (who heard it from their mothers) or it may come from people who have studied other people in order to make profound pronouncements. Whatever the source, it is all conversation. And labels are one element of the conversation—labels we give to everything, labels that carry weight and are endowed, over the years, with meaning such as young, old, immature, stodgy, etc.

Those who engage in the conversation don’t make it
up. It is a given, running through all the channels—parents, peers,
school, television, advertising, public and private institutions. From
this conversation we learn there are things we can do at five that we
can’t do when we are seven, responsibilities we have at 15 that we
don’t have at 10, privileges we acquire at 21 we don’t have when we are


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