13

What Is This and What Do I Do with It?

The dream is just beyond reach. I remember the sea, a dune that seemed to rise forever, a windblown nimbus at its tipI thought might be God. But even that now seems wrong. Memory is close, but I cannot grasp it. The beach may have been behind my childhood island home on the east coast, except the moon had risen in the wrong place. The dream was in color, though I know the human eye does not see colors in moonlight. There was action, a narrative that brought me to the shore and turned my face toward light, but it has slipped away too, like sand through fingers, now that I am awake.

The feeling of forgetting is still eerie, even though forgetting is normal for me. I don't get used to it. The feeling seems sensory in essence, like first hint of hunger. I get memory pangs, my whole being closing around the vacancy as I try to recall an event, a name, a face, a place in time. With my memory systems as they are, simple recollection is as fluid as waking from a dream, with things that I believe to be vital vanishing as I reach for them.

I know viscerally what Harvard psychiatry professor J. Allan Hobson means when he writes in The Chemistry of Conscious States that “the poor memory we have of dreams once we awaken from

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In the Shadow of Memory
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • In the Shadow of Memory *
  • Contents *
  • Preface *
  • Acknowledgments *
  • 1 - Gray Area *
  • 1 - Gray Area: Thinking with a Damaged Brain *
  • 2 - Wild in the Woods: Confessions of a Demented Man *
  • 3 - In the Shadow of Memory *
  • 4 - Reeling Through the World: Thoughts on the Loss of Balance *
  • 5 - Living Memory *
  • 2 - The Family Story *
  • 6 - The Painstaking Historian *
  • 7 - Zip *
  • 8 - Dating Slapsie *
  • 9 - The Family Story *
  • 10 - The Year of the 49-Star Flag *
  • 3 - A Measure of Acceptance *
  • 11 - Kismet *
  • 12 - Counteracting the Powers of Darkness *
  • 13 - What is This and What Do I Do with It? *
  • 14 - A Measure of Acceptance *
  • 15 - Jangled Bells: Meditations on Hamlet and the Power to Know *
  • 16 - The Watery Labyrinth 218
  • 17 - Tomorrow Will Be Today *
  • In the American Lives Series *
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