Monday, January 09, 2006

memory triggers

Let me see if I can explain this. Back in the days when I had a lawn to cut, I used to enjoy getting on my mower and spending the hour and a half it usually took to cut the grass. Even in the heat and humidity (of which I am not a fan) the time offered an opportunity to think, ponder, mull, or in some manner engage the little gray cells, sometimes productively, sometimes not.

On one such grass-cutting occasion my mind was massaging an interpersonal situation at the point where careful navigation around a small fruit tree was required. No, I did not take out the fruit tree. Rather, the act of navigating those particular turns, coupled with the content of my thoughts, became permanently fused. Every time I cut the grass following that intial foray into those thoughts, when I got to that same part of the yard where I had to cut around the tree I always recalled the people and the scenario that had been on my mind on that previous occasion. Every time. The same scenario.

I thought of all this today as I drove around a particular curve in the road. An old thought replayed, just as it had a year and a half ago when it first was on my mind as I drove that curve, and has replayed ever since.

Does this ever happen to you? What is it about our minds that a place, or an action in a place (funny how both of these involve curves and being behind a wheel) can become associated with a thought such that whatever is in the mind becomes permanently associated with the place? It's almost as though the unconscious and the conscious connect and a linkage is formed. It doesn't just happen during a seemingly mindless routine. I spend far more time at the kitchen sink washing dishes than I do driving around that curve, and yet there are no recurring thought patterns that emerge during that action. So what is it? Are there levels of thinking that equate to altered states? Is there a biochemical event going on? I haven't a clue. I know only that it's a curious thing to me, and I needed something new to write on the blog, so I thought I would mention it!

Anything interesting happening in your world?


samtzmom said...

Ok, I'll bite, and be honest. Don't laugh. I once had a patient who was a very sweet, kind Alexian Brother. He and I had many faith conversations. For goodness sakes, he was 80 years old, and well... seems every time he'd come for his dressing changes, his.. um... fly was unzipped on his pants. I never had the courage to tell Brother Eugene that. He eventually healed, and sent us a beautiful dish garden with his gratitude. Not long after that, he passed away in his sleep. I had taken this pretty little bird from the handle of the basket to remember him by, and I put it on the lamp shade of a small counter lamp in my kitchen. Can you sense what's coming? Each and every time I clean this house and have to move that lamp, do I think about how kind he was and what wonderful conversations we had? Nope... all I can remember is that open fly. I even tell myself subconsciously that I am NOT going to visualize that, and yet, there it is every time I touch that darned lamp! So, you are not alone in your memory triggers... I just hope yours are not as silly.

Ruth said...

So glad I do not have open flies to remember for a start - too funny. And I am also glad that someone else likes to cut grass just so that they can ponder over life, situations, people or not ponder them. I find it very relaxing and my dh still doesn't get it and insists on doing it even though he hates cutting grass.

As for thoughts being triggerd by events, I find smells of lavendar take me back to my grandmother and then thoughts of her race around in my head out of control. That is the only thing that comes to mind but I think you will find that people with great memories associate things together so as to remember and that sounds just like what you have done in these situations. Great memory I would call it and let the others say what they will. Love your musings today Anne.

jan said...

Yes, absolutely!!!!
but not as you explain it, it can be where ever, the temperature is like pretty cold, I smell fresh pine and someones fireplace burning in the distance and I think of the Adirondaks in the winter. Whether it be during my college days or when my Grandparents used to live up there. Great memories!! Then there are the Budwieser drinking days....the see how many shots you can do in an hour days.... you know!!! hahaha!!

We're all good here in NJ. Kinda chilly, but thats normal in January. I am going to my friend Rickys house tomorrow after work for a stack class, its make 12 cards. That will be fun! Havent been to her house in a while! I hope all is well with you and your family!! love janet

Pam in Moncton said...

I can't think of a particular example right now, but I do know what you mean. Smells are particular triggers for memory I think, and sometimes music.. That goodnes, I ave yet to acquire a persistent memory anything like that in the first comment, although I bet the fly memory leads quickly to the memory of the conversations, so it can't be all bad. Good and interesting post, Anne.

Kath said...

I have a ton of those, Anne. But the one I can think of offhand is that whenever I hear "Bridge Over Troubled Water" (which I LOVE), I am at an 8th grade party again, dancing with the boy who was, at that time, my 'dream boy'. kath


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