Placing Memory

Every morning my dog and I walk to the labyrinth, often at daybreak, before coffee. She is alert, snuffling trails through the scrubby brush; I am groggy, mind tethered to my last dream as my stream of consciousness floats me into the here and now.

Dog facing a labyrinth at sunrise

We ruminate on the stories around us. We breathe them in, we shake them off.

And every day I am reminded that this is the place my mother wanted to be, when she was my age and long after. In a parallel universe, it is my mother here, with her dog, starting her new day. I am living her dream. This is her dreamscape as well as mine.

So this is where my next project begins. A storymap memoir. I spent the last two months on an artwork, a catalog of remembrance in kiln-formed glass, a collection of my mother’s fragments of speech and story that have become another way for me to know her now. I will spend the next two months making another project in glass, but this time it will be in tandem with digital storytelling on a GPS platform. My hope, my intuition, is that the projects will open a dialogue, maybe a dialectic, taking me into a new sort of truth or understanding of what it means to carry my mother’s narrative and my own.

Jim Corder taught me to observe how the Aristotelian concept of topos, the location or seat of an argument, can also be a physical place, and vice versa. Every place is an argument, a contested space, a place of competing narratives. The arguments we find or make of a place depend on our relationship to it. We are forever incorporating places into our stories, our memories. And now here I am appropriating my mother’s stories, her memories as my own, in this place. I feel conflicted about this, and the conflictedness is also the story.

I am not from Santa Fe, my mother never lived here, and yet the topography of our relationship is as much here as anywhere.