Tuesday’s Word: pensieve

pensieve

A pensieve is a magical item in the Harry Potter books
which is used by characters to gather and process their
memories, or to remove the burden of excess memories.
Albus Dumbledore says that he uses it to store thoughts
that are weighing on his mind, or to organize memories
which seem to be connected. The ability to enter a vivid
memory also helps to shed light on new information.
(wisegeek.com)

I remarked once a few years ago that I thought it would be very convenient to own a pensieve. A few moments later, it struck me that I do.

I have kept a diary or journal sporadically for some forty years. I started with one of the little pink ones with a tiny padlock, with the pages all neatly sectioned out – four or five lines to a day, a full week on a two-page spread, filled for the first few weeks with such entries as “Grandma came to visit” and “Roxanna was mean to me at school again today.” By my teen years I had moved on to simple spiral notebooks or even just loose leaf paper stuck in a folder, and I still write in inexpensive college-ruled notebooks today.

None of the early pink diaries have survived, to my knowledge, although it’s not outside the realm of possibility that my mother still has them in a box somewhere. I do, however, have perhaps a couple hundred pages dating from January 20, 1981 (the topic of which was President Ronald Reagan’s inauguration and the release of hostages in Iran) to today. I leaf back through them from time to time, and of course, they do perform the above-described functions of a pensieve, though in a somewhat less mystical way.

They are collections of memories, some of which I have only begun to process. Many of the entries fit in the category of excess memories or issue weighing on my mind, and both writing them out and revisiting them years later helps to relieve some of their heaviness. I often see recurring themes and connections now that I had no idea of at the time of writing. From the distance of twenty or thirty years, I can sift out – sometimes – what was true and what may have been just projection, and occasionally why I felt as I did. And yes, the ability to re-enter some of my most vivid memories does help to shed light on new information, or to shed new light on old information that I’m still working through.

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