The Hippocampus, the small area in the brain shaped like a seahorse, originates from the Greek word ‘hippokampos’; hippos meaning horse and kampos meaning sea monster. This little sea horse with the tail of a fish and the forelegs of a horse houses a complex filing system where we store and retrieve memories.
The subject of memory is a mystery. Why do some people remember things before the age of two? I do. Others remember things only before the age of five, others only before seven.
The memories I speak of are not necessary recalled because they are traumatic; they could be trivial recollections like bouncing along in a metal stroller, perching on a grandfather’s generous lap, or crawling through the long whispering grass.
When we are writing about our childhood tapping into our memory can often be a challenge. My message to you is:
Don’t wage war against your memory; welcome it.
One way to evoke a specific childhood memory is to ‘show up at a scene’. This visual exercise will help you to visit a scene as a child, with a child’s reality and naivety, which you can then describe from deep within a reminiscent child’s point of view. Please note that this exercise should only be used to evoke pleasant memories.
Have a keyboard or pencil/paper handy to write down anything you experienced on completion of the exercise – random words, a sentence, a paragraph, an entire chronicle.
Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to center yourself.
Think of a place, a setting, a scene, from your childhood.
Observe from a short distance the young child (YOU) there at the place, in the scene.
Now slowly start moving towards the child.
Stop. Breathe. Look at the child.
Step forward into child’s space … become the child.
Now look down at your body (eyes still closed). Look at your arms, are there scrapes? Bruises? Gentle rounded joints? Can u see fine delicate finger bones? Dirty or chewed fingernails?
Look at legs and feet. Are you wearing shoes? Is there sand between your toes?
Now listen (eyes still closed) to the sounds. Can you hear children? Water? Insects? Wind rustling through the leaves? Listen to your heart beat.
Now smell. Is there a scent of flowers? Grass? A dog’s fur? Cooking?
Now taste. Lick your lips. Are they salty? Sweet?
How do you feel? Anxious? Content? Nervous?
Take a deep breath. You are the child.
Now let the child write!
Explore your memory with openness and wonder, not by trying to force memory, but by releasing and allowing – allowing yourself to be lost and found, to be led and to follow, to float in a timeless sea of awareness and vision.
There’s something symbolic about the shape of our hippocampus, something primordial that mimics man’s beginnings in the sea world (tail of a fish) followed by his progression to land (forelegs of a horse). Become that child again as you flip through your past recollections, forever mesmerized by the mystery of memory.