Armchair Peregrinations


October 15, 1998

There are many good ways to preserve memories and experiences of certain places and times in your life. These include photo albums, scrapbooks, and, perhaps best of all, journals. But there is another way that I can access memories that are stored but inaccessible except by devices or means for triggering or retrieving them.

I've always had the habit of reading numerous newspapers and magazines. Often, something in them will just stand out or so affect me emotionally or otherwise that I just have to clip the article or picture and place it in a file folder. These are labeled according to the year and the place I was living at the time.

I am looking through one now from my brief time in Edmonds, Wash., and the years were 1991-92. It is one of two Seattle folders that I can periodically reminisce through. In doing do, I revisit scenes and places and try to recreate thought processes and moods that may have led me to clip a particular article or picture. They're all there in that folder for a reason. They reveal things about me at a certain stage in my life, and what I considered worthy of keeping.

This folder has at the top a column from the Seattle Post-Intellingencer from Sept. 1992 in which the writer rhapsodizes about seeing Mount Rainier in its pre-dawn and sunrise glory far off in the distance on a clear day. There is no more spectacular symbol of the magnificent Pacific Northwest's natural wonders than this inactive, but slightly simmering, snow-cappped volcano 100 miles to the south. So massive is this mountain that it completely dominates your attention when it is clearly visible. To visit Mount Rainier National Park and drive up the mountainside, past waterfalls and glacial rivers, is to embark on a sublime natural adventure. I've done it three times, and the experience is completely different each time. I cannot dwell enough on how awe-inspiring this mountain is. So unlike any mountain I've ever seen or visited before.

The writer of the column says, "As more sunlight curves over the skyline and hits the mountain, it catches fire at the top, turning from its flat, two-dimensional dark-purple to a glowing golden-pink and purple presence. With new snow, even more cold fire runs down the mountain between dark, shadowy ridges, maiking it appear to be moving, changing shape." It is indeed a spectacle to behold; it is different at every time of day and is one of the reasons so many people seek out the Puget Sound area.

I also looked through clippings showing Al Gore campaigning at the University of Washington; an article on birding in Arizona; a picture of a youth roller blading past a group of retirees on a bench watching in fascination his graceful moves; columns by the late Mike Royko, one of the best newspaper writers who ever lived; a New York Times article on the possibilities of an electronic newspaper you can read on a hand-held display (this was 1992); scenes along the Wye River in England; moshers at a Soundgarden concert in Seattle; a piece on Helen Leavitt's photography; two short poems by a friend from work; and, articles about a high school underground newspaper and the Farm Security Photographs of Marion Post Wolcott. It's all a very eclectic mixture of keepsakes, thought-provoking souvenirs.

All of this, to me, captures fragments of my interests at the time. They allow me to view brief snapshots of a period when I was extremely unsettled, and during which I constantly wondered when I should pack up my things and head back to South Carolina. I had no furniture to speak up, just boxes of books and a cassette player.

That time spent in Edmonds was a necessary experience on my journey, and a small file folder crammed with clippings lets me back into that world, however fleetingly.


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