25 June 2010

The caravan thunders onward

The arc of memory.

The ark of memory.

For a couple of months now, I've been sorting through boxes of photos. Some are mine. Some were taken by others. Some I inherited when my father died; my family sees me as the archivist, the history keeper.

Tonight, I was organizing and the daughter came into the living room to keep me company. She was in a chattery mood, and she chirped along as I worked, asking about people in photos, events she didn't remember.

I came to a pile of old photos, many of which were taken long before I was born, on another continent, a world away. The daughter touched them gently with a fingertip, asked a couple of questions. I shrugged, and pointed out men in military helmets with UN painted on them, but told her I didn't know if what we were looking at was real or staged.

"I know you don't like talking about him," she has said of my father.

"I don't mind," I replied, surprised. He was her grandfather, though he died years before her birth. I made the decision long ago that my children had a right to know what I know; the story would be unvarnished, but honest.

It's just that I'm not sure what I know.

And beyond the small part that I played in his life, I don't know what is true.

I handed her a yellowed newspaper clipping. One of the Tucson newspapers had run a feature on him long ago. She murmured to herself as she read.

"So, do you think this is true?" she asked as she handed the clipping back to me.

"Some of it is," I told her as I handed her his passport. She gazed at the stamps that told a story of exotic travel: Nigeria, Uganda, Rome, the Netherlands. She read out names of airports: Orly, Schiphol.

"You've been there," I reminded her when she mentioned Schiphol. Like him, like me, she has been bitten by the desire to see and to experience, though unlike him, neither of us are on the run from the past.

Go listen to some good music: "Caravan" from the upcoming album Clockwork Angels by Rush. Have I mentioned how much I love this song...how much it sings to me?

1 comment:

brianherget said...

Caravan is my favorite Rush song since... Jeez, that's a tough one. To put it in visual terms, this song is like a big collage. In it, I can pick out elements of each of their albums dating back as far as Hemispheres. Granted, some are fleeting (in the visual metaphor I would use the term "hazy") but they are indeed there. In audio terms, it is the culmination of decades of... well, how does one actually describe the awesomeness of Rush in a single word? That's also a tough one! IMHO, if you want to describe that awesomeness in a single song, Caravan more than fits the bill.