Why We Remember

By: Gabriela Yareliz

Call me crazy, but I love slowness in my own solitary moments. Maybe, this is because I strive to be efficient and productive in my work life. A slow morning is therapeutic, and I savor it. I love being mindful in “ordinary” moments, whether it’s feeling water rushing over my hands, as I wash them, or sitting by a sunny window and feeling the rays warm my shoulders. I think it is only in the slow that we see what others miss; that we find pause, in any circumstance.

Slowness isn’t easily achieved in a city like NYC. When you get off of a train, the crowd basically moves you up the stairs and out, above ground. Move or be moved, seems to be the motto. But slow, is lovely. It irritates some, but it is a refuge for me. Slow is a gift I give myself. There is this garden I love in the West Village, where the flowers grow, and no cell phones are allowed, and you can just sit on a bench and hear the wind rustle in the Witch Hazel trees and hear drops of water drip-dropping onto the top of an old trash bin. It’s peace. It’s slow. It’s the Creator’s mystery in nature.

In The Way of the Warrior, Erwin McManus states that we all remember things that others forget. There are memories that stick to us, he says, and the reason is personal. He describes a line in a book that he will never forget, that reads: “There was once a man who was driven to madness not because he could count the drops of rain but because he could count the spaces in between the drops of rain.” (81)

He says that many have read that book, but they don’t necessarily remember that one line. He said that he realized that one line stuck with him because, he writes, “These words strangely created in me a sense of hope— not that someone would be driven to madness because of the spaces between the rain but that someone out there actually understood the madness that raged within me.” (81)

This brought me a memory of a passage that I remember, clear as day, from literature that I treasured, and it made me think of why I still remember it, today.

[From Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf]

I think everyone in my English class hated this book. I read it twice. This was the book that allowed me to discover Virginia Woolf’s brilliance.

When I read the following passage, it felt like the clock stopped.

“Beauty, the world seemed to say. […] To watch a leaf quivering in the rush of air was an exquisite joy. […] beauty, that was the truth now. Beauty was everywhere.” Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

“Beauty was everywhere,” has always echoed in my mind, even as a child— even before I had ever read these words in a printed book. When I read this, sure, it’s the observation of the shell shocked World War I veteran Septimus on a park bench, but it resonated so loudly with me. I will forever remember these lines. It struck me because I too knew what it was like to feel a deep quietness within, where I could observe the world continue around me. I knew what it was like to feel the exquisite joy of watching the quivering of a leaf. “Beauty was everywhere.” I so deeply believed it then and believe it now.

I have always been fascinated by the concept and science of time, and whether things we do make it feel like it passes or is experienced faster or slower.

I moved a lot in my life. I was constantly adapting to new places, new people, new dynamics, and I always strived to see the beauty, wherever I was.

I would see old walls or a rundown shack, and I could imagine a catalog photo shoot there, even if no one would ever look twice at the shack. Beauty isn’t always superficial, at times it emerges with the passing of time or with the knowledge of a story or history. To me, beauty emerges in the slow.

No matter how ugly life got or how hard things felt, I had this safe place where I would retreat in a solitary, slow quietness. I could always see the beauty. Even where others thought it absurd. I could feel it; I still do, and it always filled me with hope. It still does.

What is something you remember that made the clock stop for you?

Published by Gabriela Yareliz

Gabriela is a writer, editor and attorney. She loves the art of storytelling, and she is based in NYC.

2 thoughts on “Why We Remember

  1. Oh, brilliant question. The first time I read this by Mary Oliver, time stood still for me: “Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift.” I love your appreciation of slow mornings. I have always felt out of synch with the world because I tend to need some moodling time to get going.

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