Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Memory, the Warder of the Brain*

Yesterday, my husband and I spent a fruitless hour searching for my glasses. I try to be very methodical about stowing my bifocals, with their attachable sunglasses. Yet, earlier in the day, we went to the grocery store, and when I went to extract my glasses, they weren't there--not to be found in my eyeglass case.

So, I began replaying the events of the previous day--where had I been when I last had my glasses. When we returned home, we both began looking for my glasses: in the car, on the floor of the garage, in my purse (turned completely inside out--remember the lost camera?), in every other glasses case in the house, under beds, down inside couches...get the picture? EVERYWHERE. Nothing. . .until, suddenly, my husband appeared in the garage. I was out there once more. Here they are, he said. Where, I asked sheepishly. Next to the laundry hamper. OF COURSE, I had taken them off to remove my sweater, laid them down, then left the room.


An episode such as my lost eyeglasses is what I call the coffee cup syndrome. No doubt, you are familiar with it--you pour yourself a cup of coffee (or tea), walk into another room, get distracted by something, put the cup down, walk away, and then...Then you can't remember where you put that cup. So you walk around, trying to recreate your last series of activities to figure out where the coffee cup is.

I don't know if my short term memory is becoming less efficient as I get older. Whatever the reason, it's frustrating.

A friend of mine recently invited me to accompany her to a live performance by Garrison Keillor. He opened his two hour monologue referencing sonnets--he went on to reminisce about memorizing sonnets in school. And promptly began reeling off strings of poetry.

The requirement to memorize poetry has pretty much fallen out of favor. In some ways, that's sad. I know just a few poems entirely by heart, but wish I knew more. My grandfather had committed many poems to memory--and when he was blind, he could recall them at great length, even trading lines of poetry back and forth with a friend of his.

Oh, I can't really claim that if I had more poems committed to memory that I would not misplace my glasses, or even that I could track down my coffee cup immediately.

I just want memory to be that warder of the brain. Or, maybe for the brain to be the warder of memory!
Macbeth, act 1, sc. 7, l. 65.


Ruth said...

Memory training can be very effective but in our high speed world, few take time to do it. Multitasking diminishes our ability to remember details too. I did the tea mug search this week and found it on a shelf in the linen closet (!!). I had been folding towels and set the mug down when I put them away. Thankfully I was able to replay the sequence and find it.

Ginnie said...

You've touched a raw spot here for me. I have always prided myself on my memory but lately I find that my recall time to remember names or words is greatly hampered. I can usually finally remember the word I wanted, etc. but by then the conversation has bypassed me !!

NCmountainwoman said...

Oh, I do hope that memorizing poetry will enhance my memory. I can recite tons of them. Spent many hours of my youth during the summer memorizing long poems.

I have reading glasses and have at least one pair in every room in the house. But I do share the lost coffee cup syndrome.

Anvilcloud said...

Sometime in the past few weeks, I misplaced a bag containing a few articles of clothing. I still can't find it.

Climenheise said...

I normally blame my memory lapses 9such as misplaced glasses on my NP personality -- but you're an NJ, so you don't have my excuse. It must be old age!

Climenheise said...

We really need an edit function, for stray numbers that creep into my typing. Maybe we have one and I just can't remember it. (I used spell check, but it's hopeless with eliminating numbers from words that I type.)

amarkonmywall said...

Well, I can recite the entire prologue to the Canterbury Tales, in mid-English no less, but I forget what I walk in a room to do. I lose many things- can't keep track of papers I just had my hands on, can't find my scissors while felting...I think it is merely part of the aging process but it's maddening. I've taken up laying mahjong once a week (which is quite comical in itself, this midwestern girl playing with a bunch of sharp women from Long Island) because it is a game that requires me to twist my brain around many new complex combinations and remember many details at once. And we do crosswords and memory games...memorizing poetry, a challenge in my all girls school days, sounds like a good idea to fall back to. I would memorize everything James Dickey wrote for starters...

Murr Brewster said...

Oh, yeah. Sometimes I wonder if we're messing things up because we never have to search our damp little brains for an answer, because we have a search engine handy by.

But mostly I think it's a matter of getting old. Which, in many ways, is a delightful process, and the ways it isn't...I tend to forget.