There is a story about a believer who spoke to God. He had walked many times on the beach, through good and bad times. He looked back on the pair of footprints that traversed the sand. God had accompanied him.But he saw stretches of sand with only one set of footprints. He asked God: “Why is it than in the stormy times of my life you abandoned me?”
God answered. “My son, you do not remember. In those times I carried you. Those are my footprints”.
So why do I tell this story? Because I do not remember much. I probably do not remember more than I remember. But it is interesting, because not remembering can be far richer than remembering. It can uncover your heart and mind in layers that do not hurt.
I am not talking about not remembering after drinking too much. That is a few hours that one regrets. I am talking about not remembering the texture of life, the gesture that made a difference, the few words that touched you to keep you going another day. All those are forgotten. In some way I pay homage to them by writing, by keeping contact with family and friends and by making pictures.
I remember filling books with poetry and then burning them, because the words were too close to my soul. Now I wish I had them to help me remember.
I remember making black and white pictures of the church on Analipsi in the snow only because the pictures hang in the house in Kakouri. I remember one stretch of treacherous ice John and I had to cover and being breathless tired on the last stretch to the peak, but I do not remember taking those pictures. I must have had one of my Olympus cameras, but was it the OM-1 or OM-2? What film did is use? I used to buy it in bulk and load it in the darkroom, but I cannot remember developing it. I cannot remember the ghost image appearing in the tray as the exposed Ilford paper gained life. I cannot remember how the pictures got to Greece, if I took them or if my father did? Where they were framed escapes me. I have no idea.
But the pictures hang in the entrance hall of the Patriko. I have no copies of them in Durban, even though I usually photograph everything in that house to help my memory. Even though that entrance hall is my favourite room in the whole world, as it used to be a stable, and evokes a sense of security in me with memories.
It is a cool room with kitchen smells of bread and fruit and cheese. The straw cut below the almond trees outside smell meets the wet stone sweet basil smell of the courtyard and brings you to the village. Along with the tinkling of the voluminous bell on the sheep leading the herd with the shepherd behind making guttural Balkan sounds as he drives them past with a smell of their own.
Not remembering always helps one to remember.