Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
Rosie Thomas reminds us that we are never going to be able to outrun our memories so we should just stop trying already. It's a foolish sport and our short, lazy legs just can't generate the kind of turnover needed to make any kind of headway. We've got a better chance of breaking Las Vegas, or of reading all the books we want to read before we die. It's useless to think that there's any way to actually do it. It's difficult enough to outlive the past. To outrun it - doing something that we could consider the equivalent to actually beating or trumping it - is damned near unimaginable. We rarely even dream of such a thing, primarily because our dreams tend to be amalgamations of our memories anyway so there's a fat chance that the watchdogs are going to be asleep when the break for the exits actually goes down. It's just a smoker up there and inside - with the ball bearings, springs and moving parts - anyway. It all just slow cooks, after marinating for days and days. All of the cooking juices and spices soak into every possible inch of that meat and they are trapped there, locked in. Then it all goes over the fire and, it's not that we forget to check on its progress, it's that there's no retrieval process. Once deposited, it's like putting something into a blue, curbside mailbox: it's stuck.
As a writer, Thomas finds herself enraptured with the past, and her fine memories of it, that there's nothing else for her. It's so important and so influential to her and any of her current states that she needs it all there with her - like that set of encyclopedias (now a thing of the past?) that our families all used to have as kids, sitting over there, on the shelf in the corner, just in case we needed to know ANYTHING. They were there, just in case we needed to figure anything out. They were there, along with photo albums of faces and days that were that quickly gone - documentation that the people and the things that they did actually happened. We looked and still do look to them to find fondness - for all of the sweet things that there are to tell about people and their ways. We rarely look at photographs and curse at them. We can do that with memories, but the longer they are docked, the more they morph into the remembrances like the ones Thomas has of a cross-country trip where someone announced it every time a new state line was crossed.
Thomas sings, on "Like Wildflowers," "If it's all about timing then I'm right where I should be/And there's no room for regrets/But oftentimes I find/My thoughts play in rewind/And will free me from the past/And where will I go/And where will I go/Where will I go." It's here that we understand the complications in feeling like you're getting "over" your memories, or out-running them a little. It's that feeling - of barreling down a hill and suddenly sensing that the rest of your body's gotten ahead of the legs and you're going to bite it in a few more feet. It's that feeling of, "What now?" She asks where she'll go and there's not an answer in sight. She has no idea what she would be or what she would do if she could slip out of the past - in the dark of night. For that reason alone, it will never happen. It just mustn't.