Why do I write? How could I not? I write so I know that I exist. Brief as my moment in this world may be, it’s mine and mine alone; all mine to cherish and to honor. All mine to examine, make sense of, and preserve in the amber drop of memory.
I write to remember the honey light in Marrakech on a late afternoon in March, the blue of the sky vibrating with the muezzin calls and the racket of the sparrows playing in the palm trees in the Majorelle Garden. The gorgeous backdrop of the Atlas Mountains and the aroma of the spices in the souk. The rich hot black coffee in the tiny café on a side street off Jemâa el-Fna Square. The toothless smile of the old water seller under the colorful hat embellished with bright orange fringes. I remember he had a bushy mustache and an air of resigned patience on his heavily lined face as tourists snapped their photos. At least he’s getting paid, I thought.
I write to remember Delhi and the heavy scent of burning incense that hit me while the plane was landing, the beaming faces greeting me in the terminal, friends I hadn’t met yet. Delirious and unfamiliar Delhi, my senses assaulted by its cacophony of novel sounds, colors, and smells; the reddish-brown cow nibbling on a sapling at the side of the road, another moving placidly in the chaotic traffic. Horn, please! said the stickers on the bumper, explaining part of the racket. The delicious food at a vegetarian restaurant I found wandering by myself in the glowing twilight.
And everywhere you looked, people. People walking in line along the dusty roads, carrying bundles of vegetables or a collection of empty plastic water bottles; bales of cotton in all the rainbow’s colors; armloads of marigolds, their leaves strikingly green against the deep orange of the petals. People riding bicycles or rickshaws, carrying saddlebags, floor sacks, suitcases, packets tied with brown hemp strings, and age-worn backpacks. People drinking tea on the side of the road, gossiping and watching the traffic. Grinning people dressed in flowing white robes. Dark-eyed women with red dots on their foreheads and wide-eyed toddlers clutching tightly at their bright orange, green or yellow saris.
I write to remember Kyoto’s old streets, lined with tiny wooden houses clinging to the low hills, miniature flowerpots and plastic water bottles aligned like soldiers at the gates; the gray stone foxes at the Fushimi Inari shrine, messengers of Inari, the Shinto god of rice, red neckerchiefs fluttering in the cool wind around their necks; the fiercely red-orange of the torii gates matching the foxes’ kerchiefs.
I write to remember the dusty red tracks on Kangaroo Island, lined with giant eucalyptus trees; the incongruous rough calls of the fluffy koalas at dusk, mixed with the hubbub of the parakeets and galahs; the boxing kangaroos at sunset, their darkening silhouettes visible against the fiery sky; and the soft leathery sounds made by the flying foxes in the dark.
But faraway places aren’t the only stops of my memory train. There’s a democracy in my head; everybody can climb on board. Five-star resorts and exotic islands; dusty tracks and fly-ridden donkeys; water-sellers and university professors; squirrels and the Queen of England; the first time I rode a bicycle; the summer I injured my knee; the downpour in the mountains that almost washed our tent away; the vanilla and coffee ice-cream I so enjoyed on summer afternoons; the surgery I had in 2014. It’s all there in the attic in a jumble that only writing can bring order to.
I write to freeze in time the moment I saw my name on the list of people admitted to the university, standing on my toes in a crowded room.
I write because otherwise, nobody else will know about Fluffy, the one-eyed red squirrel raiding the bird feeders in my backyard, her remaining huge alien eye glittering with mischief.
I write because the world has a right to know that Terry, the male squirrel with the dark fluffy coat, does not like peanuts. He prefers sunflower seeds.
This is why I write. How could I not?
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