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May 28, 2001

Memory Day

Memorial Day again, and I think Iíve said that I donít have much use for martial commemorations. There are no holy wars, and holidays are markers of another sort. For every war is meant to be the last, while every holiday is but the next, the latest repetition of our way of being. ďRemember, lest we repeatĒ, they say, but what we remember is what we do; memory itself is repetition, and war is best forgot.

We remember, and we forget.
Memory cannot embalm the living moment,
nor forgetfulness vitiate the existential fact.
To turn towards, or to turn away:
the Holiday is in your choice.

On this day that ushers in the leisure season, memory serves to ingratiate the past in the eyes of the future; to ease the passage of the one into the other. The point of exchange is the site of celebration.

Here is a bargain between past and future, and the fulfillment of a promise.
The American Chestnut, recalled from the depths of forgetfulness. These are the trees that were planted last Spring, atop the Great Hill. The latest in blight-resistant cultivars, these Chestnuts seek to reintroduce a forgotten presence to the local biome. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Hill grows another Chestnut, this one a literal memory. It is not planted, but likely a sprout from what remains of one of the old trees, killed back by the blight. The roots do not die, but continue to put forth new stems, which eventually succumb to the pathogen, a fate the new trees are designed to escape.

For now, itís all in the past and in the future. The trees look indistinguishable, though separated by heritage and potential. Between those poles, new leaves unfold, ephemeral as Spring.


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