I got a nosebleed at Delphi, in the spring of 1986.
In the spring of 2013 (six days ago, in fact), a computer virus deleted all my contacts and every single message I’ve received since I opened my Gmail account.
I was stupid. I’d saved everything on Gmail, not on my laptop’s comparatively secure local turf. House-related documents. Messages from my kids. A draft with all my passwords. U of T course stuff.
Jaeho, my IT- (and Mac-) savvy friend, managed to restore everything up until March of this year. So I’m mostly redeemed—for now, at least. I’ve made the requisite silent (and maybe muttered, a little) promises to myself about Saving Stuff Locally, and generally Not Being So Dumb.
So. The Delphi connection.
I was a month away from 16 when I went to Greece and Italy with my classics class. I’d already written six short stories from the points of view of various people who’d known Alexander the Great. I was an Alexander fangirl, and the idea of setting my feet on a path where his feet had been made me dizzy. And I did—I walked along the path that winds up Mount Parnassus, and I took in the hazy line where the waters of the Gulf of Corinth met the sky. I got a nosebleed. A day later (or maybe before; memory fails, but it doesn’t matter) I stood atop the ruins of Mycenae and imagined Agamemnon’s voice, and Clytemnestra’s. I touched the stones of the beehive tombs and craned up at the lion above the gate, and I turned my face into a wind that felt ancient on my skin.
Peter wonders why I’m more drawn to history than to future. There are many answers; among them: the future may be unknown, but the past is a mystery. There’s a difference, and it’s one that’s always mattered to me.
You hear exhortations about living in the now. About not clinging to what’s gone; being mindful of the ground directly beneath your feet, not places already walked. I’ve never been good at this. When my emails vanished—every single once since 2007—I mourned. All those words: lost. Words for times, for people, for emotions that have passed.
Why does it matter? My friends and family, my editors and students, past and present, are still accessible. But the paths matter to me. The words, and all they call up. Aeschylus and my sister, summoning heady, wondrous images that would be fleeting—except that they’re there, in words.
I’ll try to save things locally from now on. But if I fail (as I mostly likely will, in time), Aeschylus will remind me, in words intended for predicaments far weightier than mine: Wisdom comes only through suffering. Also: Memory is the mother of all wisdom.
The sky above the Gulf of Corinth was painfully blue, and the columns were warm under my hands.
Memories are strange and fleeting companions, and ones that have chosen to visit me often of late. I am an old woman; I have ample time for remembering. Amongst the incoherent snatches of conversation and the half-familiar faces and sensations there lies a shining image, whole and vivid as ever it was.
I was a girl entering womanhood when I saw Alexander’s funeral carriage, but it has remained in my mind clearly, unblemished by the passing of time. I have kept the memory of that sight within me since then, but I fear that soon it, too, will become vague and distorted. That is why I have undertaken to write of the procession as I remember it. It began on a brilliant day in midsummer…
— “A Woman of Asia”, Caitlin Sweet, 1987