Places and Practices Forgotten
by C.K. Thomas
Over the years as I’ve traveled, I’ve kept a file of photos I call “Forgotten Places.” It’s full of scenes of things long forgotten and left in ruin: a picnic table in a field of weeds and daisies; a tumbled-down cabin near Lumby, British Columbia; a bench atop a hill lost in tall weeds and wild flowers near Glacier National Park; steps to officers’ quarters overrun with vines at Fort Bowie in New Mexico, and so on.
Nostalgia quickly takes over when I dwell on these photos and try to imagine the scenes played out in these overgrown testaments to a past that might only exist as a faint glimmer in someone’s memory. Musings like these remind me of practices some of us have taken for granted all our lives, but which no longer seem relevant to today’s technologically racing world.
Letters to loved ones are prime examples of one of the lost arts of communication. The stylish looping of letters connecting the words in sentences of cursive writing is another. And what about clocks with faces! To me there is nothing compelling about a digital display of the time. Think of the sounds that go with a ticking grandfather clock and the delightful musical notes announcing the hour and half-hour.
A character peeking into the foyer of a haunted house just wouldn’t be as scary without the steady ticking of the clock and the haunting bong of its relentless announcement of midnight. The discovery of a typed letter from one lover to another in a romance novel just doesn’t have the same charm as one in the recognizable script of a lover’s own handwriting.
Speaking of letters to loved ones, think how much history we’re losing every day when email and instant messages end up in the computer slush pile. Entire novels have been inspired by ancient, ribbon-tied letters discovered buried in old cedar chests. And what of diaries spelling out the details of everyday life in some forgotten era?
Perhaps I’m not considering the wealth of information available to historians of the future in the form of Internet documents and files. Maybe there will be no need to sift through dusty attics and old trunks to find out about the lives of people living in this age of iPhones, iPads, and iThings yet to come. Whatever the case may be, I’m feeling the loss of some of the familiar things of the past and longing for a slower, simpler way of life.
That said, I’m still not ready to give up my electronic toys in the name of recovering some of the charms of the past. Keeping them as a faint glimmer in my memory will just have to be enough.
C.K. Thomas lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Before retiring, she worked for Phoenix Newspapers while raising three children and later as communications editor for a large United Methodist Church. The Storm Women is her fourth novel and the third in the Arrowstar series about adventurous women of the desert Southwest. Follow her blog: We-Tired and Writing Blog.