The Landscape of Memory

Image courtesy Holly Ordway
Image courtesy Holly Ordway

The Landscape of Memory

by Dr. Holly Ordway

“I gazed—and gazed—but little thought / What wealth the show to me had brought.” William Wordsworth reminds us, in “Daffodils,” of something that is easy to miss: that memory is a treasure-house. When I revisit something in memory, it is not daydreaming, but rather a use of that “inward eye” to see again what the outward eye saw — and perhaps to appreciate it more deeply, the way that re-reading a favorite book can bring a deeper appreciation.

As I reflected on Wordsworth’s poem, I found myself drawn back to one of my own ‘daffodil’ moments: the many walks I took along the Oxford canal path last summer. Dwelling with my inward eye on the images that I held in memory, I found myself again filled with the contentment that I felt on those walks. And so this poem became my Wordsworthian re-visiting of those images, now held in both memory and words.


Image courtesy Holly Ordway
Image courtesy Holly Ordway

Canal Walk

The canal runs straight beside me, its surface sharp
With sun and scored with arrow-wakes of ducks,
A mirror giving back the sky made strange.

A houseboat, shabby, painted gold and red,
Glides past, a cat curled sleeping on the roof.
The air is rich with the scent of sun-warmed earth

And the heavy-headed roses in the hedge
That shed their pale petals at my touch.
The leaves above are dappled dark and jewel-

Bright. I pause beneath a bridge, and watch
The water flowing onward in the light,
Into a living picture framed by stone.

Muted by distance, a dog is barking, a train
Clatters by, and then is gone. Stepping forth,
I let the sunlight fill my open hands.


2 thoughts on “The Landscape of Memory

  1. Violet Nesdoly says:

    Loved this poem, Holly. It is rich with sense of place, (can just see the cat curled up on the roof of the houseboat gliding by, and the “living picture framed by stone”). It makes me feel like sneaking away with pencil and pad to remember–and poemify–some of my own favorite places.

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