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.
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.