In search of the memorable

Walking path near the Carmans Rivers in the Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge on Long Island’s south shore.

When we settled in the car and were driving out of the neighborhood, my son asked why we were driving a half-hour to go on a walk. “Can’t we just walk around here?” he asked. “We could,” I said. “But we already know what everything looks like here. And besides, wouldn’t it be nice to walk through the woods rather than on the side of a street?” My son thought about this for a moment. “There are plenty of trails here in Rocky Point,” he said. “If we want to walk through some trees, then we don’t have to drive for half an hour. Isn’t burning up gas bad for the environment?” he added.

The reason we had decided to drive to the Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge on Long Island’s south shore instead of walking in the wooded areas closer to home was because at the end of February I’d read a book function and improvement of memory called Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer. In one of the chapters Foer wrote about how our sense of the passage of time is related to memory.

Everyone’s heard the old adage “time flies when you’re having fun.” While that might be true in the moment, having fun is actually more memorable than being bored. We’ve all experienced the seemingly excruciatingly slow progress of time when we are not having fun. However, Foer points outs, it doesn’t follow that one should attempt to be bored to feel as if one is living longer. The key to looking back on your life and feeling as if you’ve lived it fully is to have done lots of memorable things. Doing dull, boring, repetitious things is a sure way of ending up with the feeling that life is slipping away from you.

The key to living a full, memorable life is to avoid repetition. Don’t fall into a routine. Keep yourself from getting into a rut.

When I read that chapter in Foer’s book I thought about my life and how I’d establish a comfortable schedule for myself. Waking each morning at the same time to write. Then I’d spend the day at the office. Return home to spend the evening sitting in front of the fire reading a good book. Each day, while comfortable, enjoyable in the moment, was a repetitive loop. Months would go by and those months would collapse into an undifferentiated mass, a concentrated, singular memory. All I would have to show for the passage of days was the words I’d written and the books I’d read.

As comfortable as my schedule was, the routine was making me feel as if my life was speeding into the future, sending me hurtling faster and faster toward the inevitable end. I shared my concerns with Denise, my wife. “We need to do some different things,” I said. “We need to do things that will create singular memories which will serve as markers for the passage for time. Instead of just hanging out at the house all weekend, we should get out and see some sights, go to places on the island that we’ve never been before.”

And so it was on Easter Sunday morning that we loaded into our Volvo station wagon and embarked on our first adventure, a three mile hike along the Carmans river.

The Carmans river.
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