The earliest form of writing could have been a stick drawing of an animal in the sand. It could have been an expression of love to another or it could have been an early version of “I was here!” Sand blows away in an instant. It wasn’t recorded so it didn’t exist. It may have been observed but it wasn’t communicated to another. It may have been verbally reported. It may simply have been forgotten in the blink of a beautiful sunrise or the threat of being attacked by a wild animal or an enemy. Let’s back up a bit here, if something is observed but not recorded then how can it be remembered? Why do we bother to write, draw, paint or take photographs? Is it because we don’t trust our memories to carry it to the next day? Is it a desire to share with another? A desire to remember? A desire to show off? A desire to twist reality and to shape it into our own? A chance to dream?
When we take a photograph of a sunrise, it is a moment of time captured, it represents that moment but it hasn’t captured the sun, it has captured the expression, the light, the scene. It hasn’t captured the sound of the noisy parrots, the guitar playing of your neighbour, the smell of the jasmine behind you, nor has it noted the sound of the crashing waves against the crushed shells on the beach. What it has captured is a window into the memory and hopefully with a glance at the photograph the rest will come flooding back to you.
Why do we gather shells, leaves or sticks when we walk along a beach or a forest path? To create order? Perhaps. To remember? Perhaps. We may not think so deeply in the moment, and to do so is to spoil the moment. We pick up a stone because it looks nice or interesting. It’s not complicated. We aren’t complicated. When we pick up the same stone at home many years later we remember perhaps where we picked it up, whom we were with and what the weather was like and many other aspects of the day. Sometimes we remember only that it brings back good memories, what exactly cannot be remembered but the warmth of the memory lingers.