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From the Archives of Memory

While sorting through thousands of my photos, have come across a few that I had almost forgotten about. I made this particular image when I was 19, when I was really enjoying shooting black and white film and the process of developing and printing in a dark room. I can still recall the smell of those chemicals, and the skill it took to do all that by hand. 

Funny how photos, especially old ones from my past, can transport me instantly through time and space, permitting a brief walk amongst the sense-memories and emotional imprint of the time when the photos were made. Some are quite strong, vivid, and seem to have a life unto themselves. . . as if I truly arrived in that captured moment from the future. Sometimes this emotional-spiritual time-travel is useful to collect something left behind. Very much like dreaming, such photos (or even objects and other memorabilia), can stir powerful memories – energies from our emotional archive. I can still recall specific days (not necessarily dates) from my childhood that capture a feeling of supreme contentment and a young, care-free spirit. The color of the sky, angle of sunlight, fragrances in the air, a song on the transistor radio, a game I was playing and what I ate for lunch. Why? Why is this sort of uneventful snapshot recorded (and recalled) with such detail and dimension?

"Die Laughing" © 1979 Michael Gambino

Well anyway, this image you see here brought up the following snapshot of memory for me:

Having served it's purpose, this Jack-o-Lantern was set out in my family's tiny cement and gravel backyard to decompose. For days it sat there, grinning at me as I came and went. It grinned as I fired my BB gun at it. It grinned as crows pecked at it, and grinned through sleet, cold, and the darkness of night. Day after day, its eerie quality grew more potent, especially as the autumn shadows grew longer.

Once, in the stillness of the late-night air, illuminated by the ambient light of street lamps and low clouds, this retired Jack-o-Lantern seemed to emanate a strange presence. Perhaps it was the late, late hour of my arrival home that Saturday night or the cheap beer of my low-budget youth, but I could swear this pumpkin-head made a sound as I passed it. I stopped and stared into the gloom where it sat, my eyes wide and heart pounding. I saw the jagged, leering mouth move. It produced a soft sound, a mischievous chuckle of the sort one might imagine is made by those unseen inhabitants of the Faerie realm. I focused all my attention on it in disbelief. I held my breath and listened hard, but it spoke no more. I dismissed the event as fatigue-induced hallucination, and quietly made my way through the back door of the dark house to my room upstairs. I lay in bed, unable to shake the experience despite my logical mind unequivocally dismissing it as fantasy.

The spooky experience lingered in my mind for a few more days, and eventually that Halloween has-been collapsed into an amorphous mound of orange mush. It had died laughing, taking its secret to the grave.

Reader Comments (4)

Well done yet again! A great graphic and the story was good too.

December 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDonald G

Thank you for reminding me that in moments like these, I realize that time is but a human fabrication for the purpose of explaining experiences to another. Moments always exist in the NOW because that is when we experience them. Love the picture too!

December 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBilly Blaze

Thanks for the walk down Memory Lane; I was having trouble finding it on my GPS.

p.s. were you more afraid of this pumpkin, the "tree-men," or the werewolf under the bed?

p.p.s. ..or Sister Agnes Maureen?

December 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commenter=T=

To all who have left comments, I sincerely appreciate them! Some of you have sent e-mails too. It makes a difference to know that people are actually reading what I write.

And to =T=, who left the comment above, the pumpkin was a fleeting thing; the marching "tree-men" were a menace waaay more terrifying and longer lasting in childhood. Oh, and I didn't know any werewolves growing up. Finally, most of the nuns scared me. ;-)

December 23, 2010 | Registered CommenterMichael Gambino

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