David Collett was born in London in 1936. He has been a member of Kibbutz Kfar Hanassi since 1957. David is a photographer and occasional writer.
The following work is copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. No distribution or reprinting in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.
The Repository for Memories
In the uncertain light of the hour before dawn, I find myself walking the broken path which leads to the door of the yellow hut. I have known this place for more than half a century. But in that time everything has changed, except the place itself. I know, for example, that the hut is yellow because it has always been that in my mind, even though much of the paint has fallen away and the wood beneath has been bleached to silver-gray by the sun. Seen in ghostlight, now, everything looks silver. On either side of the cement steps up to the door, there is a straggling geranium plant in a rusted tin can. Behind the plant at the right-hand side, there is a bucket draped with a floorcloth, and behind that, leaning against the wall, are a broom and a squeegee. The floor of the porch in front of the door is covered with clean sacking. That is how I remember it from when I first saw it, the toddler's house, spick and span and sacrosanct, the floor washed twice each day. Keep the mud out at all costs and “No visitors, if you please!”
Now, pinned to the wooden door panel which was once a curtained window, is a neat hand lettered sign, reading “Repository for Memories”, and another by the door-jamb “Please Come In. We are always open.” – even at this hour? Especially at this hour.
I am standing in a low-ceilinged room, so large that it seems to be bounded only by the mist of forgetfulness. On every side of me are tables, counters, dress-rails, open fronted sets of shelves, of all sorts and sizes, interspersed at random, reaching as far as the eye can see; everything loaded with such an array of shapes and colours so that my first impression is of being in a shimmering landscape alive with hills and valleys, woodlands and meadows all veined with winding paths.
It is no wonder that I feel the living presence in this place. Every item stored here is alive though it is quiescent. These are memories, wraithes abandoned because they are out of their time or because they are too heavy a burden for their owners to bear. There are ghosts of the past, beauties that have faded, hopes that have been given up, the accumulations of long departed families, packed up and left on the doorstep, in case they may be useful to somebody, anybody. There are flashes of gold and glory, ease and comfort and the wildest loves that were never heard of. There are carpets of peace and plenty that nobody ever laid claim to, forgotten grandeur, crowns, sceptres, lawcodes and the histories of once famous peoples. Despair can be found here, but at its core there may be redemption.
Everything here is only what you may make of it. So that anybody may find, in this cast-off junk, precisely what he lacks in his soul and may deposit here memories that no longer fit his use. Great caution is required in this matter. The Fates are involved. You will need an expert guide.
The curator of this institution is a such a person. She is ageless. She carries the aura of inevitability. She forms the landscape through which you wander, out of her own being. She is always in motion, sorting, arranging and evaluating. Everything passes through her hands. She places her wares in harmony, so that they will conform to the special need of her customer. When she is not moving through her spectred world, altering displays and replacing items which have been removed from their proper places, she is busy with her accounts, seated at a small table, somewhere in the distant gloom.
She does not greet her customers. Those who are not needy, will never arrive at her door. She works in silence, intent on her task, but in the very moment that you reach out for help, she is moving towards you. She, indeed, has answers to your queries, but first you must ask the question. In her presence, the answers may sometimes rise unbidden, from the words in which you express your need.
I had thought that I would merely peep into the hut, satisfy my curiosity, and then move on to wherever I had been going. But I am drawn deeper into this strange realm. I can no longer find my way back. After a while, I stop beside a wide table, piled high with soft yielding fragments. As I draw my hand through the mass, it gives way, closing again behind my hand, leaving no mark of the disturbance. Until my fingers clutch at an almost corporeal object and draw it up out of the miscellany. I cannot readily discern its shape or its colour. I do not know what it might be. But one thing is certain. It is mine. I must have it for my own. And in that moment, I am aware that the woman is standing at my side. “May I take this?” “Yes,” she says “It is yours.”
"What is it?” She replies “Whatever you will make of it.” “ Where is the way out?” “You are at the door.”
I step out into the dawn, and realise, with no surprise, that I have come away empty handed. I am lying on my back in long meadow grass at the corner of an autumnal wood. My eyes watch the morning sky, through a tracery of branches. Half-dreaming, I remember that when I left the house this early morning I turned back to close the door softly, and I saw there, in the moonlight, your hand, creep out from the covers, to lay unfurled in the imprint of my head on the pillow.