Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Garden of Memento Mori[e]s

The Garden of Memories was a topos of artefacts, the uniqueness of which is only revealed by my distance from them - in time and place. Whale bone arches formed a guard of honour along the sandy paths, implying a ghostly skeleton of the whales once hunted off the coast. Wearing the wrath of the wild coast, the ribs became more and more weathered. The bones were re-painted from time to time, standing out starkly for awhile in their whiteness, before regaining their patina. The tri-pots were regularly painted too, a slick glossy enamel black. Memories of whaling were somehow detached from reality, reforming into a mythology of place, as though a gentle mantle was draped over things, obscuring the sharpness into a benign still-life of enigmatic objects.

Memories of war were gathered into the obelisk sitting in the centre of the gardens. The roll of honour for Kaikoura recorded there, like every small town. And like the whale bones it softened gently into the assemblage of elements, each with its own poignant aura. Now missing, and greatly missed, is one of the significant loci of childhood memories. The birdhouse in the shape of a whare nui, a Maori meeting house. Not painted in the conventional Maori strip of red, black, white, brown, it was instead green and white. A green roof and white walls, but with the traditional maihi, or carved 'arms' that decorate the gable on the building's front. It seemed to have been rebuilt on a visit a few years ago, but alas has now disappeared altogether.

The stone in the wall just along from the gardens is cracked and almost hidden. Perhaps I never even noticed it before. The crack intervened in the word 'memories', separating the syllables, and suggesting a re-reading, as not simply remembering, but remembering death. The fractured word hinted at mem[ento] mories, reminders of death. The whales on this very coast, the soldiers in distant lands, silently held in place, below the paper weights which tether memories in the winds of time.

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