The Memory Palace


By Isabelle Jodoin, contributing writer

Photo from Unsplash

Isabelle Jodoin was one of three top essays chosen in the freshman writing essay contest held this fall. Essays were submitted by English 111 instructors and were judged by the students in the ENG 340 Fall Editing class, who chose the top three. The contest was sponsored by the Humanities division. Congratulations, Isabelle!

It is said that the eyes are the windows to the soul. If this is the case, then what becomes of the windows themselves? I believe that without windows, we would be blind to the world, in no need of eyes at all. Windows have the ability to frame our vision, bordering the memories and scenes that we behold. There’s a window like this in my kitchen that looks out onto my backyard. As the kitchen is the focal point of our house, this window has had many spectators over the years, thus framing the life that has been lived in my backyard. Every time I look through that window, I am reminded of all the memories that landscape holds. Looking out onto the Canadian countryside, this acreage has had many guests over the years, of both the two and four-legged kind. Flocks of wild turkeys have waddled through these grasses, their bronzed feathers spread wide in a display of their heraldry, while colonies of curious hares have turned our property into their home and playground. We have even witnessed the occasional whitetail deer loping with unmatched grace across our land, accompanied closely by their spotted offspring.

The setting of our backyard morphs along with the creatures that call it home, and this morphology comes with the changing of each season. In the winter months, our backyard alters from long summer days into early evenings with cold winds. This shift soon invites snow and lots of it. A winter wonderland can be seen through the panes of our kitchen window as the entire landscape becomes blanketed in a thigh-high cover of white, with sweating icicles adorning every precipice. In the sunlight, this blanket shimmers and provides a feeling that can only be described as magical. My brother and I could be seen through that window in our younger years frolicking in the snow. Our gargantuan snowsuits covered us from head to toe, leaving only our eyes exposed to the frigid climate. After spending hours in this tundra, we would finally come in for dinner, covered in sweat and sporting frozen eyelashes. Those frosty months also carried with them a silence that draped the land, a natural soundproofing masking the cacophony of daily life.

Dissimilarly, spring in our backyard arrives without warning. As the ice thaws and the blazing sun returns, this landscape rapidly takes on the new form of a hidden oasis full of lush greenery, including the flowering of lilac trees and the constant caroling of birds. Fowl of all shapes, sizes, and colors flock to the newly developed stream babbling along with the territory, and bring with them the songs of their species. Strong rains closely accompany these changes and flush the land of all things winter. Thunderous roars of impending storms announce their intentions as the sky darkens. Rain throws an unmatched force onto the glass portal that oversees these lands. The winter becomes a distant memory as its remnants are forcefully flushed from the property. With the vegetation teeming with life and the weather having risen to its balmy temperature, an invitation to summer has been accepted.

Spectators from the windowsill witness the stridency of loud colors that are paraded through our backyard by bikini-clad swimmers and barbeque cookers alike. The only brighter things are the sunburns that these garments tenderly conceal. After the long-haul of school exams, the sheer ecstasy of summer break is almost palpable in the air. As if the knob of a faucet has broken off, there is no stopping the excitement of teenagers. Music trumpets through the night while stars illuminate the swimming pool in magical light. Friends soar through the air, focused on their landing into this watery abyss and ultimately drenching all occupants within their vicinity. These summer nights are added to my storage of memories that call this backyard home.

Through those four glass panes, my backyard has hosted many memories over the years, some happy and others with the promise of sadness. While the land of this backyard oasis carries with it the assurance of new life each spring, it also holds loving pets within its earthen grasp. The summer nights of fun and games have also been the setting of sorrowful goodbyes and long embraces. While to an outsider this backyard may be nothing more than a quick remark on good landscaping, to me I am transported back in time to a plethora of memories every time I gaze out of my kitchen window.