January 14, 2022

Further Explorations at 611

Further Explorations at 611

611 was my grandmother's house number. I won't say what street or city. I suppose it's possible you can find it from the image on the previous entry, but probably not.

My grandmother died in December of 2020, the day before the 65th anniversary of her having taken possession of that house. She still had her original house key, though they hadn't used those locks in decades. My mother was five years old when they moved in, and has no memories of living anywhere before that house.

My grandfather died when my mother was, oh, seven or eight. I forget. My grandmother raised her three children with the help of her mother, until she died, and then alone. Gran never remarried.

She did, however, find companionship. After two of her children had moved out, my mother introduced her mother to a very nice widow, maybe ten years my Granny's elder, and they became friends. Anita. She moved in so they could share household expenses. And never left. I call Anita my "bonus grandmother", because in all ways, she was another grandmother to me. They lived together until Anita died, and afterwards, my grandmother lived alone, although my uncle and aunt lived right next door. (My uncle has only ever lived in two houses, his whole life, and they're next door to one another.)

People always jump to the conclusion that Gran and Anita were a couple. Based on their reaction to me coming out – loving but deeply confused – they were not. They were, instead, genuinely an example of a phrase I generally dislike: heterosexual life partners. It's simply accurate, to my chagrin.

That's 275 words about my grandmothers without ever getting to the memory palace. There's a point, I swear.

The second half of the Orphic Hymn to Hekate got increasingly difficult to pin to things that were really in the house. I had to stretch considerably. And I found myself very reluctant to enter Anita's room (which was the room where she kept her stuff; she slept in Granny's room, they had twin beds of the kind that raised and lowered like hospital beds) in the memory palace, or use anything of hers. I can't figure out why. Neither of them approved of my religion, of course. Granny was Catholic (a convert, to marry), and Anita an Episcopalian (IIRC). But somehow, while Anita's things that were on public display in the house (like the Wedgwood box and teacups) were ok, her private things were not.

I wound up, in the end, leaving out Granny's bedroom, too, and its contents. The memory palace uses only three rooms and a hallway, and just a bunch of objects in those spaces (well... there was a lot of stuff there, in fairness).

So. The second half of the Hymn:

Therobromon azoston,
aprosmachon eidos echousan,
Tauropolon, pantos kosmou
kleidouchon anassan,
Egemonen, nymphen,
kourotrophon, ouresiphoitin,
Lissomenois kouren teletais
osiaisi pareinai
Boukolo eumeneousan
aei kechareoti thymo

The meaning:

She of the roaring of beasts, ungirt,
irresistable form possessing
Bullherder, of the entire universe
the key-holding lady
Guide, bride,
Nourisher of children, who roams mountains
Grant us, Maiden, at these rites
Your holy presence
Favoring the Boukolos (a priest)
Ever with a happy heart

Actually, I made pretty rough going of the meanings here, so I imagine some of it is a hash. Sorry.

And then, the Memory for Things:

She of the roaring of beasts, ungirt, - Gran's Shi Tzu Marty comes in, howling, no collar on
irresistable form possessing - he echoes, and cannot be silenced
Bullherder, of the entire universe - on the wall again, the poster of the STS-33 space shuttle launch*
the key-holding lady - two ornate brass keys in frames
Guide, bride, - on another wall, a young Gran in her wedding dress
Nourisher of children, who roams mountains - her children when they were small, below the wedding picture
Grant us, Maiden, at these rites - Granny herself, at her desk
Your holy presence - begins to pray her rosary
Favoring the Boukolos (a priest) - Uncle Bill (a Catholic priest, Gran's brother-in-law) enters
Ever with a happy heart - and the Sacred Heart appears over his head

And as soon as I finished typing the above, I tried it. And I was able to get through the entire hymn.

I'll try it again over the next few days, see how well it's actually stuck.

I'm still making heavy weather of The Art of Memory. I just don't have much brain for nonfiction reading, apparently. But I persevere.

I'm seriously considering picking up How to Learn and Memorize Greek Vocabulary by Anthony Metivier, which specifically uses memory palace techniques to teach memorization of Greek vocabulary. Modern Greek, but still. Seems very useful. Metivier is also the podcaster responsible for the Magnetic Memory Method Podcast, which I've heard recommended.

Now, the way I've done this, as I was discussing this evening, hasn't really sharpened my visualization any, because I'm using stuff I already know. It's already, barring a couple of details, real to me. I don't need to try to draw a picture in the blank blackness, I just move from real thing to real thing, sliding in my mind from stop to stop. Where they are matters, and what they are, but not their appearance. I don't know how to explain it better. That's part of why I want to try the Greek vocabulary book. Try it with someone else's images, see if that helps.

*Why is there a poster of a particular shuttle launch there? That's way too specific not to be real, right? It's perfectly real. It's there because a family member was on board. It was a night launch, and absolutely gorgeous – at 12, alongside me very extended family, I watched from the Cape, just across the water from the launch pad, as it lifted. Amazing.