Waulking Song

All the things “our” culture has lost. I am not sure what I mean by “our”, really. I’ve got no stories handed down from lap to lap with tiny spoons, in black and white because that is what the past looked like.

I remember getting my hair washed in the kitchen sink. Maybe, just maybe, I remember sitting in the steel sink. I say maybe because I know our minds can assemble sensory information to create new things – that are just as experiential as substantiated memories.

But there are things I can’t fathom into being. My children’s measurement of the past isn’t in black and white. They see one, two generations past in still images – in moving images – in color that looks like I remember it. And I wonder what then gives these moments away as being from “the past” for them. What do they think has been lost, if anything?

In the 1941 films, digitized, AI “enhanced”, and uploaded to YouTube, the women who look vaguely like my grandmother and the picture I have seen of her mother sit around a table and slam the wool against the wood,. They sing a waulking song.

The women have an infantile quality, slightly bloated, smooth – even in old age, wrinkles folding like thick, healthy creases in a baby’s fat thigh. AI has quaint down: the video ends with the credit for the enhancement to Glamour Daze.

Everything seems resilient to the touch. Slightly wet. Like the landscape’s soft moss. Like the wool that keeps one warm none-the-less.

Every time (almost) I go on vacation, I can imagine moving there – living this imagination-enhanced life, where everything is resilient and days and evenings embrace me like a hug. Cosy is the closest English word I can think of. But it isn’t quite right. And because the word I reach for isn’t my mother-tongue, it probably isn’t quite right either. It’s is shaded and textured with colors I can’t see.

Maybe living in the moment means catching all the sensations consciously before they can be processed by memory, by words, by desires. And maybe it means letting them go again – unsorted (good from bad, black from white) without dialing up the contrast.

My grandmother told me that her fondest memories were of doing chores at the children’s home.

My grandmother, though? She couldn’t carry a note to save her life. She only sang in church. Sometimes I think she married my grandfather so his booming, slightly embarrassing, voice would drown her out among the congregation.

But that is neither here nor there. That is just a thought I had that stuck.


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