H. and I participated in one of Winnipeg’s 24 Jane’s Walks* this weekend: the one along Kildonan Drive North. It was a chilly, rather overcast day, but a large group of us gathered to wander along a river street associated with North Kildonan’s rich or famous—names familiar to the Mennonite settlement here like Henry Redekop, A.A. DeFehr, George Janzen, Henry Krahn, and those connected to pioneering and municipal leadership like J.M. Morton and Angus Matheson McKay.
Now and then we were told of some house that used to be there but no longer was. It got me thinking about how difficult it can be to remember the earlier look of a site when you’re staring at how it looks now. For example, I never think of Redekop Lumber (later Polet’s) which used to be at 1128 Henderson while I’m at Starbucks or Shopper’s there. It already takes effort while driving the recently constructed Chief Peguis Freeway to remember the corridor of green fields and woods that bordered Douglas Avenue, just a block from where we live, which I short-cutted across for years to visit my parents at Donwood Manor.
But if it’s difficult to separate the current and the previous while physically present at sites, I have less trouble hauling places up in my memory. I know places I’ve lived–beginning with the house of my preschool years–with a thoroughness that surprises me. I can see, almost feel, them. Even dorm rooms of short duration. I often remember places better than I remember what went on inside them, it seems. Few conversations, few incidents, sometimes not even faces. And if incidents are remembered, they come along with a strong sense of location.
It seems so much of what I’m conscious of while I’m living it will slip away, while that to which I pay scant attention in the moment–the container around this living–seeps into me and remains accessible. I think I could step in and walk around any number of former rooms, opening curtains, pulling out drawers, aware of where everything is kept. Is it just me? Or is there some brain-function explanation for this?
*Jane’s Walks, held in many cities every year on the weekend closest to her May 4 birthday, celebrate Jane Jacob’s ideas about neighborhoods and what makes city living good.