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Thoughts From Dr. Joe: Making the memories of life

June 22, 2012|By Joe Puglia

I’ve kept journals since the eighth grade, recording memories that became treasures in the heart to pull out on the tough days of adulthood. I wrote my thoughts sparingly and only chose those aspects of life that were most impactful.

I took my journals to Vietnam, hoping to write a story of my evolution into the heart of darkness. Both dreams were destroyed in an 82mm mortar attack. Only one journal survived. It was hard to begin again, but I did. Everybody needs their memories. They keep the wolf of insignificance from knocking at your door.

By recording the salient moments of life I have learned that our existence is a compilation of memories. Whether good or bad, they exist and form our personal literature. We don’t remember days; we remember moments.

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What we remember from childhood we remember forever as permanent ghosts — stamped, inked, imprinted and eternally seen. As I examine my life, I understand this, and as the leader of Girl Scout Troop 889, I’ve tried to craft experiences that will linger in the memories of the children. Some of our classrooms aren’t classrooms, you might say.

I want my girls to have a plethora of moments: modeling in a fashion show, enjoying afternoon tea, raising money for charity, presenting the American flag, reading interpretively at the Memorial Day commemoration and participating in Chumash rituals at Descanso Gardens.

Yet the pursuit of an experience for its own gratification is not entirely possible. The residuals of happenings are memories, and memories are what are left behind when something happens and doesn’t completely un-happen.

My troop has been backpacking in the mountains for four years. Each year I’ve tried to build on the previous year’s experience. Writer Wilfred Blevins tells us to “give our heart to the hawks” in order to capture the rapture of life. Subsequently I’ve always believed that some of our recollections should include going beyond the pavement.

For the ladies of 889, the alchemy of becoming young women is at hand; consequently, I want to leave them with something more than an intellectual understanding of wilderness. Last week the Scouts did a four-day backpacking trip into the high country of Yosemite National Park. As George Eliot wrote, “We could never have loved the earth so well if we had had no childhood in it.”

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