I Remember Everything
Words by Shaun Levin
I remember everything. Every book I’ve read, every song I’ve sung and heard and overheard, even just in passing, from a doorway on an island in Greece. I remember every holiday, whether in the mountains or on the beach, every hotel, camping ground, B&B, castle, hut and chalet – I remember them all. I remember every man who has smiled at me. How shy I was! I remember every sunset, every dawn, every wave and breeze off the sea. I remember all my children, their names and the names we might have given them. I remember every shopping list, every dress I’ve bought, every hat and blouse. I remember when we met and where, every day of ours together, every day apart. I can tell you about every wrinkle on my skin, when it appeared, every spot, the way the flesh becomes soft. Like muslin, like pure cotton, like chiffon. I remember the light from every window and the darkness when it came, the quiet and gentle darkness that appeared in the window and the curtains that shut it out and so we’d bring the light into the room with fire and candles. I remember the photographs we took of the children, all of them, I remember their names, all their names, and the names we wanted to give them. I remember my mother, and her mother, and her mother’s mother’s mother. The names of them all, everyone, I remember them all. I remember to fill the fruit bowl when the apples have been eaten. Would you like another one? I remember every letter, every word I have written. The sound of pen on paper, the grooves ink makes on the yellow surface of the page. I remember the biscuits we baked, you and I, the day you came to visit. The day you knocked on the door and I smiled at you. Do you remember that? And you said, do you remember me, and I said, of course I do, of course I remember you. And you said: Who am I?
Intimacy makes us remember. We remember those who have touched us deeply, and even when we think we’ve forgotten – because there is always too much to remember – a sound or a smell or a face will remind us of that person and the closeness and profundity of our connection, our time with them will come back to us. There is no such thing as forgetting. Only pain. Only a will to survive. Joanna Ornowska’s images have that quality of intimacy that keeps them in our minds. Her willingness to get close to people, to reveal the details of what it means to be human, exposed to time (even when our backs are turned), and not shy away from the frailty of others, of all of us.