desolate bramble configuration

memory: The capacity to recall past experience or information in the present. The reliability of memory as a source of knowledge and the extent of its contribution to personal identity are matters of philosophical dispute.

The dictionary entry is ingenuous, for memory can be a matter of more than philosophic dispute, and its dodginess as a source of knowledge rivals only that of its main competitor in human affairs, the text.

121 rondavelLuitingh’s Guest Farm closed around the time of Lesley’s marriage to Anton. The old ladies either died or moved on, and Anton demolished some of the rondavels, while others fell into ruin. The farm, now run as yet another small subtropical fruit and produce farm in the area, took on the appearance of desolation.

The gardens and lawns, without the attentions of the gardeners, merged with and became indistinguishable from the surrounding ecology, but many of the magnificent flowering trees that Hopper had planted remained, now mature and stately above the vestiges of the rondavels, signified perhaps by a circular cement floor or just a level area on the slope below the koppie.

The ancestors are concealed behind a deep entanglement of memory and forgetting. On Luitingh’s Guest Farm there were thickets of lantana as impenetrable as the bramble forest that grew up around the Sleeping Beauty and which, even in those days, were regarded as noxious weeds. Today they have been joined in this status by the glorious mauve jacaranda trees and many other plants that were then regarded as boons rather than inconveniences. The leaves of the lantana were fuzzy with stubble and the stems were covered in a rasp of fine hooked thorns. The flowers were pink, yellow, orange and creamy white, and ripened to small black berries, which were loved by birds and sweet and tart to taste. All of these images are permeated, for me, with the smell of lantana, which does not have a name.

I have found that there are at least two kinds of memories: those which can be accessed by willed acts of introspection; and those which are not so available, but which are evoked by encountering some stimulus – a photograph, a scent, the call of a particular bird, or which come to us unbidden at the edge of sleep. There are other kinds of memory as well in the vast realms of the human mind, such as those achieved when the brain is directly stimulated with electrodes, but these methods of recall are not available to most.

In demolishing the configuration of Luitingh’s Guest Farm, Anton was not only removing the inconvenient and ramshackle structures. He was also dismantling the Ars Memoria of the location, permanently destroying keys which could unlock its past, and the lives which had inhabited it, so that those memories which might be invoked by the places have become like ghosts, present but unseen, or known only by their initials, or totally forgotten.


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