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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Brain Theory ... .

Discovered about a year ago that I'd crossed a threshold in brain development that brought with it the capacity to filter out all extraneous messages. It's marvelous! I listen -- and if the incoming signal doesn't announce an emergency or if it doesn't require action on my part over the next 48 hours -- poof! It passes only momentarily between my ears then disappears into outer space never to be heard from again. I know that there are those who may see this as momentary memory lapses, but don't be fooled. It's a well-earned asset that deserves to be studied as one of the benefits of aging.

This new ability was most helpful during my recent two week training session where I found myself in learning mode for the first time in many decades. The format was a reminder of another earlier training -- for my First Communion at the age of 7 -- where I learned the Catholic catechism and could recite the entire booklet by rote memory at the drop of a proud godmother. Sister Richard Marie at St. Bernard's Church on 64th Avenue in Oakland was my hero then.

This time it was the NPS catechism (names, dates, factoids) but it was coming at a time when my new talent for filtering had kicked in and -- where I could have recited the Catholic version had I been asked (yes, even after years of humanism) -- however dedication to the process was missing now and Sister Richard had died long ago. The brain just kicked the non-emergency items out and refused to hold anything that didn't need my attention over the following two days.

Consequently, I sat in classes listening intently to the presenters while searching hard for relevance to my work life. I was far more involved with the natural surroundings; the magic of snow-laden evergreens; of mule deer and the sounds of coyotes in the night; of the wonder of the Grand Canyon at sunset or at moonrise ... images of the red sandstone rock formations of Sedona ... the "people" world with its "to do" lists and factoids simply didn't make a dent in my consciousness.

I'm afraid that if I were going to be able to benefit from the catechismic teachings it would have to be at some place far less seductive than this. My 86-ness was not to be denied, having predetermined what would and what would not be allowed into a mind now struggling with over-filled "files".

Day after day I sat in the classroom with the others -- more frequently than not looking out of the large windows at the falling snow outside instead of listening for the facts that should have been imprinted on my nerve ends -- ready for the last day's exam.

I could not spend these precious and slowly-diminishing days and hours in any way other than in full appreciation for these magical hours that wrapped themselves around me and held tight!
Olmstead, Mather, Albright, Muir, et al would have to be immortalized by others.

I'm collecting other kinds of memories these days; the kind that become brighter as time speeds by and days become ever more memorable.


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