This sereis was a part of a group show "Walk Ways" with Taryn Hubbard and Carmen Papalia, held at the Arbutus Gallery at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, BC. Presented by the SOFIA Collective.
I sometimes play this game, before falling asleep, where I retrace the layout of homes I used to live in. With my mind I walk down each hallway, go into each room, open the cupboards, remember the furniture. I challenge myself to visualize as many details as I can, closing gaps in memory. After mapping out the inside, I wander outdoors, through the yard, circle around the house and into the street.
When Carmen and I walked through my old neighbourhood in Whalley, it was the first time I had set foot there in 20 years. My family moved to Fleetwood when I was nine, so we could be closer to the church and the schools we attended. Occasionally we would drive by the old place just to see how the neighbourhood changed.
By walking with Carmen, I had the chance to slow down, walk around these familiar streets and recall my memories out loud. It was difficult to separate what I saw with what I remembered, as my vision was coloured by my past experience. For instance, I would see the old car port we used to climb onto, even though it had since been torn down and replaced with orange snow fence. Later, when I closed my eyes and Carmen guided me around, the line between present and memory dissolved further. As we walked blindly, I would picture where we were, and these pictures would always be built from memories 20 years old.
The challenge of memory is that it runs out. When Carmen and I walked beyond the boundaries of my memory map, I had to switch my focus to the present. Listening to the different pitches of car engines and feeling the direction of the sun on our faces, we searched for clues that made sense of our surroundings. At one point we were trapped inside the yard of Old Yale Elementary School, running our hands along a chain link fence in search for an opening.
Eventually, we found a gate we could slip past. With a sense of relief we found the road again, the uneven sidewalk, the patch of loose gravel. These clues triggered my memory and suddenly I recognized exactly where we were. In this moment, I switched from being lost in the present to being found in the past.