Sepia Toned Memories

rock mountain

Looking back fondly, particularly at my early childhood, I’m often confronted by a curious sensation. Echoes of what were once the moments of my waking life seem to be transfigured into exhibits of bygone wonder. Many of these memories are more like pieces of artistic curiosity displayed in galleries of reminiscence than snapshots of events that actually occurred within the reach of my senses.

Blurred lines border many of my more distant memories, the shapes and colors distorted by the passage of time. Often when I take time to recollect the best times of my youth, the once-vibrant full colors of those energetic days of wonder have faded into soft, muted shades of a sepia photograph. While I’ve never dreamed in black and white, this sepia tone has often appeared to vignette certain scenes from my distant past. 

As I gaze upon the amber-hued vignettes that now frame my young misadventures in nature, they take on the veil of an ethereal dreamscape. The verdant greens of the grassy fields, the cerulean sky above, and the rich, earthen browns of the world beneath my feet are distilled into subtle shades. The sounds of buzzing insects, fluttering birds, and wandering beasts are now but wistful whispers. The scents, at least the memories of them, are mostly drowned out by a saltwater breeze, even in those places not by the sea.

Perhaps the bizarre nature of these remembrances are at least in part due to pretending the fields I absentmindedly roamed were actually the interstellar void between the sparkling stars above. In my flights of fancy, my youthful imagination transformed the earthly meadows and woods into celestial playgrounds. Traveling through this open space with so few cares, I frolicked amidst the constellations within my head, my laughter mingling with the cosmic winds as I attempted to unravel the mysteries of the universe.

That isn’t to say I didn’t prize these places for what they were in reality. In fact, I one day dreamed of purchasing my family’s favorite vacation spot for my own, about two dozen acres overlooking a river in Downeast Maine. This would never come to be, and perhaps for the best. 

In the very last year of our favorite resort’s operation, as I stood upon the precipice of adulthood, I couldn’t help but be drawn back to those days of innocent adventure. I took many photographs of the property with its fifteen cabins and over two acres of natural beauty. These photos are all that remain of the great things that once were to behold there; they have now been all but lost to history. These captured images of this bygone era serve as the sole testament to the grandeur that once graced these grounds.

I finally returned to what was once the dream property of mine, only to find it ravaged. Those structures I could see from the road were left in sad, deconstructed miserable states. For the young child lingering within me, still obsessed with the pros of real estate in the worst way, this was a heartbreaking realization to say the least. It was as if a black hole enveloped an entire solar system once full of life, now decimated for raw materials. I wondered who took it upon themselves to desecrate that once holy ground, then realized that it probably didn’t need help to deteriorate at all; Nature had clearly forsaken it, too.

It finally dawned on me that someone actually owns that sprawling property. Considering how depressed the region has become since the last time I was there in 2007, it’s hard to say what the drivers have been in letting it become that way. It’s sickening to me that a place with such history could have the entire community spit in the face of it. It may not even be the owner’s fault; they may just not have had the resources, the desire, or any real reason at all to restore it, just for history’s sake.

Upon seeing this abomination, my wife and I made our way down to Eastport, where I could stand on the pier one last time, as I swore this is the last time I’d ever return to this state I needed to now forsake. The whole road trip had been eye-opening; so many things were now left abandoned, and many things that appeared so were still inhabited by those who’d never been able to leave them behind.

I realize now it was for the best I lacked funding to buy the property when it finally came up for sale, and my fortunes weren’t made until long after it did sell. Today I have a property that is in many ways superior, yet my mind would still often go back to that Maine property whenever I’d search for inner peace. After recently seeing its current state, I now only think of home here in Vermont when I need this reassurance, which is quite easy to do; I just have to wake up.

Still, on rainy days, I still find my heart yearning for the boundless horizons of my childhood reveries. So, with each foray into the dimly-lit corners of my memory, I find myself transported to a world of artistic curiosity. It’s a realm where the lines between reality and fantasy blur into an exquisite collage of my own personal record of the human experience, that which I have seen, heard, felt, touched, and tasted.

In these halls of recollection, I find sublime reminders that no matter how many more moments I count before my final breath, the colors of our dreams can never truly be muted. Long as we continue to seek the beauty in the faded hues of our memories, there will always be just enough inspiration to remind us who we were and who we’re still to become.

Amelia Desertsong is a former content marketing specialist turned essayist and creative nonfiction author. She writes articles on many niche hobbies and obscure curiosities, pretty much whatever tickles her fancy.
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