Julie Rafalski

Residency in Joutsa - Day 4

The smell of the October air in Finland brings to mind distant memories of
rural Pennsylvania, which I haven't visited for 17 years. It's the smell of fallen yellow leaves on which the sun is shining. The leaves from Pennsylvania, about which I have completely forgotten, have followed me even here.

Although I'm visiting a new place, I realise I cannot have a completely new and unspoiled experience of it. I cannot switch off that archive of latent memories and trap it in a closed container, while acquiring new experiences. The memories seep in like rainwater. They stand between what I see now in the present, like a curtain or a mesh screen. What I see through them is mediated, tinged, saturated with my past.

Looking at the yellow leaves of the trees I experience not only what is in front of me but also distant places, like listening to several radios at once.
And if I were to now go back to Pennsylvania, how many of the trees I would see there would be Finnish, how much of the air would be from the Joutsa forest?

As new memories are made, older memories get compounded and grow heavier with associations and connections, like a word that forever keeps acquiring new definitions.