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Artifacts

Memory is a mysterious thing.

Friday morning as I was getting dressed, a word literally popped into my head unbidden.

Gigax.



It is the last name of a woman I knew in college. Kathy Gigax.

She was a different sort of girl at Gwynedd Mercy College in Gwynedd Valley, Pa.



She wasn’t like the other girls who were a little wild, a little flashy. She was a military brat, very self-contained and serious. Her father was stationed in Germany, I can’t remember where. But I do remember it was the same base where Elvis Presley was stationed.

In fact, Kathy’s claim to fame was the fact that her best friend on the base was Priscilla, later to become Mrs. Presley. Elvis met her at the base while he was stationed there. Her parents apparently had no qualms about their daughter, all of 16 at the time, dating Elvis because he was, well, famous.

All this was according to Kathy Gigax.

When he returned home and established himself in Graceland, and Priscilla and her family moved back to the states, Elvis set her up in their home, before they were married. That, of course, was a big shock to us Catholic college girls of the 1960s.

Funny about memory, what pictures it can conjure.

A few days ago I was washing my hair with a shampoo I hadn’t used in a long time but had recently bought in a local hair salon.

With just one whiff of the shampoo I had a clear, almost blinding view of the shower in an apartment I lived in in El Jebel four years ago.

One of the areas of the brain that controls memory, and there are several, is right next door to the area that controls smell. Smells can be powerful triggers for memory.

Sometimes memories, especially when I am writing, come to me like photographic slides all out of order, but vivid and immediate.

I can see in my mind’s eye the goat with the golden eyes that sat near a temple shrine in a side street in Katmandu, Nepal. The shrine of the god was behind him, draped with garlands of bright orange marigolds. It was as if he were the guardian spirit of that place.

I remember playing in the sand on the beach on Oyster Pond in Chatham, Cape Cod. The sand was dark gray and wet and I watched the hermit crabs making their way across the strand.

I have some other memories, too. At least I think they may be memories. They look like the interior snapshots of memory anyway. But I find it amazing I could have been in those times or places.

I came to them, or perhaps it’s better to say they came to me, in the one and only experience I had with something called rebirthing. I wouldn’t care to repeat the experience. But it did bring two very clear pictures of what my guide said were images of past lives.

I’m not sure I believe in such a thing, but whatever proof there is resides in those mind pictures.

In one picture I am astride a horse. I can only see its neck, not its head. I can see part of the saddle which is covered with a shaggy sheepskin. And I can see my arm, a man’s arm, holding a severed head. It was so vivid, I could see the separate hairs in the sheepskin and smell my and my horse’s rank smell. I felt whoever that was, was me, and he was a warrior of ancient times on the steppes of Asia.

In the second picture I am sitting on the flagstones of a Buddhist monastery in Nepal or Tibet. My back is against a stone wall. It’s a glorious sunny day as only sunny days can be at 15,000 feet in the Himalayas where the air is so pure and thin the sunlight seems to pierce you to the very marrow.

I am wearing the maroon robes of a monk. Another monk is cutting my coarse black hair.

Funny, what memory will serve up to you.


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