Encoding. Storage. Retrieval. (For the women who came before and after me, who make me who I am.)

With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments!
I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
Blessed are you, O Lord;
teach me your statutes!
With my lips I declare
all the rules of your mouth.
In the way of your testimonies I delight
as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.
~Psalms 119:10-16 (ESV)

I’ve been thinking about memory. Perhaps my beloved Granny, now among the ancestors, haunts me, by which I mean that she remains active in my consciousness, impossible to forget. Maybe it is watching my mother draw slowly away as dementia melts her memory like wax from a candle.

I desire to capture that which is ephemeral. As the psalmist stores the Word in his heart, so do I desire to hold it all in.

Encoding.

A few years ago, three, five, maybe, my BiFFle and I had a spontaneous lunch at a bistro in town. An outdoor sandwich board sealed my fate; it was the duck tacos did me in. While they were lovely, it was an entirely unassuming entrée that I encoded. Fusilli undid me. Fusilli with lamb meatballs.

Encoding is the first in a three-step process by which human brains translate information into data to form memories. The entrée might have seemed fairly unremarkable, but it and the tacos combined to make such an impression that I first took my husband, and then my daughter to the restaurant. I always ordered the fusilli, no matter what appeared on the menu.

That restaurant is gone. However, like the words of the psalmist, Granny’s hands in my hair while telling stories, that dish and the memories it created are with me still. Those experiences are bound to me. In the case of the pasta, my daughter and I were determined to recreate it.

Storage.

More than its flavors, I connected to the way that fusilli and meatballs made me feel. Much like the psalmist, I meditated upon that memory and desired to experience it again. Would that more of our lives would be engaged in searching for sacred joy and remembered connection.

Alas, memory is notoriously unreliable. Once we encode and store the experience, we retrieve what has been stored, not necessarily what we originally experienced. By comparison, the Word remains. While we may hold it in our hearts, it is an anchor independent of our humanity. And therein lies its power.

Retrieval.

For the last several days, my daughter and I envisioned recreating that dish. Ours is a better than well-stocked pantry, compared to most. We had everything we needed, augmented by a quick trip to the local market for fresh herbs and duck eggs (hey, they were available).

We found the experience collaborative and memorable. I am compiling a family cookbook for my daughter to take into her first home that compares to the one my mother created for me. We found recipes to model; James Beard for the meatballs, Roman cacio e pepe upon which to build the sauce. I confessed that I wasn’t certain either of us remembered the flavor as much as how the dish made us feel. I seek the psalms for comfort, for encouragement, for reassurance. Their availability for retrieval make them Divine comfort food, a balm for the soul, salve for a weary spirit.

I delight in…

Lord, may the experience of fellowship with You be a delight for all my senses. Fellowship as with family and friends, savored memories, even with those no longer with us, and grace to be present in moments with my mother, understanding that I may lose connection with her before she is lost to me forever.
With my whole heart, may I seek You, and let me not forget.

Amen.

Chelle Wilson