In the Tradition of the Salon - and thoughts on remembering

"You're organizing a salon!" was author Brenda Niskala's response in 2012 to my suggestion of a Wild Sage Press afternoon of stimulating conversation. I blinked, and thought, "She's right." While the word "salon" conjured images of women in long dresses and men definitely not in blue jeans or shorts conversing intensely on deeply meaningful topics in some wealthy person's drawing room furnished with antiques (that is, antiques now, contemporary a few centuries ago), I realized that there's no reason why we couldn't enjoy the modern-day equivalent. And so, WSP's fourth annual salon and sale will take place at Connaught Library, which is not the private living space we typically think of for salons, but has been like my second home for the last 30 years. The previous three WSP salons have been wonderful and I fully expect this one will be as well - the pleasure of a social gathering of lovely people combined with thought-provoking discussions, and some entertainment. (No piano-forte or harp playing, but perhaps a reading or two.) 

This year's theme, "remembering," popped into my head a week ago, probably because I've been spending so much time with memories of my father Irwin Kahan who died a few months ago, and who in his memoir Tending the Tree of Life spends a lot of time reminiscing about his past experiences. Then I realized that many works of art, such as poems and paintings, are sparked by memories, even if they evolve into something unexpected on the page or the canvas. 

Today I was reminded of another facet of remembering when I received an email from a friend currently staying in an apartment in Rome that Evan and I had stayed in a few years ago, in a lively area that we very much enjoyed - a great market nearby, wonderful restaurants, the Leonardo da Vinci museum a short walk away - and the synagogue just down the street, a remnant of the Jewish ghetto whose inhabitants were devastated during World War II. My friend wrote about the history of the building we had stayed in, how many of the residents ended up dying in concentration camps or as the result of other violent acts, and I told myself not to forget the dark side of history: in order to honour the sufferers; to understand how the past shapes the present; to prevent further darkness. 

Of course, remembering isn't only about remembering painful things, it's about remembering joy because joy shapes us as well. And even when life is grim, joyful memories bring light, and may set us on a path to more joy. It was Evan's and my 40th wedding anniversary yesterday, and it felt very good indeed to reminisce about the happy times of our life together.

It occurs to me that all this focus on remembering is probably not very "zen," which in my limited understanding is more about focusing on the present - I think I'll raise that as a question at the upcoming WSP salon!

In closing, here's a quote I found in my internet search on salons in the article "Salon Gatherings Make a Comeback" by Cari Guittard, Sept. 15, 2014, on the 7x7 website:

In many ways, by attending or hosting a salon, we’re honoring the traditional (but not yet lost) art of conversation that has shaped discourse and history for generations. 

- This blog was adapted from the October 2015 Wild Sage Breeze monthly feature. 

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