Memories of the Moment by Beth Amberg

Beth Amberg is a 24-year-old Ivy League college graduate. She helps her parents move from her childhood home, and learns that relationships, not geography, comprise the movable feast.

To consume THC is to embark on a new perceptual pathway, to temporarily redirect the very nature of experience. When high, I can let my mind cavort: dull worries evaporate, and wonderousness ensues. Being high tends to cast a focus on the present moment, but in my experience, it can also reactivate dormant memories. One of the many ways marijuana enhances my life is in its animation of my memory, and in my subsequent understandings about life and personal history.

Last year, when I was 23, my parents moved out of my childhood home and city. I hadn’t lived there since before college, but the move saddened me nonetheless. I sensed that parts of my past would disappear forever, that a significant component of my history was being uprooted.

My brother and I spent a final five days in the house last spring. For the first two days, during which I didn’t smoke marijuana, my nostalgia trickled with melancholy. I lingered on the notion of an ending, a symbolic terminus to an idealized youth. My vision was snagged in the past, while thoughts of an uncertain future intimidated me.

On the third evening, my brother and I shared a joint on the rooftop, and suddenly my world sprang back to life. After only a few puffs, I realized I had been caught up in notions that didn’t even pertain to the realm of experience; I had been trying to over-contextualize life’s natural flow. My brother and I relaxed on the roof, listening to old tapes and recalling childhood memories from the embarrassing to the sublime. We laughed until we were gasping, reveling in memory and togetherness. Smoking pot vivified our retrospection and abolished my previous gloom. Suddenly my house and neighborhood returned to me in full: they weren’t symbols of loss, but settings for a multitude of rich recollections that would stay with me forever.

In our rooms that evening, my brother and I sorted through personal artifacts, culling out what we wanted to keep: cartoons we’d drawn together, waggish songs we wrote, letters, photographs, special books, and stuffed animals. While normally we would have plowed through the clean-up job, being high prompted us to linger over evocative objects. Distractions, normally avoided, were welcome and intriguing. Whatever I’m doing, marijuana draws out my interest in the sundry details. And it heightens my appreciation of what means the most to me, whether it’s friendships, music, nature, or my own history.

I didn’t smoke the following day, but I retained the insight I gained through marijuana, and it helped me make the most of my time. Even long after its effects wore off, I felt more inclined to value the present moment as strongly as I cherished the memories. By bringing me to the moment, marijuana helped my present and past reinforce each other, granting a sense of continuity to replace the morose paradigm of time slipping away from me. I sensed how lucky I was to have a close, supportive family, and how little their location really mattered.

On my fifth and final day at home, I used marijuana leaves to make a pot of tea: a tea of pot. I heated it slowly with heavy cream, to absorb the cannabinoids, and drank two cupfuls. The first effects began to tinge my perception in the late afternoon, as I played with the two dogs in the living room. My world began to soar as I danced in a blur of jowls and tails and squeaky toys. I noticed that the dogs’ indoor movements were constrained, even in their bouncy elation. I could sense their need to roam outdoors, a primal longing beneath the domestication. So I look them on a walk, my final experience of the neighborhood.

The THC put a spring in my step and gave me new ultra-vivid impressions of the streets I’d always known. When you spend enough time in a place, you stop seeing it; it’s standard and expected. But marijuana can reawaken the senses, offering new frameworks for old subjects. I saw the neighborhood alternately as an artistic tableau, a wellspring of childhood memories, a channeling of human initiative into nature, and a quiet, communal, tree-filled collective of kindred souls. It’s easier to feel at peace when I can step outside the dull concerns of money, time management, and material goods, concerns that all too often overtake me.

The more the special tea seeped into me, the more attuned I became to details all around: the iridescent three-quarters moon with its blurred shadow-arc, the layered fractal view up a leafless tree trunk, the lithe synchronicity of the dogs’ gaits, the dwindling light casting deepening shadows in the cobblestones. These final impressions made for a gratifying goodbye.

Finally, late that night I drank the rest of the enchanted tea. In my bedroom I reread old journals and writings, letting my thoughts delve into retrospection from a wider, wiser perspective. Then, still sailing on my high, I wrote a new journal entry, part of which follows. (I can’t say the writing is very well structured, but I think it conveys some of the illumination I felt that night.)

Perceptions are heightened tonight, my mind unencumbered and slippery. I’m still so close to the wonder and sensations of the past. My thoughts are swimmy-silvery fountains of assorted memories, the novelty-generator of marijuana turning its freshness backwards into history. My past selves have awoken: their experiences aren’t distant; they happen again as I read and remember. The shimmering glaze on memory has opened up and let me back in for the night.

This is something I can take with me: a final, felt experience of a place that’s bound up in me. These parts of me don’t have to die; they’re not rooted to anything material. They’ll return in dreams, and shared recollections, and at unexpected moments. There is such richness in life’s progress, in the recognition of time’s punctuated flux. We live in the grip of such a future-based paradigm; it’s often hard to appreciate the wholeness of a life. The infinite in the moment, the accumulation of nows that make a lifespan. There’s such serenity in timelessness.

The future doesn’t really scare me now. This animated nostalgia is like a promise that life has almost always been good, and can continue to be. I’m not chained to the past, any more than I’m chained to the ethereal resonance of this music, or the walls of this house, or any of life’s other fleeting gifts. I can have a strong relationship with my past, a deep appreciation of the moment, and assurance for the future.

What a way to celebrate life! From marijuana I’ve gained recognition and greater understanding of the things I value most. Experiencing a distinctive mental state every so often helps me put the rest of my life in perspective. Marijuana encourages me to paint, to read, to hike, to make love, to fully appreciate life and all its rich components. I have to smirk when I hear propagandistic slogans such as “users are losers” or “drug use is life abuse”, for in my experience, pot has only been life-affirming, mentally invigorating, and far more benign than such socially sanctioned drugs as alcohol or nicotine. I can only hope that enough others will come to realize this so that within my lifetime marijuana use will no longer be considered a crime.

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