Wild Symphony

Wild Symphony, paper collage, 2023

About a month ago, I decided I was going to learn to read Spanish. I had just finished reading the novel, The Snares of Memory (Esa puta tan distinguida), by Juan Marsé, and I liked it so much I wanted to read more of his work and others from that generation of Spanish writers. After doing a bit of research, I learned that, unfortunately, there wasn’t enough of Marsé’s work in translation to undertake a satisfying study, and the same can be said for many of his cohorts’ writings. So, if I was serious about wanting to study Marsé and the Generation of ’50, I would have to learn to read in Spanish. Challenge accepted.

I bought a self-instructional guide and began studying. It was a breeze at first. And I am happy to say that I am now about halfway through the book. I can count (if need be) to a million and beyond, and I can conjugate all of the most basic verbs in the present tense with ease: to be, to have, to go, etc. But when I sat down to do my lesson this morning, I realized that the pace was very quickly ramping up. Each chapter has more and more vocabulary to memorize and more and more verbs (and tenses) to conjugate, and I was beginning to confuse llegar with llevar and llenar and poder with poner and ese with está…and I said to myself, “I need to make flashcards.”

So, I went to Staples, bought a pack of index cards, and filled out nearly 100 of them with Spanish infinitives and their English meanings. I feel much more confident already. 

Indeed, I know—and have known for a long time—that the best way for me to remember new information is by writing it down. As a student, I was extremely thorough about note-taking. I recall spending most of my college classes with my head buried in a notebook—writing feverishly, as if transcribing each lecture verbatim. When test time came, I had little studying to do. Because I remembered everything—or at least, I found the material fairly easy to recall. Much easier than on those occasions when either I didn’t take notes or took notes on a laptop. Typing, somehow, doesn’t seem to have the same positive effect on my memory as a pen and a stack of flashcards or a notebook. 

There is something about the physicality of writing, I believe, that makes the memory stick. I have to wonder if the same isn’t also true for imagination. If there isn’t a corporeal aspect of our imaginations. If the depth and quality of our sensory encounters don’t affect our creative output. I believe they do. In fact, I think it would be difficult to have an imagination at all without some kind of sensory input—without seeing, hearing, touching, tasting something

I sometimes also think that our imaginations are fueled best by active input versus more passive kinds of input. For example, I’ve observed that I tend to be much, much more creative after activities like reading, cooking, birdwatching, cycling, walking, or other forms of physical exercise. Just being in nature is sometimes enough, as is learning something new. Sitting on the couch, on the other hand, doesn’t do wonders for the imagination—at least, not for mine. As I get older, I’m noticing that active pastimes are becoming increasingly important to me. There is so much to do: so much art to make, so many books to read, so many bicycle rides to take, so many birds, and landscapes, and sunsets to watch and photograph…and so little time.

I wonder, too, if creativity isn’t something like a pinnacle, or a culmination, of those experiences. What happens when we use all of our faculties and abilities to really engage with the stuff of everyday life, something like an ultimate human experience, a kind of wild symphony.

15 responses to “Wild Symphony”

  1. Something interesting to ponder. I know my own creativity is stimulater by relatively mindless experiences; doing dishes, showering, painting walls, etc… It gives my mind some space to come up with its own unconscious associations. However, I never considered the physical aspects of creativity until now. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I commend you for taking on the challenge of learning to read Spanish. Bravo! I took Spanish in HS and college. Now I just dabble with a lesson here and there. I smiled at the mention of notecards. I still use them for things like memorizing a poem for a recitation. ✨ Yes, the act of writing seems to move the information into memory storage. It keeps me focused and like you, I am/was a prolific notetaker. We are clearly kinesthetic in our learning and lifestyles. Yeah for us!

    Love “Wild Symphony” 🐟 and your thoughts on the imagination. I am extremely interested in this topic, as it relates to aging.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Michele! I learned French in high school and college, along with some Latin. In retrospect, I wish I had studied Spanish, as it likely would have been far more useful….better late than never, I guess. 😅 As I get older, I am learning how vital the kinesthetic is to many aspects of my experience, from learning to imagination, goal-setting, mood, and stress regulation, etc. It is something of a joyful discovery, and I can’t help but wonder if there is also a distinctly feminine underpinning to at least some of that. Food for thought, I suppose. I always appreciate your feedback and your insights on topics like these. Thank you for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you! I learned French in HS too. Spanish is more practical living where I live, however, I loved learning and speaking French. Practicing languages is like reading books… ambitious plans with limited time. We do the best we can, I suppose. Your food for thought is delicious! Kinesthetically speaking, I must take dance breaks during long writing stretches. It’s not the only time I dance, but moving and releasing energy in my body is paramount to my overall well-being. Listening to music isn’t so bad either. 😁 Pleasure to connect with you. Have a wonderful week!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Great collage. They make sets of Spanish flashcards. I have one with 1000 cards in it (Spark Notes Study Cards.) I’ve been using Duolingo for Spanish for a few years now and am pretty happy with my progress.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: