How memory alters our points of view

I had an amazing experience a couple of days before I turned 65. I was able to revisit the place where I had my first real job. I was also able to get some perspective on the place, which felt so much smaller than it did when I was 18 and launching into adulthood.

Glenhope Swing Bridge

Above: It was cross the river on horseback or via
the swing bridge – now in total disrepair.

Most of us have experienced the total surprise of revisiting a childhood space and realising how small it is in comparison to the memory. I was, however, a little surprised to find that effect occurring from a memory first formed at 18 years of age. My point-of-eye-view now would be from pretty much the same height as the eyes in my 18 year-old face, yet was I still surprised at how small the area seemed now compared to when I spent that formative year teaching school-aged children.

Leaving home

Perhaps my belief in the enormity of the place came from the enormity of leaving home and taking on my first job. Perhaps such life-changing events bore themselves into minds hungry for new experiences. We want to find out about everything and the experiences are etched onto a very large blank canvas.

My change or perspective on my return last weekend started me thinking about our perceptions and how they probably change throughout our lives without us even noticing.

So someone who was adamantly opposed to something in their youth may go through incremental changes in their attitude as life exposes them to new ideas. Then 10, 20 or 30 years down the timeline they will be incensed if you suggest they once held a different point-of-view.

When we hold a belief or memory strongly it is often hard for us to peep around the corner at our younger selves. To call it ‘false memory’ is too negative a word; I would rather call it a ‘blended memory’ – a memory that has evolved from experience.

Some memories stuck

Many of the spaces I saw on my trip down Memory Lane confirmed my earlier recollections. I was able to relate incidents that occurred at certain places on tracks, and was delighted to find the old ‘tank stand’ was still in place and serviceable – that’s more than 45 years later and it was old then!

The old tank stand

Above: The multi-use water tank.

The tank stand obviously still captures the water supply for the current homestead. Back then it also provided cool food storage during the heat of summer when no fridge or freezer were available because there was no electricity all those years ago. The space under the water tank was also used to store home brew beer for the shearers. Back then the station ran sheep and cattle, so shearing was a big event.

Shearer’s appetites are bottomless

Cooking for the shearers was no mean feat. Shearing was scheduled for the late summer, when the heat in the high country is highest.  Shearers’ appetites were legendary. Not only were there huge quantities of food required – it all had to be cooked on a wood-fired range in the homestead.

Glenhope shearers 1966

Above: The shearing gang of 1966. Some
I clearly remember – most are forgotten!

Shearers were not invited into the homestead; they ate their three main meals on the veranda at a long table with benches for seating.  Each day three cooked meals were produced, plus scones or a cake served up for morning and afternoon tea. These were carried up to the shearing shed along with a billycan of black tea, powdered milk and sugar.  Shearers sweat a lot and use a huge amount of energy so they needed large quantities of food and drink. Then, after a hard day shearing, they often sampled the home brew rom under the tank stand!


Above: The single men’s quarters, where shearers
and musterers, slept is still occasionally occupied today.

When we visited last week the station had clearly changed considerably in how it is farmed. Only a few sheep were on the property; the breeding stock was exclusively beef. Some of the out-buildings were still there – most were gone, including the old schoolhouse where I struggled to keep the pot-belly going winter mornings with thick snow outside.

Bending memory

I have just published a short story on Amazon’s Kindle eBooks called Searing Heat. It is based on my memories but entirely fictional. I do not recall considering that my 18 year-old eyes might be taking in the events and the nuances of high country life in order to bend it into stories I could tell to others. Now, however, I can make the spaces fit exactly to my story!

By Heather Sylvawood, author of Real Estate Rollercoaster and Searing Heat.

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