the persistence of memory

There is a mountain lake high in the Rockies where aspen trees spill their reflections across the surface, and if the October breeze jumps over the surrounding peaks the reflections would keep dancing until your heart spins. John is already waiting for them on a high bank of the lake while I, far more impatient, pace the shore, as if moving could snag the magic and spread it over the water. “Got any good snaps?” asks a trout fisherman as we pass each other on a narrow trail.  “No,” I tell him, and it is true: ever since morning I have been trying to find a spot, the angle and the moment when… how did he say it? a good snap could happen. But magic has its own hidden agenda and tells me nothing.
I walk among tall aspen trees, stare up their feathery golden crowns and touch the smooth skin of their bark. Still — nothing. Instead, I see every obstacle: the profusion of their dead black twigs, the cloud invading the clear blue of the sky, and the unforgiving harsh light which sucks brilliant colors from the leaves. I am coughing, too: a persistent respiratory bug has settled on my bronchial branches and sits there like a dark bird straight from hell.
Hours trickle by and I think I’ve had it. No luck, and the sun is dipping behind another cloud. Better find our camper and start cooking. End this fruitless day. Wave my white flag and surrender. Then I round a corner of the lake where a low dam keeps the water from tumbling down the valley. And there, just past some dead leaves cruising in a small eddy full of dirty foam, there are reflections of tall aspen trunks broken by the evening breeze, dancing. They expand like elongated balloons and shrink into fine lines. They bend and twist. I only work with stills, yet so much is happening in their movements. The golden hues of their leaves are dancing, too, and I suddenly think about Salvador Dali’s painting “Swans Reflecting Elephants” where the reflecting swans turn bare tree trunks into elephants and the Catalonian landscape behind them goes afire.


What elephants? What swans? Here in Colorado, on 10.000 feet? But the persistence of memory holds. I am suddenly looking at the tips of my patent leather shoes and the elevator floor when the door folds open and Dali walks in first, with Gala, his wife and muse, following. There are only three of us in this small elevator of Gallery of Modern Art, at 2 Columbus Circle in New York City and the year is, I think, 1967. The painter and his wife are both small and stand very still, dressed in conservative dark clothes, while my mini skirt suddenly feels very short. We do not speak but I quickly look at his eyes, dark and alert, and kill my urge to touch the tips of his upturned mustaches. Then it all fades, and I am back at my mountain lake, with white aspen trunks dancing among small waves.  ©Yva Momatiuk