Time and Sense Memory


Image Description: Snowcapped mountains with elk in the foreground. They are foraging for food in the snow. Public domain image.

A couple years ago, I was driving home after an out of town meeting. Some folks like long drives because it allows them to think. I admit I usually just get bored. These days, during a pandemic, I have not filled up my car with gas since March. I mostly stay home and take walks. My car is getting a big break and so is my time spent driving.

On this night, however, I was less bored, and instead, I arrived in place of thinking. Specifically, I ended up in a lovely place of remembering. I was listening to the radio when U2’s song, “But I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” came on. That song always transports me to another time and place. I instantly see the mountains on a drive upward from Salida, Colorado. I feel a sense of belonging with gratitude.

More than ten years ago, I traveled to this place on an annual ski trip with college students. There are so many memories connected to these trips. Laughter. Inside jokes. Texans seeing snow for the first time. And… that particular time I became seriously injured (I don’t even remember most of the day) and a whole community surrounded me with care in ways that astounded me.

And I remember feeling belonging — such a rich feeling of belonging.

Every year, some odd student would be tasked with creating a playlist. We would pop in a CD (a CD! remember those?) and listen to music as we drove up the mountain in a caravan of two or three vans. Several songs had to be included each year (The Who’s “Baba O’Riley,” Barenaked Ladies’ “If I Had a Million Dollars,” and Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song,” which we had to play specifically when we turned into the parking lot of the ski resort). Good trips have good traditions.

But then the playlist creator o’ the year would add other songs of their choosing. One year, or maybe multiple years, “But I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” was on the CD, meaning we listened to it several days in a row as we drove up into those mountains and prepared ourselves for full days of skiing.

I suppose the title is a bit ironic because I have such deep sense memory of listening to that song and having a feeling of arrival. I was a very young seminary student, just barely out of college myself, and I knew I had found some of my best friends. And along with it, there’s that feeling — do you know it? — of resting in the realization that this is your group. These are my people. I remember feeling such a visceral sense of gratitude to be gathered with them and to know what this kind of group-belonging feels like.

So all these years later, I drove home in Michigan on a night when it was cold, dark, and oddly foggy, and when that song came on, I could still feel that exact same feeling. And I cried. And I loved it.

Renee Roederer

See also, J.J. STARK BLIMP JR. All these years later, they’re still my people.

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