When I was about three years old, I lived in a small town on Vancouver Island. Life in my town was quite provincial, to say the least. It was a pretty little town, but it was not a hub of cultural activity. Every night my parents used to put me to bed at around 7:00 or so, long before I was ready to go to sleep. I used to lie in my bed and remember walking through a castle made of blocks of granite. On the walls were large hunting tapestries, and I remembered looking up at the tapestries and admiring them. The hallways were lit by candles in wall sconces. I would spend hours walking through the walls carefully studying the tapestries. But of course, I was in my bed in my small town on Vancouver Island, and I can assure you that at the age of three, I had never been in a granite castle. And I had never seen a hunting tapestry, but I very clearly remembered them.
My memory of the hunting tapestries was very vivid, and I could recall the details in them, and the wonderful colors. They had fascinated me and I would study the shapes of the people and the animals, and the scenes they portrayed. I had memorized them by heart, and I could pull them out of my memory banks whenever I wanted, and visit with them from my little bed in my small town. It never occurred to me that I should not be doing this. They were memories of objects that I loved, that had been my companions for hours on end, and I can still remember them.
When I was about 15 years old, I was looking through my father's bookcases, and I found a book called "The England of Elizabeth" by A.L. Rowse. The book described Elizabeth life -- society, culture, politics, religion, art, cooking, and so much more. As I read the book, I had the warm feeling of familiarity, as though I had lived the life the book was describing. The book became like a friend. And then I got to the part about the tapestries.
According to the book, tapestries provided insulation for granite castle walls. They were used in medieval castles and manor houses, where the high walls had only a few narrow doors and windows. By using tapestries specially woven to hang between windows and over doors, it was possible to cover entire walls of bare stone. Suspended a foot or two from the surface of the wall, tapestries reduced condensation and drafts, as well as provided some insulation against the cold. The most popular subjects were hunting scenes, tournaments and battles, Bible stories, mythology, and legend. There were also tapestries of the outdoors, fields, gardens, flowers and woods. The book went on to say, "Both Henry VIII and Cardinal Wolsey had had a passion for collecting tapestries. Wolsey bought hundreds for Hampton Court, and on his fall, Henry took his entire collection from him -- no wonder that the acquisitive king left some 2,000 at his death." ... A.L. Rowse, "The England of Elizabeth".
How does one explain something like that? I have no idea. All I know is that, as a child, I remembered these wonderful works of art. I used to lie in my bed in my small town on Vancouver Island, and wander through the huge, candle-lit granite halls of the castles, looking at the beautiful tapestries hanging there. I remembered every detail of them, and I remembered them as surely as if I had seen them the day before. For Christmas, a very dear friend gave me the whole set of A.L. Rowse's books "The England of Elizabeth", and once again I can wander through the pages at leisure, reading about life in the Elizabethan era, and remembering...