Then I realized that I have visited it, and here's the photograph from July 2003 to prove it. Or is it? I could just have easily pulled it off the internet and used it to illustrate an imagining.
Silly thoughts? Not really. As I get older and memories less clear, the distinction between what has actually happened to me and what I imagine has happened to me is a little blurrier. As this reexamination of my memory of Mount Rushmore reveals.
I've always been prone to daydreaming and fantasies, although less so these days than when I was younger. Has this changed because now my real memories are taking the place of my dreaming? It's an interesting prospect to consider. What is real nature of thought and memory, of what one imagines has happened and what has really happened? As an older man, I have a trove of thoughts generated over the past years to think over; as a young man, I had only a series of imaginings of what might happen.
Paradoxically, none of those early considerations came to pass. My life has taken twists and turns that I suppose I could have considered plausible, but I never did. As such, it has been a source of constant surprise and delight, and I'm grateful for that. Not least because I really regarded the future with a lot of anxiety as a young man, and that anxiety could have led to a very narrow and restricted existence. The opposite happened. I made moves, literally trans-continental moves, that removed me from every frame of reference that had been feeding into my vision of the future and gave me a brand new start.
That's a lot to process. I'm sure it is one reason why some of my memories are blurry – they lack the self-referential continuity that most people, who live broadly in the same place and broadly among the same people for their whole lives, can enjoy. I have lost and gained, but, then again, this is the story of living. We all make choices and live with them, for better or worse. Sometimes, those choices are imposed upon us and are quite out of our control.
At this stage, I accept that as being the way it is.
The photograph, by the way, is a quite real record of Mount Rushmore, taken from the interpretive center with some zoom on my old Canon G2 point-and-shoot. After writing this, I remember my visit to Mount Rushmore perfectly clearly. In real life, those heads seem so much smaller than the photos. For you look at them from a long way away.
Unlike old memories, though, they are perfectly chiseled and distinct.