A creative look at the Instrument of Measure

The Memory Harp

The Memory Harp
Harbour Fraser Hodder


This stringed instrument let’s you (re)collect and (re)play memories at will, when you want, as you wish—or so you think. Like memories, it has a mind of its own.

Each memory medallion records a simple or complex recollection from your past. The impressions left by your experience are scored on a strung disc. There are the quadrants of orientation—North, South, East, West—Up, Down, Right, Left—Inner, Outer—Self, Other—Alone, Together.

There are the colors of emotion—Happy, Sad, Afraid, Angry—Content, Uncertain, Curious, Blissful—Excited, Quiet, Open, Wondering—Ecstatic—Loved, Loving, Falling in Love—Worried, Raging, Panicking—Relieved—Empty, Despairing—Beginning, Creating, Making—Caring—Living—Dying.


There are the Lines, Curves, and Shapes of each memory, inscribed in their proper relations and proportions. Then it is played, not by touch or breath but by looking. Once each record is en-visioned, in-sighted, in-scaped again, the suite of that memory replays . . .


A highway through Nevada. The horizon flat and sear. A bank of clouds to the West, blue sky to the Northeast. Two braids, tucked behind each ear, hang down my front. I’m between my mother and father. She’s looking through her Super 8 camera out the window. He’s driving, bare arm resting out his window. I’m sitting on the box my father made to fit between the front seats of our VW bus, where we keep the lunch meats and carrot sticks, the wheat berry bread and mustard.

We’re lost in our own thoughts as the mile markers pass, sagebrush fills the air, tumbleweeds roll by, not hearing the clamor and bickering of my two younger brothers and two little sisters in the back seats, fighting over who sits by which window, who gets the very back, who has our dog Tequila, soulful eyes, speckled black, not yet lost and found again.

Our tiny tribe. Our school of strange fish. Our flock of exotic birds, heading back to Montana, birthplace of my father, one brother, two sisters. Where we used to live. Where my mother moved to a cattle ranch with my father, from New York City where they met, where my first brother was born. Where my mother loved and painted the landscape, as different as different can be from her Puerto Rico, where they flew back to have me, born on an island but raised far from the sea . . .

We’re each in our own states yet still traveling together, still leaving and returning in one vehicle, navigating between the California coast and cattle country every summer, still intact . . . Before the centrifugal pull of history and desire, changing identities, diverging stories, blew us apart, spun us off in all directions.

Momentary grief. For what was, then wasn’t. And yet.

Still a tribe. Still our own particular, exotic diaspora. With all its couplings and decouplings, fertility and infertility, new and old partners, mothers, siblings. Our ever-branching family tree, the etched lines tangled and uncrossed.

The connections that vibrate still, strings plucked and sounding across space, across time. Then and now. Here and there. All of us.