“Nothing is lost…Everything is transformed.”
Being sick has its advantages, like having an excuse to lie around all day in bed, reading. Though I haven’t used my camera much during the last week or so (today’s photo was made last summer… oh, summer… how I miss you), I took the opportunity to re-read, for the umpteenth time, my favourite book.
There’s a character in Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story called Dame Eyola, a merry, maternal woman who is also, as it happens, a fruit-bearing plant (if you like fantasy stories, you won’t be disappointed in this book). She lives alone in an ever-evolving house, where the rooms shift and transform according to the building’s whim. It’s called, aptly, the House of Change.
When young Bastian, the main character, meets Dame Eyola near the end of the novel, he’s already crossed the boundaries of reality into Fantastica, a fantasy world made up of human imagination. His ambition has driven him to great heights in Fantastica, but it has also cost him dearly. He’s nearly broken when he makes Dame Eyola’s acquaintance.
Bastian has to find his way home, and to do so, he must use a magical amulet to make wishes leading him to what he truly desires. Here’s the catch: he requires memories of his old life to make a wish, but every time he makes a wish, a memory of his old life disappears. He’s in great danger of using up his last wish, losing his last memory, and ending up forever lost and confused as a Fantastican resident in the nonsensical City of Old Emperors (maybe someday I’ll post about the sad parallels between this City and the heartbreak of dementia).
Dame Eyola allows Bastian much-needed rest and nurturing. He’s encouraged to be a child – to explore, to play, to take comfort, to refuel. She consoles him when he expresses his fears of losing his last remaining memory of the boy he once was. He asks her:
“Must I lose everything?”
“Nothing is lost,” she said, “Everything is transformed.”
You may remember some basic science – the principle that mass cannot be created or destroyed, only changed (when I Googled Dame Eyola’s phrase above I learned that a very similar one – “Nothing is lost. Nothing is created. Everything is transformed.” – is attributed to Antoine Lavoisier, an 18th century pioneering chemist).
Mass, okay. I get it. The tree that used to stand in the above photo is long-gone. Used for firewood, or furniture, or left to rot and rearrange its molecules into the rest of the living earth. Repurposed, you might say. But what of memories? Do they change when they’re lost? Where do they go? What do they become?
Dame Eyola doesn’t explain.
Fantastica, it’s said in the book, “rests on a foundation of forgotten dreams.” Quite literally, Fantastican earth is made up of layer upon layer of paper-thin pictures depicting all the forgotten dreams of humans – those that dissipate like wisps of smoke when we wake from sleep.
If you need a peaceful place to sit and ponder these things, I know a nice one. It’s carved right into an old stump, on the banks of a river.