Memento Vitae: Memories of Life

Memento Vitae is a creative writing project I have been working on in one form or another since early 2019. It became a part of my website in June 2020, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Memento Vitae project is an exploration through pictures, poems and prose of how we attach memories to physical items. It acknowledges that these things can have powerful stories connected to them; stories only we can tell. While these narratives are deeply personal, they also reflect aspects of humanity that can resonate with everyone. In these glimpses inside of other’s experiences, we can see pieces of ourselves. Memento Vitae provides both a window into someone else’s world and a mirror into our own.

The project began in 2019 as part of Well-Written, a group supporting women writing for wellness. The workshops, entitled Wild Women, Wild Voices,  were both intuitive and practical. They addressed a heartfelt need for expression by empowering and celebrating the authentic voice of every woman who took part. Memento Vitae seeks to continue these aims and invites contributions from everyone and anyone around the world irrespective of their identity. 

Throughout our lives, we collect and keep physical things that are important to us in ways others might never understand. Things which we feel connected to on a deeper level. A coffee cup gifted by a good friend now living thousands of miles away. A jade tree that has seen immeasurable grief but serves as a reminder of life. A simple necklace that sings of the ocean and memories of an adventurous youth. Or a stone worn through by the power of nature, found whilst walking on the beach. All of these things speak to us in ways which we are not always able to explain, but we feel their influence deep within our souls, and they say so much about the kind of people we are. We carry them secretly in our pockets or tucked into our wallets and bags. We might keep them in shoeboxes under our beds, or display them on the walls of our homes. These “emotional tokens” are often completely worthless in monetary terms, but are absolutely priceless to us.

But these items aren’t merely things, they are connections to our pasts and our memories. They tie individuals to specific points in their lives, functioning like an invisible necklace, unseen but worn with pride. Our life is the string and these moments are beads, handpicked and threaded with care. They suspend us in a specific moment by transporting us into our pasts. They give us permission to sit with our former selves, to revisit who we were and how we felt. They focus on the importance of seemingly unimportant things. 

While every item is unique to the individual, the connections made in shared experience ensure the emotional attachment is far-reaching. They explore our relationships and life experiences; primal human emotions of love and happiness, sadness and loss. Some of these items are tangible reminders of places visited and fondly remembered; of a journey dreamed of before, during, and long after it ends. They are echoes of people we used to know, snapshots of lovers and old friends. They bring with them a slice of hope and show us how the comforts of our pasts can help us face the uncertainties of the future.

The seeds of this project began long before we knew how the events of 2020 were going to change our lives. One major effect of the pandemic meant our physical worlds became very small, with lockdowns keeping many of us inside. Those who we interacted with regularly were kept within even smaller bubbles, and many of us turned to technology to see our family and friends. But instead of feeling restricted or even trapped by that, this project exemplifies how the small can also be amazing, how tiny items can wield huge power. Memento Vitae isn’t big or flamboyant, it isn’t political or cultural or religious. Instead, it shines a light on what makes us uniquely human, what brings us comfort, positivity and strength. It’s about offering intimate pieces of ourselves to others and welcoming them into our worlds. A safe space where we can share our stories; our memories of life. 


Tabatha Wood, founder. 
Wellington, 2021


You can read the stories people have already shared at https://tabathawood.com/memento-vitae/

WANT TO GET INVOLVED? 
Send a maximum of 3 pictures and up to 500 words focused on a Memento Vitae or “emotional token” which you would like to share via email to mementovitae@tabathawood.com with the title MEMENTO VITAE. 

Please also include a short bio, headshot (optional) and any links to your own website/blog as appropriate.

Payment is $20 (NZD) per contribution.