Memento Vitae

An exploration through pictures & prose of how we attach memories to physical items…

Throughout our lives we collect and keep physical things that are important to us in ways others might never understand. These items — also known as “emotional tokens” — are often completely worthless in monetary terms, but absolutely priceless to us.

A perfectly round pebble found on the beach while on holiday. A silk scarf given to us by our grandma. A bead once part of a favourite necklace, worn so often it finally snapped. These physical things have powerful memories linked to them. Stories only we can tell.

~ This is a place for those stories ~


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 admin@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.


COSTA by Cyndi Benn-Miller

SOFT BLANKET BEAR by Jamie Sands

GREENSTONE by Sarah Lee

HAGSTONES by Tabatha Wood


COSTA by Cyndi Benn-Miller

A simple white mug,
Small, espresso sized,
Sits on a bookshelf
Fifteen thousand miles
Away from the barista
Who gifted it
Five springs past.
A simple white mug
Reminder of soulmate love,
Belly laughs, hugs, and family
And a friendship that has lasted across
Fifteen years and fifteen thousand miles
Which disappear when I notice it
And I smile, happy-sad, that a
Simple white mug can hold all of her
In such a small space.


Cyndi Benn-Miller is a poet from Wellington, N.Z. and the author of Capture and Release, a collaborative project with photographer Graeme Knowles.


SOFT BLANKET BEAR by Jamie Sands

Most children have a security blankie, don’t they? It can be just about anything, but it becomes the thing which allows them to sleep safe at night, to feel at home, to know that things will be alright. 

Mine was a woollen blanket called “Soft Blanket”. I think part of me called it soft so that it would become ever so slightly less scratchy. I had it from when I was very small, I believe it was a blanket my mum put over me in my cot. Once I was walking, I would carry it around, dragging on the floor behind me and generally love it. Couldn’t sleep without it. 

When I was four or five years old, my mother must have got sick of watching me drag this blanket around and offered to cut it into two blankets, which I consented to – thinking it might be convenient to have one upstairs and one downstairs. But one the deed was done, I had regrets – Soft Blanket was torn asunder! (And nicely hemmed and returned to me, but that was beside the point.) I couldn’t have one upstairs and one down, Soft Blanket was still one being, and I had to keep it together. 

Years passed and I was still sleeping with Soft Blanket, rubbing the rough weave between my fingers, pressing my cheek against the softest bit. I was about twelve or thirteen when I began to feel entirely too grown up for Soft Blanket, I was embarrassed to still have it in bed with me, it seemed so childish, and yet I hated the thought of getting rid of it. 

Around this time I also formed an obsession with teddy bears, which one might argue is still childish, but I focused my study on the history of bears, why the first one was made and sold, how they caught the imagination of children worldwide. I didn’t just read about teddy bears though, I began to make them. This obsession lasted until I was almost fifteen, and somewhere in those teddy bear sewing years, I decided to convert my beloved Soft Blanket into a bear. 

I was careful about it, I used a pattern that I had used before and knew worked, and I used cut up pieces of Soft Blanket as stuffing in the bears tummy, so that as much of the blanket was retained as possible. Cutting the pattern pieces out of Soft Blanket felt a little like sacrilege and a little like an echo of Mum all those years ago.

The blanket was badly worn through in places, and you can see it on the bear’s chest where I sewed a heart shape to mask one of the worst places, and largely failed. The stuffing never sat right in his face and nose, but overall he’s a big, huggable love of a bear, and a link to my childhood that I don’t think I could ever let go of. 


Jamie is a non-binary kiwi who’s always been wondering ‘what if’? They write stories about ghosts, monsters, love and how the world could be. Jamie grew up in Wellington but now lives in Auckland with their wonderful spouse and a round cat.  

https://jamiesandsblog.wordpress.com/ 
https://www.instagram.com/jamiesandsauthor/  


GREENSTONE by Sarah Lee

Before I ever laid a foot in Aotearoa (New Zealand) I received the gift of a pounamu (greenstone) necklace, beautifully carved in the eternity symbol, from my boyfriend who had left England to take up a job in Aotearoa. The year was 1996 and I planned to join him in February 1997, on a one year working holiday visa, six months after he’d left. In the six months we were apart I read all I could about the country I was travelling to, including literature by NZ authors. I was drawn to the country in a way that was perhaps destined.

When I finally arrived, flying into Auckland, I felt a connection. The following flight, from Auckland to Wellington, soaring over endless green country in a sea of blue took my breath away and tugged on my heart. I felt as though a magical bond was tethering me to the land, the sea, the volcanoes coated in snow and rising in magnificence below me.

Before I was even reunited with my boyfriend (and now husband) I knew that my heart was taken by the land of the long white cloud.  The greenstone had seemingly transferred the power of the land to my body and I would always love it – no matter where destiny took me. Twice destiny took me away from Aotearoa, back to England in mid-1998 for a year, and later to California for a year in 2013-2014, but both times it brought me back — when at the time I had no certainty that would be the case.

This poem is about the greenstone that keeps my heart connected to Aotearoa, and the lover who first gave it to me, steering my destiny.

The pounamu touched my skin 
before I even walked a step 
on the land of its origin
Aotearoa.
A gift from a lover who’d made 
the voyage across the oceans.
A gift to connect us 
through space and time,
binding our two life paths.
As I tethered the pendant
with its eternal twist 
around my neck, I felt comfort.
There was magic in that stone,
seeding my aroha for 
Aotearoa.
When I finally journeyed
to the land of its source
I felt it pull like a magnet.
Circling in a plane above
rich green forests and lakes,
snow capped mountains and rivers
leading to the bluest seas,
I knew with the biggest
certainty of my life
that this country would never 
let me leave it, not without 
taking a piece of my heart.
My heart became entwined for eternity
to the lover and the land.


Read more from Sarah at her blog, Catching the Magic.


HAGSTONES by Tabatha Wood

Hagstones are rocks that have naturally occurring holes in them. While they are called many different things around the world, they have long been seen as a focus of folk magic. They are used (amongst other things): as items of protection from black magic; to ward off malevolent spirits; for fertility magic; and for seeing into the secret realm of the Fae … Allegedly.

My two, treasured hagstones come from two different beaches, 12,000 miles apart and from the opposite ends of the Earth. The first, I found on Whitby beach on the North East coast of England while on holiday with my husband and children in May 2015. The second, from Castlepoint beach on the North Island of Aotearoa, New Zealand, in February 2020.

I don’t feel like I am incredibly superstitious, and I don’t even really believe in magic (or at least, not the fictional, Hollywood kind) but I admit my heart always leaps when I find these stones, and I am always filled with great excitement — and maybe a dash of trepidation — when I put them to my eye… Just in case one day I do get to see into the land of the mysterious Fae.

Much more than that, though, these stones link me to my home lands — the home of my birth and my new home in New Zealand. Sometimes I wonder if I look through the Whitby one, will I see the beach I used to run and play on as a child? Will I see the pier that reaches out into the North Sea, and hear the gulls as they swoop across the harbour? Might I be transported through time and space by simply peeking through a tiny hole made by the force of the sea? To a place I have accepted I might never set foot on again in my life?

I know the answer of course — while I might not see it physically, I see it perfectly in my mind. And likewise, when I put the New Zealand hagstone to my eye, I am taken right back to the day I found it — the day after my husband suffered a terrible head injury, although we didn’t realise how bad it was (or would become) at the time. The last “normal” day in my memories — before COVID, before lockdowns, before the whole world changed. And what a beautiful day it was too. Warm sunshine, blue skies, hot chips and relaxation. We climbed the steps to the lighthouse and looked out across the wide Pacific Ocean. It’s easy to forget how things felt exactly, sometimes. You start to wonder if you might be remembering things wrongly. Or maybe they weren’t as wonderful as you believed. The memories are all there, locked away in my head, but somehow the stone makes them stronger. More solid, more real, perhaps?

These are stones that have been shaped by sea. They have a mystery to them, quite apart from the folklore. They do feel magical — powerful in fact — and when I hold them, I feel and embrace that. They are a gift from the ocean, maybe even the Fae themselves? Reminders of good days and happy feelings. Meaningless to most other people, they mean the world to me.