Leaves turning to brown mulch where the gutter rises to meet the sidewalk’s edge at the corner of Dorchester and 51st. The image of these leaves has, for decades, appeared in my mind in place of a thought or emotion I cannot access. Instead of a memory, my mind produces this image, which functions as a kind of recall, though I have no idea what is being called back –
The image of the leaves, I suspect, is an example of what Freud termed a ‘screen memory’. Screen memories operate by a process similar to dreams, one of the tasks of which is to keep the dreamer asleep. In order for the dream not to become disturbing and wake the sleeper, according to Freud, images get split – the latent content, the powerful thought or emotion that stirs us, detaches from the manifest content, the neutral container for the emotion, which makes its way into the dream as seemingly meaningless content that rouses neither the dream censor, nor the dreamer. When successful, what he calls ‘dream work’ represses disturbing feelings or thoughts that might wake the sleeper while permitting the containers housing them to make their way into dreams. Memory similarly screens, or censors, powerful emotions by displacing what has the potential to be distressing or threatening with a trivial image or clip from experience that then becomes over-endowed with a vivid brightness, as with my mulching leaves.