Cold Water and Burnt Cork

Think about your life until today. Everyone can remember a lot of memories, some of them beautiful and happy, others sad, even tragic. Choose what you consider one of the most important memories in your life, a happy or a sad memory, or perhaps a happy moment preceding a loss. And then choose a word or a few words describing that memory.

A Celtic Priestess

A Celtic Priestess, by SethEyeCreative Commons

This is what the characters in a novel do: Temblor (Tremor), written by Rosa Montero in 1990 (nothing to do with Kevin Bacon and the film Tremors, curiously released the same year). An imaginative non-realist narrative, an adventures story in an environment of fantasy and myth, happening in planet Earth in a far future, when the humanity has returned to a medieval way of life.

In Temblor’s world, each child -pre-teen- live a few years with an old man or woman, not from their own families but wise (not always though) mentors. These are the last years in these old people’s life. And one of the tasks the mentors must to do is to choose a name for their pupils, as I said choosing an important memory of their lives (mentor’s life). It will be easier to understand it with a pair of examples from the novel:

1) A mentor, an old woman, remembered a morning many years ago, when she was starting her fourth decade, and she woke up on her bed, with her lover sleeping besides her. The sunshine lighted up the room through the window, drawing pictures of light and shadows on the walls. All in the room seemed full of life, bright, defined, or she felt it so; her lover, the sweat on his skin, the bed, the wrinkles of the sheets, … It seemed the time had stopped and all was perfect. In that moment she realized how happy she was, and that she would remember this magic moment during the rest of her life. Then she took a jar with cold water from the table and drank a bit. The magic moment finished, and the world returned to its normal rhythm. This old woman chose ‘Cold Water’ as name for her pupil.

2) The second mentor, an old woman as well, remembered a day with her sick son. He had been ill during weeks, worsening day after day, and staying stunned by fever. But this day, at afternoon, the child got a bit better and was more lively. Then, his mother was the afternoon and evening with him, telling tales, singing lullabies for him, playing games; in one of these games, she took a burnt cork and drew moustaches on herself and him. Both, mother and son, greatly enjoyed that day. But this was just a temporal improvement preceding the end, and the child died the next day. The mother recalled this day during the rest of her life, and she chose ‘Burnt Cork’ as the name for her pupil.

So, everyone in Temblor’s world have a name with a meaning, a very important memory for their mentors. And each time people meet by first time, they must explain the meaning of their names, this is a mandatory ritual. In this way, the chosen memory survives after the mentor’s death, and it’s repeatedly reminded during the pupil’s life.

Memories are very important in Temblor’s world because things -physical objects- disappear if nobody remember them: everything, clothes, tools, furniture, houses, even landscapes disappear when people die and there aren’t others who remember these things… first they suffer a light tremor, and later slowly turn in a grey fog -not hidden by a fog, but turned in a fog, deleted forever in a process with no return-. And the fog is winning the battle, spreading all around the world. This is the world that the girl named ‘Cold Water’ will try to save, she is the heroine in the story, that begins when she is 12 years old and will finish ten intense years later.

Public Domain

Sky with clouds, by Rosendahl – Public Domain


It’s your turn

And now it’s your turn. Imagine you are an old man or woman living your last years in Temblor’s world, and you are mentor of a young pupil. Are you able to choose a good name for your pupil? May you choose an important memory, between all the memories of your life until now, and do a name with it? Something worthy of being reminded, something you like that your pupil explains other people each time he/she meets someone. Worthy for you, never mind if others may think it’s a trifle, because it’s your memory.

I can’t tell my favourite memory because I haven’t got to choose one, yet. But if some of you, readers, get it, feel free to share it, of course fulfilling the ritual and explaining the meaning. Even if nobody dare to share it, I hope to make you think a little, at least.



2 thoughts on “Cold Water and Burnt Cork

  1. This is quite difficult to do, as it is difficult to choose. But my happiest memories seem to be the result of a journey, where I did not know the destination. This was often achieved through hitch-hiking and going where the destination of the lift was, cycling without a map or joining friends in the car without really caring where we were going. My journeying has brought me into contact with a lot of interesting people, provided me with amazing experiences, that seemed to involve a lot of music and singing and stillness in desolate landscapes. Similarly, with more metaphysical journeys, the process is more important than the outcome.

    I would name my pupil, Journey.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ok, more than one month later I chose a memory. And it is from my childhood. My parents had a ‘Seat 600’, the most popular car in 60’s decade (named so due its 633 cc). On Sundays, they used to put my sister and me in the 600 and we went to the country, a flat terrain out of the road. There, my father put me on his knees and, while he handled the pedals, I held the steering wheel, “driving” the car in circles; the same was done with my sister. Well, I remind that I enjoyed hugely that minutes that I was “driving” a real car. It’s one of the scarce memories I recall from my first childhood.

    The name for my pupil would be a number, 600.


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