“Palimpsest At Home”


Every once in a while I rediscover a word and reflect on its relevance. For me, as I am at home for a month now, I have been thinking about “palimpsest.” The original application for this word comes from the practice of reusing a piece of parchment or other material by writing over the previous writing. As shown above, traces of the original still show through, even though the new text stands out more clearly.

But when I was thinking and then writing about my muscle memory, I realized that as I was exercising I was experiencing my body as a sort of living palimpsest. Here were my biceps, once swinging from the monkey bars, now lifting weights. Here were my quads, once pumping my one speed bicycle up steep hills, now being raised to help my sore knees. And there was my brain, simultaneously focusing on the task at hand while musing on all the similar tasks in the past.

This layered experience, not precisely nostalgic, seems to be a constant companion during this pandemic. Perhaps because my life is totally slowed down and contained in a narrow sphere, I have become more contemplative. Whatever the reason, I find that I am frequently in several overlapping places at once. I am peeling the carrot in my kitchen, remembering fixing dinner on the houseboat, thinking of cutting up carrot sticks for my school lunch. Layer on layer. A rich way to enjoy finding connections of present and past. An unexpected benefit of quarantine.

18 thoughts on ““Palimpsest At Home”

  1. Hmmm….palimpsest in similar ways to your experience has in many ways a feature of my life since diagnosis with MS, especially in more recent years


  2. I suppose paper/parchment was so expensive, they had to do that.
    The mixture of real life and memories you describe is how I have lived every day for almost ten years. I sometimes wonder which ‘reality’ is the real one.
    Best wishes, Pete.


  3. We have created a sort of palimpsest of our own: I follow your blog, Elizabeth and also the Old Mortuary (a fellow Cornish blogger). Reading this thoughtful post through the link on the old mortuary, I appreciate the layers of thoughts and words in the blogging world overlapping and coming through to varying degrees in varying places. A palimpsest across the ocean.


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