Kittredge: My Cloud

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(HOST) Cloud computing got a boost last month when Steve Jobs featured iCloud at the World Wide Developers Conference; but, as Susan Cooke Kittredge observes, it’s a perplexing concept to some.

(KITTREDGE) Cloud computing perplexes me. The idea that all my information will be stored somewhere between heaven and earth defies my poor powers to comprehend. I’m back in the 4th grade with tin cans wired together for a telephone; that I understand. I use technology; but, honestly, I have no idea how it works.

Cloudy days in Vermont are flat out gorgeous. I’m not wild about cluttering them with my scheduled dentist appointments and insurance information.

But there’s a lot in my life I would like to upload out of sight and mind: bank statements, dull receipts I’m admonished to keep, embarrassing moments when I put my foot in my mouth, days when nothing I did seemed to come out right, the debt ceiling debate. They all can go.

An alarming part of this new technology is that it suggests that we don’t have to remember where we’ve stored anything, since the cloud will remember for us. But I’m trying to sharpen my memory these days to counteract its dull decline.

Brain athletes who compete in worldwide memory competitions use some practical techniques to remember things. One of these is a memory palace, a place with which you are very familiar. In order to recall information, you store it in a specific spot in your palace, making apparently outlandish associations between information and location, thereby securing its bright hold in your memory.

Summers in Vermont are full and fleeting; before we know it, the maple in the valley will have a startling tinge of orange. For years I have saved summer by intentionally stopping and soaking it up. Climbing to the top of a hill and lying down in the grass or sitting in the woods for an hour or more, not moving but just listening to the wood thrush, the bees, the mosquitoes. Paddling out in my kayak and stopping to let the current carry me, for more time than might be comfortable. In this way I store summer in my memory cloud, and on the coldest days of winter, when the west wind screams across the lake, I reach up to my cloud and recall the soft air of a summer morning, dew on a hanging ripe tomato, or the pungent smell of marigolds.

These are the images I want in my cloud, but there are others I will place there as well. For some this has been a heartbreaking summer. So, tenderly I will place in my cloud the children who have drowned in rivers, potholes and lakes. And friends whose parents have died in summer’s full bloom, the people of Norway, the missing couple from Essex Junction, the searing fact that heat waves are the new normal.

My cloud will be filled with the beauty of the summer and the reminder that for all its abundance, life is tender and frail, and what looks to one like a refreshing rain may be to someone else a shower of tears.

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