The Physicality of Memory Hidden In Boxes – Elinor Rowlands   


This was written many years ago and I found it again, in a virtual box, a folder, as I'm re-organising my 90% full google drive,  it brings up a lot for me - and reminds me that this young voice stays bold, as I grow old. From here came mroe writing -  became "Secrets in the Centrefold" and "The Only Ones" 



I’ve tried all my life to not be someone who clings to the past because during the present it was always hurtful. I felt like a ghost sometimes wandering room, wandering corridors. I’d take note of the ceiling and the long looming strip lights that shade of light that decreases your sight until you realise you’ve hit bully number one straight in the chin, he beats you down, you land on the floor and gaze upwards, towards the light. 

End of tunnel light, and the colours that fill your room when it is dark and the moon light peeks on through, the window, outside life moves. 

I am in bed, dazed, I am in bed tired. And all of my things are out. 

I come from a Mother who likes things neat, tucked away, behind cupboards, in boxes, organised. 

My ornaments, my perfume bottles, my make up, my lipsticks, the boxes that are full of objects from memories of last times, of final moments, of the moment my mum is driving and finds her lipstick in her bag with one hand and she could be in a moving car, or she might have stopped it in the street and put down the mirror that also shields her view from the sun in the white sky. 

Lipstick she rolls up. 

Lipsticks spreads over her lips, she rubs her lips together and the lipstick sticks. She always frowns and there is not much difference with this shade of her lips on her lips as the lipstick colours her lips with her lip colour but there is a shimmer there. 


my favourite has been magic


And dandelion clocks. 


My favourite has been shapes   ,    scents, memories I can fit in boxes. 

One day before Christmas, one of the only Christmases for us to go abroad, to Capetown, I had been unwell. I suffered with stomach aches and this was a bad one. 

But Dad said, Come on, it’s a good film, you’ll like it – documentary and – important. Bowling for Columbine, Micheal Moore – in those days it was important, it was one of the first type of documentaries like it to hit the screens in such a mainstream way and when we came home I thought my brother had been through my purse because it was knocked sideways on the stairs, 

And then we realised we’d been burgled 

I can’t tell you the heartbreak

Of boxes, my boxes all opened and every single beach I’d been to, all the sand I’d gathered, all the shells, all the stamps, all the postcards, all the scents of perfume, my end of lipsticks of my mums, the jewellery and Christmas decorations I’d made as a child all crushed and mixed together, stamped on as if they were faces, bloodied and bruised and soaked into the carpet. 

I had to let it all go

Part of my soul went too that day. 

Part of my favourite self. 

I have never found her again, she is part of Nanny, where we’d skip tiny pebbles down the roof of the shed at the top of the garden in Wales, in the beautiful flowered garden that was started by Mum at 16, continued by Nanny and she was magical my Nanny and she was so wonderful my Nanny and when she died part of me died too and I’ve never found her again. 

My favourite memories kept as objects, boyfriends I’ve loved, friends I’ve cherished. Men I’ve loved who never found in me their favourite, I hold onto feather pens, and paintings of them and insight to find my hidden favourites in them. 

I lose them staring into the river. 

I lose them staring up at the rain. 

I lose them during night lost sleepless dreamless bedtimes 


I hear my first love’s voice as he tells me I’m beautiful. 

My second love as he tells me I am always thinking of him and he knows and hears my thoughts and knows and hears my dreams and notices my crinkled laugh and shyness and playfulness and loveliness.

Tall as I am, never once called lovely. 

Then it stuck, Lovely – Lov-ely, Love Ellie, Lovely. 

Hair around fingers and kisses and held and being and the sun in the beach of the organic wine that tasted repellent; we hid the green bottle in the sand and wonder if it’s still there and cut open feet, or given a child a hiding place for a message to send out to sea, for another child, for another hider and keeper, for another hider and keeper to collect in their favourite memories all on shelves, all with purpose, gathering dust of the day, gathering questions and silently answering as the sun sets. 

My third love’s voice as he tells me I’m like a Greek Goddess, smooth white skin and hips, and waist, and belly and breasts. 

My own voice stuck as I see the treasure I kept hidden to turn my dreams physical

Because I could not hold onto memories that resisted my brain, faded away: dared to drown. 


Dreamer at school, teacher and children laughing 

Dreamer at school: ‘are you listening?’

In clouds, head floated, body too, I was not here

But in a box       I could put my dreams,

Memories, nostalgia and pretend I was happy

I’d been happy during this time

But maybe I’ve never quite held happiness, 

Why I’ve left men, the men who loved me. 

Why I’m alone and won’t let anyone touch me

Why I crave love, instead collect objects or feelings and make them be containers of what I want to physically feel but it’s safer to physically hold. 


The physicality is as much as is of lovemaking, or painting, or the art process. 

There are not many who will journey with I in the making of art

Deeply personal, deeply inside, internalised, hidden, secret

A favourite in a velvet, or wooden, or engraved, sometimes woven threaded box. 

Collecting dust,


Using Format