Hal Y. Zhang

Author’s Notes: Cast Off Tight

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July 12-31, 2017

I was eating breakfast at way-too-early-o’clock, feeling like I shouldn’t be awake, when someone who finds memories on knitted goods popped into my head. Some time earlier I had read a personal account on the surprising comfort of a smart watch’s heartbeat recording left by a loved one gone too soon, and it decided to surface at that moment. The plot raveled from there, maybe because of this poem by W. S. Merwin that’s always stuck with me:


Your absence has gone through me 
Like thread through a needle. 
Everything I do is stitched with its color.

Memory yarn itself probably comes from two things: one, a tactile illusion I once tried at a science museum where you clasp your hands on either side of a net of wires and move them slowly. If you do it the right way, your whole hand feels fuzzy, as if you’re feeling wool or velvet. Scientists don’t know why yet. And two, the many different ways we already know how to substitute one sense for another, like seeing with sound or touch, that tell us how malleable our brains are, and speak of a myriad of possibilities for helping those with disabilities better sense the world around them.

References of Possible Interest

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