Making a Gate

A writing exercise by Lynda Barry from What It Is:

“If you made a list of all the dogs you have ever known, how many dogs would be on your list? If you look at your list you may find dogs, not forgotten, but not remembered either until you called them with your pen.

Where were they waiting? Why have they stayed, willing to be unthought, unpictured until now? Some of them have been gone a very long time.


Some of them we have made ourselves forget to recall because losing them had been unbearable and being without them, worse. And so they seem gone from our thoughts as a kind of favor to us -- a kind of mercy. They do not cross our minds until we can stand it again. But they are inside of us in that image-place. They happened to us and we happened to them. This cannot be undone by forgetting or re-made by remembering. We cannot bring them back and we cannot lose them. We know this because we have tried.

During the unbearable time and the empty  time which followed and the unremembered time that is not forgetting, but a kind of fencing off; an image-space; active, though unthought -- in the way dreams are un-thought, are something other than thought. If you made a list of all the dogs you have ever known, alive or dead, yours or someone else's, you will be making a gate for a fence you may not know about. Will you open it?”