For the most part these blessings are memories yet it is misleading to say this, for, at the same time, they are promises. They collect the remembered pleasures of promises which cannot apply to the future which they have gladly vacated, but somehow do apply to the brief, empty present.
The promises are wordless and physical. Some can be seen, some can be touched, some can be heard, some can be tasted. Some are no more than messages in the pulse. The taste of chocolate. The width of her hips. The splashing of water. The length of the daughter’s drenched hair. The way he laughed early this morning. The gulls above the boat. The crow’s feet by the corners of her eyes. The tattoo he made such a row about. The dog with its tongue hanging out in the heat.
The promises in such things operate as passwords: passwords towards a previous expectancy about life. And the holidaymakers on the lakeside collect these passwords, finger them, whisper them, and are wordlessly reminded of that expectancy, which they live again surreptitiously'.
Extract from a text by John Berger, read by him at the Serpentine Gallery's Memory Marathon, London, 20 October 2012