linger: 1. To stay on as if reluctant to leave. 2. To proceed in a slow manner; dawdle. 3. To pause or dwell with interest, pleasure, etc.usu. with over. Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary, Signet, 1983 p.460.
When we sit around the table with friends after eating a convivial meal, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes, doing anything we can to prolong the moment, we linger. When an image, thought, idea or scrap of song lyric stays with us for longer than normal, it is said to linger. When a moment in time, fleeting and impermanent, has pinned us like a butterfly in a display case, for good or bad we linger over the memory.
There are lingering telltale signs of a trail in all the good Western movies when the loyal Indian scout is helping the soldiers track the renegades. The smell of rain lingers on in the damp musty scent of the earth that rises out from the roots of an ancient tree, or in the dust of a city dampened on a hot summer's day and the steam that rises from the sidewalk.
Linger is also the name of Viggo Mortensen's 2005 collection of poems and photographs released through Perceval Press. Photographs of course are a means by which we can all make moments in time linger forever. Simply a matter of pointing and shooting and presto: instant memory.
But through the lens of Viggo Mortensen, photographic memories are sometimes as indistinct as the their real-life counterparts. Blurred images in the foreground merge with background murkiness, and with enigmatic titles like "Fall 7" we're left trying to piece together the artist's memory fragments and to wonder about the nature of memories.
Then again look at the images that Mr. Mortensen has recorded as if shot through a tube. There in the distance, as if seen through the lens of an inverted telescope is an image that is in sharp focus. Some of the photographs in this series are entitled "hindsight". According to my old friends Funk & Wagnalls, this word has two meanings: the understanding of an event after it has happened, or the rear sight of a gun.
Looking at a picture of something that you remember, something that has lingered long in your head, will sometimes bring new clarity, about the whys and the wherefores of your history. But sometimes, lingering memories are like looking down the barrel of a gun, the gun of your past that has the ability to blow apart your present with feelings of guilt, remorse, anguish, or even anger either because of your own actions or past inequities.