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Back There [Nov. 22nd, 2014|09:37 pm]
The storm has passed through and there are patches of stars. The night has turned cold. There was rain most of the morning, and sometimes wind, and then the early afternoon brought some fog. It was very nice, but the sound of it made me nostalgic and I made the mistake of visiting my old neighborhood with Google street views. Seeing the things that have changed since I left made me sad, even though there has been surprisingly little change, but the thing that made me saddest was that I frequently can't remember what was there before the changes were made. I can easily remember what was in a given place prior to changes that were made before I left, but having missed seeing the more recent changes as they happened, I didn't get to fix the vanishing view in my memory, and now I have these gaps in my nostalgia.

But even without these gaps the nostalgia would be distressing. I used to carry a notebook with me at all times, and I wrote hundreds of pages in them, but I never quite caught what I wanted to record. Touring on Google reminds me of that fact, and little fragments of the missing record fleetingly pop into my mind, as impossible to capture now as they were then, and now complicated by the passage of time and its mutations. It's probably something to do with my brain chemistry, but the peculiar feeling that I was experiencing something important, and was somehow on the cusp of some revelation or some great joy, which would sometimes overtake me when I walked through those streets or sat in one of those buildings, and which attached itself to the place and the , moment, can still manifest itself from those digital images, if only in a ghostly form.

But I no longer have the energy to try to record them. For years I actively sought such experiences, and would return to places that had triggered them in hope of regenerating them and making some kind of literary record of them. The regeneration often worked, but the recording inevitably failed to fully capture them. I now realize that it was probably never the places themselves that brought on the experiences, but something happening in my brain that had become associated with those places. And yet the association is still there, even when I look at digital images removed by decades from those moments.

Something tells me that I could write for hours trying to untangle the complex web of thoughts the street views provoke and still be as far from accomplishing that old goal as I ever have been. Maybe there would be a bit of evocative word jewelery that I could use to regenerate the moments yet again, but that is all there would ever be. The past was a mystery when it happened, and the mystery wrapped itself around streets and buildings and people and the landscape, around even the quality of light or the air on a particular day, around the sound of traffic or voices or birds chirping, around snatches of music from passing cars or jukeboxes in bars I never entered, and it is still a mystery, and I no longer have any hope of unraveling it. Maybe that's what makes me saddest.

But here is tonight, and this place which has rarely triggered whatever it is in my brain that brings on those flashes of vision, or delusion. This place is what it is— just a place with trees and houses and birds, buzzing insects, jittery squirrels, barking dogs, people going about their mundane business. I can go out and breathe the damp night air and smell the pines and grass and see the stars among the thinning clouds, and be as calm and quiet as the night itself. A refuge, of sorts. But what is back there in my memory never entirely goes away. Some part of my mind is always walking those past streets and wondering what it was that, once in a while, could possess me with such delirious amazement. I doubt that I'll ever know.

[User Picture]From: daisydumont
2014-11-24 03:28 am (UTC)
I may have just a bit of an idea what you mean about this. I've done that Google mapping too of old places I've lived and felt a poignant nostalgia for the life events and so on upon finding a house gone or a neighborhood very changed. To this day, a certain quality of light falling through evergreens will make me think of the single day I spent in Norway when I was 21. Memory is a very mysterious thing, whether it's due to brain chemistry or something more arcane than that.

It seems to me that there are personality types prone to this. I'm definitely one of them, if I'm understanding you right.

Edited at 2014-11-24 03:29 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: flying_blind
2014-11-25 04:40 am (UTC)
It's not the nostalgia itself that affects me, but the ineffable feeling the things I remember remind me of. It's one thing to miss what the past really was, but another to miss that promise the past hinted at but never revealed when it was the present. Nostalgia is swallowed up by a longing for what the past once seemed it could have been, but never was.
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[User Picture]From: daisydumont
2014-11-25 04:52 am (UTC)
I understand that. I probably expressed myself poorly.
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