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.