Posted by: Calmseas (Mike) | January 23, 2012

The Way Things Were

Have you ever noticed how we humans seem to pine for things that once were, but are no more?  This yearning to have what can no longer be possessed is the essence of nostalgia, which embeds itself deep in the psyche with the passage of time.  For me, out-of-the-ordinary events do not seem nearly so attractive, so memorable, so warm and fuzzy in the moment—or even in the immediate days and weeks after the moment—as they do when some time has passed and I can pause to look back and reflect on them.

As I write these words in late-January, I have the warm-fuzzies for a short trip taken a few weeks ago between Christmas and New Year’s.  The trip itself was a wonderful break from the rigors and rote of everyday life; my wife and I had a great time!  At the time, however, it just seemed like one of those standard getaways: shopping in little shops, taking in local attractions, sampling the provincial cuisine, and the like.  All good, mind you; I’m not complaining.  But it did not stand out in the moment as anything particularly unique, except for the break in the routine that it offered.

As I reflect now, several weeks removed from this short foray to flee the hum-drum, this little sabbatical takes on an entirely new aura in those nostalgic spaces of my mind.  I’ve begun to develop special memories of all of the little out-of-the-ordinary things that we did on that trip, and I find myself beginning to long for them once again.  Even recollections of simply walking down the street in sub-freezing temperatures—trying to reach the next little shop before our hands and feet became frostbitten—are well on their way to becoming fond memories, yes, nostalgia.

The more I think about how it is that nostalgia takes time to fully bloom, the more I have to believe that it is a stripping-away process.  It is a whittling down of the event—in the mind, over time—to its more important essentials.  In the moment, there is much of our daily routine that still takes place on a getaway from home.  We still get out of bed in the morning, we go through our grooming rituals, we have our morning coffee and breakfast.  As we move through the day, we still need to take care of the essentials—laying in plans for the day, filling the gas tank, dealing with the weather, perhaps standing in line for this and that, and so forth.

The seeds of nostalgia are simply planted during the time away.  Though at the time, we don’t much pay attention to either the seeds or the planting.  Upon our return, the seeds begin to sprout.  All of the routine parts of the trip fall away like dirt that is pushed aside by seedlings laboring to break through to the surface.  And just like plants that have sprung to life, nostalgia grows to become magical memories of what was, and what can never again be, at least not exactly as it was.  With the passage of time, all that remains is the unique and the extraordinary.   Those memories—that nostalgia—becomes incomparable, priceless treasure in our minds and in our hearts.

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