Stockpiling items for future nostalgia

I wrote this a year ago, in November 2016, when I moved to Canada. The past 12 months have involved myriad experiences, some that have touched on the ideas here, some haven’t. But it remains a resonant reflection for me.

I’m occupying an unusual mental space at the moment. It’s novel. I wake up aware I’m overseas, but I have no return date home. So I’m not consciously quantifying, classifying and judging moments the way I often do: “well we have three days left in Blah, then half a day’s travel to Blah Blah, then five days in Blah Blah Blah…”. That internal, rolling monologue that perks up periodically to let me know time — and especially holiday time — is finite. Beyond basic organizational value I don’t think it’s the ripest way to approach life in general, no matter where you are.

My time in Canada feels oddly free-floating, because there is no looming cap on it. I feel no distant tug of a wide network of obligation pulling me or moving in like a mental storm cloud, and that is new indeed.

I am not yet homesick. It’s been four weeks, so an early onset was an unlikely prospect anyway — but I expect to eventually feel the pull of home. I’ve started to collect and hoard materials to presumably help steer me through any difficult bouts. At the Vancouver Writers’ Festival recently, I went to a session called ‘Dystopian Dreams’ and met Australian author, Charlotte Wood. She graciously signed a copy of her book, The Natural Way of Things, for me. The first sentence in the book is “So there were kookaburras here”. It’s set in outback Australia. I’ve not read it but I’ve gulped down a few slices of her crackling prose, when I then decided I wouldn’t read it until I craved some visceral immersion into my familiar landscape.

Listening to the Australian twang of The Rubens vocalist Sam Margin fills me with a mild sense of companionship, and gets me thinking about how I might turn to music for solace, as I so often have and do in my life.

What happens when we miss something? What does that process involve? So many times, missing something has turned out to be a simultaneous attempt to depart an uncomfortable feeling in pursuit of a nurturing one. I have often missed the idea of something — or I’ve ‘missed’ an edited, sanitized, romanticized and perfected version — be it an experience, or person, or time period, or place. When really I should bleach the rose-colored retrospective lens.

When I’m deep in the throes of nostalgia, I’m often seeking a resolution to the nuances of the human condition, items of resolvable properties. Some things, I’m certain, should remain unresolved. If every wound healed, what does that capability for closure say about the significance of the person, or experience, or place? Does it say anything? Maybe we’d prefer some things maintain their rawness.

Any anticipation of homesickness seems a stretch, right now. Given I’m on the other side of the world, in British Columbia — daily circumscribed and humbled by towering granite rock faces, and the most majestic, swollen peaks that both conceal the sun and illuminate its shine, reflected by the bright white snow caps. I feel energized by the landscape here; it’s very grounding, and in my quieter moments I absorb a kind of stillness from it.

I’ve no doubt at all that one day I’ll be walking, turn and desperately wish I was being confronted by these mountains. I’ll miss them.