ON NOSTALGIA

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Nostalgia, I feel it boil up like slow heat, draping over my body like a new lover. This heat has its own language, a language that I hurl like swear words at reality, causing the present moment to retreat into the background. The memory, like a drug in the way it distorts reality, observes the past through rose-tinted glasses.

After the heat simmers I am left hanging like a pendulum, suspended between then and now. I cast a silver net over it all to consolidate the fragments; gathering memories caught like sea shells, hoisted up from the subconscious, shining pearlescent and singing the songs of sirens that once beckoned fisherman to their death.

To return to a person or place of dwelling is to stare into the eyes of a ghost. Half real, half constructed by the imagination; a transparent form that flickers like an old VHS tape - white noise on the television screen. I return to dwellings of my past through the doors of my senses; the smell of familiar perfume, old wood and salt air, warm from the peach colour of the sun setting through glass windows.

I have returned to stay on a houseboat in Sausalito, California where I was this time exactly one year ago. The person I was last time feels like a stranger, in the same way an old lover feels like a stranger after not having seen them for a while. Both close and far away at once, the zoom on the video camera lens shifting in and out, oscillating between close angles and wide screen shots.

I have spent my first few nights here trying to reconcile this chasm. Fragments of memory and time form a string section, a concert performance of imagination. I try to sit with my back turned to nostalgia but I feel its magnetism like a warm breath on the back of my ears, I feel the tips of its fingers wrapping around my neck. This turning away from, instead of leaning in to it, paradoxically, only seems to increase its power and poetry.

If it were made visible, nostalgia would be a concert hall, largely adorned with velvet curtains and intricate gold trimmings. The notes of the orchestra come into being all at once, suddenly. I stand at the centre of this hall, surrounded by a symphony. There is no way to avoid such a spectacle. Instead, I move with it like the rocking maws of a ship, my head swinging in time with the string section which beckons me.

Nostalgia is the feeling of being underwater. A sunken ship, where the walls of the concert hall begin to flood like one of the grand rooms of the titanic. I swim underwater, in the depths of memory, and look out over the abandoned instruments and moss-covered furniture. I watch my breath bubble to the surface where beams of sun cut through the water, leading my way to the surface where the piercing light of reality awaits.


Words Shannon May Powell
Photography Stefan Dotter