We love too much to travel on old roads,
To triumph on old fields; we love too much
To consecrate the magic of dead things,
And yieldingly to linger by long walls
Of ruin, where the ruinous moonlight
That sheds a lying glory on old stones
Befriends us with a wizard's enmity". --Edwin Arlington Robinson
I meet nostalgia in the most unlikely places. She comes to me, unbidden, when I sit among friends but apart from the conversation. Sometimes I see her at a doughnut shop, if I arrive before seven a.m., and she reminds me of every dawn visit I have ever paid to sugary places. If I hike a trail in the woods, she is apt to mention to me the look of giant century plant yucca in bloom, huge stems, twenty feet tall, reaching out to the sky, thousands of miles away, in California. Twenty years ago next week, I sat for the bar examination, but nostalgia teleports me to a huge boulder near Glen Rose, Texas, upon which I lay after the examination and looked up into the sky and wondered what life I had let myself in for having.
Nostalgia kissed me, long ago, but she also broke my heart. She causes me to remember the exultation of great books read, when words meant everything. Sometimes her conversation is a bit repetitive, returning over and over to the same moments, until they are as familiar as the songs kids sing in a round. She takes me to curious places, such as Brough Commons dining hall, in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where my freshman definition of peace was to eat a heavenly chicken-fried steak, alone, on a table graced with sunlight, free from harrassing people or social awkwardness. She reminds me of the afternoon when tarantulas swarmed a rural highway, or the look of a deep woods in Canada.
Sometimes I think nostalgia is a fun date, as she is endlessly affectionate, and she
never takes me to any movie I have not already seen and loved. But sometimes, I notice that she prefers me as I was, and not as I am now. I am not sure I am so different now, but I have this urge to create memories rather than live in them.
But she has such a range of voices and notions. She is the sound of a French girl saying "bon jour" with a bell-like tone when I enter a patisserie. She's the look over a hilltop highway as I edge into Palestine, Texas. She's the way I feel when I look from Pinnacle Mountain down into the Arkansas River valley, and feel, for a moment, both alone and at peace.