Thursday, April 4, 2013

At season's turn

Nostalgia, my old friend

"You could be Scandinavian…you look Scandinavian," Ben told me from his pleather computer chair that sat across the living room. I paused and tilted my head, considering what I should say to that.

"That's probably because I am…Scandinavian," I admitted from the recliner.

"I guess I just don't remember your cheekbones being so high when we were kids," he admitted after we'd both stopped laughing. "And your hair stayed more blonde than mine did. The Croatian came out in me as I got older." I glanced over to his wife at this point, wondering what the Swedish native thought of our second-hand knowledge of Europe.

Ben and I had grown up together on Seventh Avenue South eons ago. We lived next door to each other in a hotbed of creativity. It was a place where we'd play games that were made up as we went, where we built sand castles and motes and all sorts of contraptions from sticks and pine cones in the yard. Back then, we engineered spaceships, excavated dinosaur bones, and created secret written languages. He was always the careful intellectual while I was the reckless risk-taker, and together there were few adventures we could not topple.

Now though, we were adults in his living room, catching up on old times after enjoying a dinner together with his wife. I was no longer covered in mud and holding a stick, and he was no longer showing me how to transform Optimus Prime (though I'm sure he would have if I’d asked). 

A lot of things had changed, but many more had only morphed...

Now we noticed things about each other that were never on our minds as kids. Things like family heritage and bone structure, apparently. Several years had passed since the last time we had the chance to catch up, and so we shared our adventures since then. This is the way of things when you refuse to forget who you are and where you come from. When you don't let your past determine your future, maintain your relationships, and do it without burning bridges.

He told me about his cars, like he always had, but now it was about how they fared on trips to Canada rather than towns in the area. I shared with him ideas about how he might expand his side business of online sales, and he gave me feedback on my writing. We talked about ideas, concepts, broadening horizons and the like - big stuff. We threw out ideas in a way that might help the other consider things differently. In short, we were back to building, engineering, and digging in the dirt on endless missions.

The things we had started with as children were still there, and I saw a web of experience and a system of thought exchange that were the effect of a relationship built a long time ago. Still in tact was the sky, the stars and clouds of ideas, the feeding off of each others imaginations. Sure, we had our fair share of gripes about work, money, taxes, and economies - all the stale stuff - but what was really important to us was the naïvety we each afforded the other.

Nostalgia is a powerful motivator, and when used in moderation it can be very effective. If you can let yourself enjoy pieces of your past, especially a shared past, then you can remember to do that for the present as well. What I'm saying is, don't become so rigid in the course of your present life that you disregard opportunities for play. Even adults need to play (especially adults), because it is a safe and creative space, where no ideas are bad ideas.

I glanced out the window of his apartment and saw the smoke roiling off the paper mill just the same as I'd always known it, just the same as thousands of days in the past. But then a memory flashed in my brain, and suddenly the mill was an alien spaceport all over again, the way it was when I was seven. I saw lines of rocket ships instead of industrial architecture, and there were ships carving through the fake clouds.

The sun was setting and the river valley below was growing its shadows, water trickling from under every snowbank in sight. I'd seen a couple dozen spring thaws happen exactly the same way, and I had to grin at their familiarity. The wistful attitude of the spring thaw was beginning to finally have an effect on the crummy old winter, and my crummy old mind. And just then, even the mud outside was beckoning me like an old friend.

“Every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to the essence of being.”
- Albert Camus

See you out there,
A woodsman in training.

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