Things are going to sparkle around here. Monte Vista is doing its Christmas thing today and tomorrow. One of the events leading up to it has been the re-garlanding of the Happy Holiday sign at the west entrance to my town (the end of my block). It’s a Christmas tradition. Tradition is big in Monte Vista.
I’ve been thinking about nostalgia. Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude, looks at the pernicious power of nostalgia. I read it back in the 70s, and I don’t remember the plot clearly, but I remember images thanks to Marquez’ way of writing. The book is about a once flourishing town — Macondo — in the process of dying of nostalgia.
Nostalgia is killing my town, too. People here moan, “Monte is not like it was.” “This town has turned to shit,” but they don’t come up with a plan to change it or a vision for the future of what they want the town to be within the constraints of objective reality NOW, 2017. The recent election? The coalition that won ran on nostalgia, the promise to bring Monte Vista back to the town it was in the 1970’s. They’re good guys, but had no clear plan, not one they communicated, anyway. They knew how to reach the voter, though.
The problem with nostalgia is that it’s smokey-eyed, bleary and romantic. The 1970s had its ugliness and sorrow, too. People probably bitched about things then, how “things weren’t what they used to be,” as people do all the time everywhere. If that coalition took apart their nostalgia, they might see that the ordinary habits of people have changed.
“Nostalgia, as always, had wiped away the bad memories and magnified the good ones. no one was safe from its onslaught.” Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Nostalgia is a normal feeling. I feel nostalgia for hills I once hiked but no longer can. Men I once loved, and won’t love again. Family members and moments shared that cannot return. Denver. I prefer it as it was from the 1950s to the late 70s/early 80s when I left and, for that reason, I’m not eager to return and explore it now. Fuck it. Denver doesn’t care whether I’m there or not.
One thing that propelled me back here was nostalgia. I saw the streets of Monte Vista and I saw all the small towns I’d loved as a kid. I also saw the architecture of my favorite neighborhoods in Denver. There was nostalgia for winter, too. In California, even though where I lived it did snow, it was never “real” winter. But I did not choose other aspects of my early life. I had learned to love sunshine and chose to live where the sun shines upward of 300 days/year and the days never shorten dramatically in winter. I wanted a new life. A lot of things here are completely, totally new to me. I’ve never lived in a farming community, for example, or so close to the Northern New Mexican culture that I’ve always loved, that’s always fascinated me. Now I live between mountain ranges and near a river — that’s new. I didn’t go back to the family homeland, Montana. I moved to the far north end of the great Sonoran Desert. I recognized that I am not the same person I was in the early 80s when I left Colorado. I’m a very different person, and “You can’t go home again.”
Where and what was “home” anyway? In the meantime, I’d started living with dogs and that wasn’t going to stop. I’ve traveled and seen some of the world. I’ve learned languages. My physical abilities are diminished, lots of stuff is new… I don’t want to live in the past. It wasn’t THAT good. But some things are — in memory — sweet.
Nostalgia is a reasonable feeling for things that are gone forever. It is not a normal feeling for things that are alive and want to move forward, into the future, where they will live (and maybe you won’t?). The future should sparkle, beckon, an open horizon of possibility, an illusion of its own kind, but not the sepia-toned, hazy opiate of nostalgia.