Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be, as everybody knows. Still, sometimes it is necessary to look back at the past with some affection if one is to move forward in a positive spirit.
This notion was kind of forced upon me here in Montenegro this week. Photos on FB reminded me that I had turned down the offer of a ticket to see Iggy Pop at Finsbury Park because I knew this Balkans trip was imminent. Finsbury Park is where Anne and I married! And Iggy Pop was THE iconoclastic rock idol of choice for me and my friends back in the day. It was just one of those friends who had offered me the ticket. So then I only had the photos of the sunny day in London to enjoy.
Coincidentally, listening to music on YouTube at the camp site in Virpazar, ‘Bron-Yr-Aur’ by Led Zeppelin came up on the feed, replete with accompanying images. There was the little stone cottage in rural Wales, nestled in that typically green, misty Welsh setting. There was the little track leading up to the building. There was the band hanging out in the garden, all long hair and denim flares. Magic!
As a boy, I spent many holidays in Ireland and Wales and Scotland and the west country, and those little Celtic stone cottages tucked away amongst the grass hillocks and sparse woodland have been indelibly linked in my mind with images of freedom and rural tranquillity all my life. (Such a scene and accompanying emotions have been referred to in a previous Balkans blog, discussing ideas of simplicity and liberation.) At sixteen, my friends and I hitchhiked down to Peter Tavy in Cornwall and this trip of adventure, too, has stayed with me as an emblem of freedom and discovery.
In fact, I was reminded how in the summer of ’76, unable to obtain a grant and start a college course in London, I set out for Cornwall once again immediately after seeing the Rolling Stones and Todd Rundgren at a festival with those self-same friends. Once again, the Celtic coasts and moorland drew me away from the now inevitable drudgery of paid labour, enticing my wild spirit to rebel.
Anne and I moved to the west country soon after our marriage. But that’s another story.
Nostalgia, too, is incredibly linked in my mind with melancholia. That is not really so surprising since at the age of three my eleven year old sister drowned off the Dorset coast and I spent long, long days waiting for her to return home. Which, of course, couldn’t happen. So that melancholia, as a deep-seated emotion, became deeply embedded within my way of thinking. Probably the most famous rendition of this feeling is the woodcut of the same name by Albrecht Durer. Melancholia can be overwhelmingly powerful – and destructive – in its allure, but at the same time it creates an added depth and meaning to the nostalgic impulse. Every so often as a grown-up the melancholy desire threatened to carry me away completely so that I had to take active measures in removing it from my emotional library.
My own children growing up provided an anchor which helped me access solid ground and helped settle the wild emotions that promised to engulf my soul completely. Then my understanding was also aided and grew to the extent that I am now aware of how and when my poor departed sister was reincarnated. If you want to know how this happens, I will happily explain if and when you join my mystic society.
Nostalgia and melancholy draw us deep into the past and deep into our minds but are to be resisted if they become too strong when we wish to re-create the world anew from the inside out. The beauty of both is that they make us aware of how much joy and desire is actually available for us to work with.
Back in the now of Montenegro, we visited the history museum (more past stuff!) in the old capital of Cetinje and were given a good sense of how this country has been created from its own wild, mountainous past. We opted to rent a cheap apartment in order to visit the surrounding towns using public transport, but we miss the summery outdoors and are quickly getting back into our little campervan so that we can explore the north of the country, which includes the last remnants of rain forest in Europe.
‘Onwards!’ – as the Soviets used to say.
Posted from Cetinje