Monday, June 13, 2011

Once a Citizen, Now a Stranger

It is strange to revisit a place you once knew so well to only to find fundamental details have changed; parts that were so intimately entwined with your memories and shared experience have disappeared or adapted. It is a different kind of loss, one very separate from any other we experience, with its own kind of grief, acceptance and healing process.

I seem to have a habit lately of returning to places where I was once a citizen; a resident and active participant in the culture and daily activity. Now when I pass these spaces I realise everything is different and I am a stranger to this new version; a living relic of its past, a carrier of the history that happened during my time there.
I can relive what occurred within those walls, summon to mind events, scents, fractured images and conversations, but of course we can never go back and can only really ever wonder if others carry the same memorial souvenirs within their soul that we do. If we talk to our contemporaries of the lives that we lived here, the now fleeting moments of time that passed, we find some solace that the place we knew lives on in other's memory too; we are not the only ones who carry its history, our own local lore, within us. If we try to speak of what we know, what we knew, to those who populate these places now, in the after as it were, I wonder if a memory could sufficiently translate the way these spaces shaped our lives, changed us somehow even though we didn't know it at the time.

When I journey back to an old ground I am in two minds; do I want it to have stayed the same, as though by remaining unchanged some part of my own past has been preserved too? or is it easier if all has changed, so that it is harder to mourn that which has passed and cannot be returned to, save in memory alone.

I find that I learn more of myself each time I revisit a place where my citizenry has expired. That which I went through inside its walls, or within its grounds, is more easily digested with the cushioning of a few years, the essential details have distilled and I see more clearly the lessons that needed to be learned. To now be a stranger again, back at the beginning in the new old places I wonder what they will leave with me this time around?

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