Nostalgia for the Present
At that very instant:
Oh, what I would not give for the joy
of being at your side in Iceland
inside the great unmoving daytime
and of sharing this now
the way one shares music
or the taste of fruit.
At that very instant
the man was at her side in Iceland.
Jorge Luis Borges (translated by Alan Trueblood), in Jorge Luis Borges, Selected Poems (edited by Alexander Coleman) (Viking 1999).
Some may say: "Stop thinking so much! Just live." I am not unsympathetic to this view. It is possible to slice things too thin, to overthink the riddle of Time and Existence. On the other hand, Borges is simply reporting What Life Is Like. In a beautiful fashion that most of us are not capable of. Hence, poetry.
Dane Maw (1908-1989), "Woolverton and Peart Woods" (1970)
"Nostalgia for the present" is in the same territory as a feeling I have described here before: an awareness, at the time something is happening, that you are experiencing something you will never forget. The event being experienced need not be "life-changing" or "important" (e.g., a birth, a death, a calamity). In fact, it is usually the case that this feeling comes out-of-the-blue on what seemed to be just another nondescript day. And then you want everything to slow down, or freeze in place. A vain hope, of course.
On the Road
Our roof was grapes and the broad hands of the vine
as we two drank in the vine-chinky shade
of harvest France;
and wherever the white road led we could not care,
it had brought us there
to the arbour built on the valley side where time,
if time any more existed, was that river
of so profound a current, it at once
both flowed and stayed.
We two. And nothing in the whole world was lacking.
It is later one realizes. I forget
the exact year or what we said. But the place
for a lifetime glows with noon. There are the rustic
table and the benches set; beyond the river
forests as soft as fallen clouds, and in
our wine and eyes I remember other noons.
It is a lot to say, nothing was lacking;
river, sun and leaves, and I am making
words to say 'grapes' and 'her skin'.
Bernard Spencer, With Luck Lasting (1963).
Dane Maw, "Scottish Landscape, Air Dubh"
While You Slept
You never knew what I saw while you slept.
We drove up a wide green stone-filled valley.
Around us were empty heather mountains.
A white river curved quickly beside us.
I thought to wake you when I saw the cairn --
A granite pillar of that country's past --
But I let you sleep without that history.
You did, however, travel through that place:
I can tell you that your eyes were at rest
As the momentous world moved beyond you,
And that you breathed in peace that quarter hour.
We seldom know what is irreplaceable.
You sang old songs for me then fell asleep.
I worried about what you were missing.
But you missed nothing. And I was the one who slept.
sip (Glen Coe, Scotland, c. 1986).
"And nothing in the whole world was lacking. It is later one realizes."
Dane Maw, "Langdale Falls, Westmorland"