I am traveling back in time…by way of commercial airlines. Two days ago I landed in San Diego and have been re-inhabiting haunts from my teens, twenties and early thirties. In a few days, I’ll be driving through neighborhoods from my early childhood.
It’s not the first time I’ve visited, so the juxtaposition of deja vu intimacy and unrecognizable suburban sprawl isn’t unexpected. But it is unsettling. It leaves me feeling displaced on home turf; a stranger in a strangely familiar land.
The fact that this happens every time I come back to Southern California speaks to a kind of rigidity—or at least attachment—on my part. Some part of me expects old haunts to be as they once were; expects time to have magically paused here while I was away for 35 years.
But, of course, it isn’t so.
This odd brew of nostalgia and unease is a reminder of the central teaching of taijiquan—being present. And also to the central premise of forest time [see the post “Time Is An Old Growth Forest”]—that past and future are not separate entities from, but simultaneous layers of the present.
I have learned that lesson many times; have embraced that premise on many levels. But they both take frequent refresher courses to hold their wisdom consistently in awareness. Today they’re using the contrast between memory and perception, affection and dismay as my teachers.
Rather than resisting the conflict, I’m going to embrace it. Treat this journey back to youthful haunts not as a battle between how I remember it and how I see it, but as an invitation to expand my present to include both the memories and the changes.
In June, I’m flying to my birthplace in Minnesota. We’ll see then how this expansion is going.