Project: Lost time

Category : Project, Travels
Date : 14 March 2005

For Christmas i was given Marcel Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time” vol.1 and I stored it in my hand luggage for my 2 week trip back to Portugal. It was a trip planned to work on a book as well as to recover from the many stresses I had been through in the last few years. During the trip i always carried the book with me but I never read it. Instead, the idea given by its title influenced my thoughts as I briefly returned to the country of my birth.

Having been ‘uprooted’ for the last 14 years, i have always felt more at home during a journey; I intensely observe the landscapes travelling with my camera as a poor method of recording the indescribable smells and views. It’s never so much about what i see but more about how i see it: a new passenger is always a new mystery, a house in the fields a source of possibilities. “We could move there”, i think, but i know i’d never do it. It’s the possibilities in the landscape which i find interesting. What could have been, if only. A traveller never really wants to ‘stay’. Instead, she wants the world. Especially when we’ve become so familiar with displacement.
Increasingly, I am drawn towards spaces empty of people. Returning to my birthplace has become more about recognising the absence of the many people I remember than a search for new unfamiliar ones. Even the barber shop attracted me, not because i had ever met the barber himself but because the obituary notice on the door announcing his death reminded me of everything I’d lost.

The few pieces that still stand are a few members of my extended family, my mother’s house and one of my closest friend, Tó, whom i always visit and whose changes I notice each time we meet.
And every time i see my grandmother she tells me this will be the last time; then she weeps. We always laugh about it teasingly, but I know once she’s gone perhaps one of the strongest links to my past will be gone too. So i record the sound of her voice, as though I am trying to hold on to her, to the memories for which she holds a key.

Only the trees remain the same, always, and when i think of which part of me still belongs there, I think about the trees which like me hold on to that ground with their roots.
In my short walks around town old familiar faces of people I never really met personally show up once in a while. In those moments it feels like they are ghosts, temporarily awakened from a strange dream. In the end i realise: I am the ghost, allowed to return for another glimpse of a disappearing world, permitted to remain longer in a strange dream.

I hold on to unimportant moments; I see those as the most relevant to retain a memory, a sense of routine in a place as an antidote to building the myth. During the journey back home where I now live, the landscape is always emptier, less magical. I spend most of it sleeping, with a sense of defeat as though I am being forced back into a less interesting life: to go back to what i know.
Still, i realise i’m lucky in that through certain places and people I can always in a way ‘go back’ and the lost time can still be found at the end of a similar journey, albeit each time more faded.
As for the book, i’ve set myself a deadline to read it by July; i’ve been promised vol.2 for my birthday if i manage to finish it.

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