There’s one thing I could be doing right now if I was already in the USA (which I can never do in the UK):
Suburban American houses usually have these massive porches: they span the width of the house and can accommodate a couple of sofas. Walking around Manayunk in the scorching summer months I would see students and their roommates lazing on those front porches, clearly with nothing more on their schedules for that day than chilling and drinking beer. This sort of sunny weather makes me want to laze on a porch, drinking lemonade and watching the world go by.
Anyway, summer is supposed to be a happy time. The vitamin D, melatonin and bright warmth is supposed to cheer people up out of their winter blues.
And it is. I love summer.
…Yet summertime stirs up a strange sensation in me. I’m feeling it now: a pang of something I think is nostalgia.
It has always been a time of transition for me. Old things end. New things begin. School. University. Job. Country. That point in time when the days are just beginning to lengthen, when I can spend a whole day in the warm sunshine admiring the blue skies…I know if I’m my last teetering edge of stability before another upheaval comes along.
This weekend I explored Dean Village. It’s a picturesque village tucked into the cleft running through the city of Edinburgh. A secret little place. Cut off from time, as the cliche might go.
There was suddenly this moment when my brain circuits tripped: I looked at the river below me, the gabled house I was passing, the narrow steep cobbled path…and was transported back to Switzerland. Walking up to the Basel Muenster perhaps, looking down at people swimming in the Rhein; maybe traipsing through a quaint Swiss village in the middle of nowhere. A footfall later and I was back in Edinburgh. Buried memories resurfaced. The kind of everyday sensations I try to suppress when I’m in a different country, otherwise I’d never belong anywhere.
I felt nostalgia for Basel & Switzerland. It was a difficult country for me to live in, there are some incredibly dark emotions I associated with the place that still have the power to deeply upset me. At the same time there was an everyday magic about Basel and its countryside: all the international borders (Swiss-French-German) gave me the sense that there were boundaries in reality, too…and that I could cross them. Sometimes I did.
When the sensations of living somewhere hit you…everything comes back. Good. Bad. Mundane. Little details and broad panoramas. That day I went home and played all the music in my iTunes Library that I associated with the year in Switzerland. “Bleeding Love” by Leona Lewis still makes me cry and feel those dark emotions. Waking up the next morning it had all died down – Edinburgh life went on.
I operate a suppression instinct – it is what allows me to live in different countries and flourish, never constantly looking backwards – summer is when the suppression glitches. After all, soon I’m going to have to stop suppressing “American memories” and (re-)start burying “British memories”.
Moving countries is complicated.