There’s something magical and sad about nostalgia. A place, an atmosphere, something that magically triggers a memory that in retrospect we thought was long lost. Smells are big triggers. The right smell can send me back to the 5th grade before I realize it. A perfume could make me think of a lover or a place I haven’t thought about in years, and thought I’d forgotten. Music is a big trigger too; songs we have forgotten about bring back times in our lives, and the way we felt then too. Images, people, places and most importantly emotions that went along with them all.
But the most personal, encompassing type of nostalgia has to be returning to places you’ve left. For the last 7 years since I moved to Atlanta a part of me has been trying to get back to the time of my life before the move.
I have nostalgia for two places in particular. First I miss my old college campus, Kennesaw State. I graduated in ’04 and returned a few times the year after, but then stayed away until 2008, the last time I’ve been. I felt a little out of place, not unwelcome per se. I look young enough to still be there, but I just didn’t have a _reason_ to be there.
But the place I miss more is the Silver Comet Trail, a 60 mile paved bike trail through western Georgia. My parents live a short distance from it, and I spent many a summer afternoon walking, jogging or riding a bike on it.
After moving to Atlanta, it took me a year to realizes how much I missed it. I missed it so much that I would look up photos strangers posted of it online and try to identify if it was taken in a section I knew. “I know that tree!” “Those rocks look familiar!” I’d look at the temperature in the area and imagine what the day must be like there at that moment. Whenever I had the chance to go back to it I would take hundreds of pictures in a single afternoon to pour over later. I’m sure I have more photos and videos of the trail (many thousands) than anyone else.
That’s what it means to feel a burning nostalgia for a place, at least in my case.
But you can’t “re”-capture a time in your life with pictures. That was an era of your life, and you’ve moved on. “You can never go home again.” At the time I never thought I would consider those afternoons on the trail “the good old days,” I was just exercising. It makes me wonder if I’ll see my life now as “the good old days” eventually. That’s comforting at least.
But this is still something I’ve tried to hold onto. In the summers since I moved, when I had time I would go stay at my parents house for a few days and ride the trail. It’s like a cheap vacation and opportunity to see the family. But in 2012 I only went twice.
This year I hadn’t been at all. I felt bad about that in an almost hollow, spiritual sense, so I made myself go last week.
My bike ride on November 10th was the ride that almost didn’t happen. We only recently got someone at work who could fill in for me so I could have my first week off this year. My car almost didn’t start to get me there. A tire went flat on the bike when I went to inflate them a few days before, fortunately I had brought a spare along. I was still getting over a cold, and wasn’t too motivated to go, especially considering it was cool outside (since I sleep in the day I went in the morning before bed.) I told myself I would stay home if I couldn’t find a pair of gloves to wear, luckily I found some. I made myself stop coming up with excuses and just go, knowing it was my last chance before spring, both because of work and what appears to be a nasty winter approaching.
It was the first time I’d been out there in 17 months, but it hasn’t changed much. I loved every minute of it, it was like seeing an old friend. It was emotional, exhausting, a little cold at first, but I left with the good, warm, “full” feeling.
I still wish I lived close enough to go every day if I wanted to, but that’s just not my life. I’m happy with my life now, but I believe in holding on to some things if they’re really special to you.
Here’s some photos from my 18 mile ride. (Yes, I still take pictures):
Coming to the Mt. Olivet Road tunnel.