Crepuscular Light

Smith, Liz

Photography by Liz Smith

I wanted to write something truly unique about what it means to feel nostalgic. I tried writing poetry, I tried listening to songs from my childhood, and I even tried to force myself to think of something special. It didn’t take long for me to realize that it will always be impossible for me to recreate the sense of magic I once knew in the past. That’s why it’s in the past; it’s meant to stay there. Nothing I say now will ever be as unique as it was back then. I just wish I could bring the magic to fruition once more.

If I could bring the magic back, maybe I wouldn’t miss that place so much. But I do. I miss the long catwalk in my old neighbourhood that weaved its way between two houses and separated them with a thick wire fence clad in bushes. The end of the catwalk always led me to a place where I could see fantastically bright sunsets. It was the place I rode to on my bike during the long and hot summers of my childhood. For some reason, I kept going back every night to watch the sunsets in that magical place. The best part was that nobody else knew how magical it really was. It was like a private spot reserved for me. For a brief moment, the world would be calm, quiet, and bright. These days, I always wonder whether it was the place that was magical or if the sunset held everything for me in its rays. Sometimes I’ll even wonder where the magic has gone.

Adulthood has a way of erasing what I used to know about the magnificent wonders of the world. I can’t remember the last time I witnessed a sunset as moving as the ones I saw as a child. Life has a way of making me forget to enjoy moments like that. I tell myself I should open my heart to the future and create new memories—enjoy a sunrise over a sunset. Then I start to remember the past and appreciate how inviting it is to think of myself in a good way. Then I start to remember those songs from my childhood and those visions of a beautiful sunset that somehow mean so much to me now that they are over. If only I could feel that sense of relentless energy and appreciation for my future. If only I could pull away from the old photographs; both real and implanted in my memory.

You want to know what nostalgia is. You want to know what it means. Only you can answer that. Your memories are not my memories, and they never will be. They are your own. If they bring you sadness, happiness, or everything you can imagine in one concrete specimen, only you can know how it feels to be pulled back by the longing for home or the simple comforts of childhood. Maybe nostalgia is remembering a day you once baked brownies with your best friend who now lives far away from you. Maybe nostalgia is regretting something you did—or didn’t—say to someone when you should have, and now the opportunity will never come again. Or maybe nostalgia is wishing your father could be at your university graduation, but that could only happen if he was the loving man he once was before he abandoned you.

This should not be sad for us. Nostalgia already has a way of doing that in life. I want us all to learn to chase the sunsets so long as we don’t let them consume us. We don’t have to touch the sunsets; we just need to remember how they made us feel. Think of what was in your past, but do not torture yourself by attempting to displace the past into your present. You cannot pluck people, events, or images from your past and expect them to convert into things in your present that were never meant to be.

I know now that the magic is not lost. It is hiding somewhere else for me to find. It’s waiting at the end of a different catwalk in another country among different people and different circumstances. It probably doesn’t even exist at the end of a mere catwalk anymore. It’s in the heart of something I cannot fathom until it is brought to life.

A sunset is just an imprint of the past. A sunrise is the indication of a future worth having. Both are stories worth telling. Someday, even this story will be in the past. It already is. You can find it in the crepuscular light at the end of a lone catwalk in the late 1990s.