Someone, oh so gently, implied recently that perhaps I dwell a bit too much in the past, and that is an interesting thought. But to that I have to say this: “Well, yes. I return to the past in my memory and recollections because I am, quite simply, “my past.” The future I have no way of knowing. The present is real enough, but evanescent, constantly in the process of becoming the past.
The here and now is all I am conscious of at this moment. But in the next instant, it is past. I live in this moment. But I live in the past, too. We all do. I live in the past because it is the sum total of all my experiences. It is what has made me into the person I am today. For better or worse.
So, I have a powerful and reverential regard for the past. I have the utmost respect for older people whose own histories are so rich with time and unique experiences because I know what it has taken to arrive where I am now. And, I am not even that old, yet.
At this moment I’m listening to waves crash upon the beach. It is almost dark. I feel the warm sea breezes and the energy of the ocean. My thoughts precede, in some mysterious and rather unfathomable manner, the words that are flowing from my pen into the small notebook open before me.
When I reminisce or write about pleasant times in the past, I am pushing aside the present briefly to enjoy a few minutes of what once was. It is now present again as I remember and put myself back into certain scenes and situations. It’s less tangible, but no less real, because it happened.
For instance, if you look back to my earliest writing, such as the essays I wrote about Black Creek and Little Black Creek in southern Mississippi, as well as my first essay, “Back Roads,” you will see what I am talking about. Rivers and creeks have had the most magical and mysterious influence on me all my life. Endlessly flowing. Slow currents of black or tea-colored water, imperceptibly moving. What lies around the bend? I can imagine myself sleeping out on a sugar-white sandbar on Black Creek on an October night under the stars and a full moon. Rivers are mystery. They all seek their source in the ocean. My past is full of river experiences, and they will always beguile and intrigue me. I will always seek ways to explore and know them.
Words and language connect me to this past of mine by allowing me to express and convey experiences and memories to others, or to myself. These fragments of events and experiences — and the thoughts, fears, joys, and sorrows associated with them — are inextricably woven into the person I am today. Thus, I am what I was, but in a slightly, hopefully more mature, guise.
Lonely rivers flow
To the sea, to the sea
To the open arms of the sea
Lonely rivers sigh
Wait for me, wait for me
I’ll be coming home
Wait for me.
The Righteous Brothers
Last updated September 13, 2021