Early March. Snowdrops and crocuses are blooming, as are the daffodils.
Snowdrops, beautiful delicate white flowers, coyly looking down at their feet. I remember wrapping their trimmed stems in wet paper towel, then plastic wrap. The downturned eyebrows and “aw” of my favorite teacher when I proudly presented them to her.
Crocuses, narrow vase-shaped purple and yellow blooms. They tell me Spring is almost here.
Daffodils, already in bloom. Back home, they arrive in April; my favorites have white petals and yellow trumpets. The hills of our park are covered in an army of daffodils, thousands standing proud.
This beautiful trio of color is what brushes away the lethargy of winter. Endless gray skies, bitter wind and rain, minimal daylight truncated by late sunrises and early sunsets. The gray is cast over everything, making food taste as bland as the tree branches that loom overhead, naked and spindly.
Meanwhile, the flesh on my hips grows thicker with raclette, inactivity and torpor. My head is stuffed with cotton, and I feel myself disappearing, daily, soundlessly into the fog-laden hills of my morning walk.
My gray existence receives a jolt every year, upon sight of these flowers.
I wipe the sleep from my eyes, and go outside to pick one. The first sight of vibrant color in months turns my world back into technicolor.
It’s nearly time to come out of hibernation.
Sunday morning. Fall is here, and she’s brought the throat tickle. Time for my standby home remedy:
Equal parts honey and freshly minced ginger root.
Add about 1 tablespoon of the mixture to mug.
Stir in boiling water.
The first sip of my sweet, pleasantly spicy tea soothes my throat and brings me back in time. Saenggangcha, ginger tea in Korean. The winters in Seoul were cold and windy, and it felt so comforting to settle into a warm cafe and order a mug of ginger tea. I’d write or draw, sip, meditate. The earthy, pungent ginger punched into my nose while the honey made the whole go down nice and smoothly… There were little chunks of ginger sitting at the bottom, and I crunched them gladly. Warming, soothing, delicious.
8:00 a.m. Wake up, open eyes, lift the shutters a few inches. Let the day slowly come into focus. Deep green-gray morning light comes into the bedroom. The light is the same as it was in summer back home; the heavy greenness of the trees coupled with the muggy grayness was hypnotizing and almost narcotic. The sky was a thick gray comforter that cocooned and muffled the world. It inspired a contented lethargy that made me relate to Rip Van Winkle.
Then came the rain. First in fat heavy drops that smacked your face. You would hear the rush of rain hit the tree leaves a split second before the downpour hit you. The burst of fresh rain cut into your doziness and woke you right up.
I would run to put on some scrappy play clothes and run around in the rain. I’d dance, stomp around on the sidewalk, and bask in the glorious shower. Mom would greet me at the door with a towel, and there was nothing like the contented feeling of changing into dry clothes. I can almost still feel it.
But it’s not going to rain today, in France, in 2016. It will be a seasonably warm, sunny day. This moment will pass soon enough. I’m a bit let down that nature has played this trick on me. Nostalgia has struck again.
Nostalgia in French has a negative connotation. La nostalgie is associated with regret, yearning, and melancholy. Sadness. I think it’s a pity, because Nostalgia is that old friend that connects me with the sentimentality that gives a hankering for a certain dish, or to draw, to write: in other words, the endless, untapped creativity inspired by my childhood.
Nostalgia connects me with the wonder I had at the world that I want to hold on to. It reminds me of the way the seasons have passed around and through me; man, I can still feel them all in my guts.
The smell of the ground and dry grass; the color of the early-morning sun mixed with dew on a summer morning; the smell of snow with its diamond luster.
The torrential downpours typical of the rainy season in Korea, when it was almost hard to breathe.
The crisp fall air, surrounded by brilliant tree leaves while hiking Gwanak Mountain (and how damn delicious a hard-boiled egg tastes when you reach the top and your body is aching for energy).
The cold days at the end of fall, when warm toffee-colored sunlight hit you while a cold breeze shook the last few crisp leaves off the trees.
Nostalgia is the resonance of these visceral memories. It’s not the melancholy in knowing that these experiences are long gone; it’s the joy in remembering that they happened.