I post this picture from my island, taken a few days ago at the turn of the month.
The dates on the calendar are checked not as some sort of scratch on the wall to mark my time of quarantine. The marks represent the persistence of my New Year’s resolution, to write every day. This is the one aspect of my life that has been made easier by the lockdown.
I could have cropped the moose head but included it just for fun. It’s nice to have the odd touch of whimsy around to break up the murky thoughts.
My focus in the posted photograph is the artwork. When I turned the month’s page, I gave a small sad gasp when I saw the picture there. It is a travel poster advertising Vicenza, Italy. The artist has chosen to capture the town in some bygone day where a powdered dandy courts a beauty in full hoop skirts. Curiously there is no one else around, just stately towers and colonnades. I imagine the scene looks just as empty today, the ghosts of the 18thcentury perhaps replaced with a more modern vintage.
I love old travel posters, the sensibility of the artwork, the cheery positivity of the images and the language. Come, they invite, and see this charming world that is just a short journey away! I have always loved the wistful nostalgia I get not only from the artwork but also from knowing that the invitations are themselves echoes of the past. The carefree world of travel is long gone (well before this current crisis), lost to the crowds and the speed that worry the world. The leisurely sojourn is as impossible to attain today as those quaint echoes of courtly charm.
Now, of course, more layers have been added to the sadness. This kind of travel is impossible with borders closed and quarantines enforced. And beyond that, not at all unrelated, is the grieving for the suffering that this particular region is experiencing.
Nostalgia is gateway emotion. We may enjoy the pleasant tinge of sadness for a bygone memory. But if the memories run too deep, that tinge can spill over into genuine sorrow.
The very reason to hang a moose head nearby.
[This Post was adapted from a essay originally published on Facebook the day listed above]