Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Living Here and Now - Writing about the Past

Traveling, in time, in space, in your mind.

Lino-cut Tibetan Tiger Rug
Just before Chinese New Year I wrote a guest post for  writing-artist Rose Deniz's blog. Back in Turkey, after visiting her Midwest childhood home, Rose wrote about jet lag and living in present tense. Reading her post today I uncovered thoughts about my own sentiments in regards to living in the present while writing primarily about the past.

Some find an artist or writer's preoccupation with the past disconcerting. "You lose out on the present, if you think that much of what has been," they say.

There's no loss, only gain, I argue. Writing about things that may have happened in the past, making up details of my parents' romance, getting to know relatives I never knew; bringing to life grandmothers, aunts and uncles, cousins, their friends and even pets, using my own experience in the here and now, I'm constantly mixing my present tense life with what's remained behind, both in time and location.

That's the big picture.

In "Forgiveness" the novel, suitcases play an important role
Traveling to me always means my spirit either zips ahead of my physical being, part of me gone while I'm still saying goodbye to my present home and friends or lags behind. Returning from the old country, I need about three months to feel I'm really back. I cherish the mementos I carry back with me, newspapers and magazines in my native language, the books to be saved for last or later, so I can savor the flavor, aroma, and sounds of nostalgia.

What I like best about jet lag is being awake in the small hours, going to all-night diners, prolonging the feeling of being a traveler, on my way back or from a new or old place, my spirit dancing, free and unencumbered, testing me, treating me to that —in between time— where everyday routine is the element that's foreign, alien —not me.

This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License


Deborah said...

I always end up writing about the past, and the understanding of how it forms the present. Am I obsessed, or do I just understand how to interpret life? (sorry, I'm not really as pompous as that sounds!)
Really enjoyed this post after finding you through SheWrites.

Judith van Praag said...

Deborah, Thanks so much for visiting and leaving a comment! I'm tickled you found this blog through SheWrites! So it does pay off to post there! Pomp and Circumstance is what it's all about don't you think? :-) But yes, it's all about understanding the present thanks to the past. Thank you! I ♡ your blog, it is precious as I'm sure your book will be. Such a thankful subject and locale, the Provence. I spent a lot of time in Les Baux and St. Remy, later in Velaux, can't get enough of it all. Looks like your books will be just the right antidote for suffering triggered by not being there IRL.

Ciss B said...

Great thoughts. I found that I could totally understand your concept about jet lag! I just returned from Ireland and England two weeks ago and because I didn't sleep well on the way over (night flight) I felt always tired no matter how much I slept there - but only when we were traveling from point A to point B on the bus! While exploring I was totally there.

The other thing I noticed (besides the fact that I loved the all night thing like you.) was that all that I did was not only written down because I journaled, but I could remember the minutest details of thrip trip, and for me that is a huge achievement! I have little short term memory because of my ADHD, but the memories still are so vivid almost moment by moment for the trip.

I wonder if that's because of the jet lag? ;-)

rose deniz said...

Thanks for mentioning my post, Judith! I go in and out of exploring the past in my writing. Right now what I'm working on is present tense set in the future. But I like to uncover details and past moments in my morning pages.

I love what you have to say about jet lag and an everyday routine feeling foreign. When I get that urge to travel, I know that's part of it, too. Prolonging the feeling of being a traveler - that says it all.

Judith van Praag said...

Rose, Love,
Ever since I met you thanks to your Dialogue2010 project, I carry with me the image of your growing up amidst walls papered with maps, I see your children growing up surrounded by images created by their mama who's a traveler at heart.
Love, Judith

Samantha Sotto-Yambao said...

Hi Judith!

I'm stopping by from She Writes. I loved what you said about jetlag. I could totally relate to it. I have a bad case of wanderlust and if I'm not planning a trip or on a trip, I'm thinking about the next one. One of the best things about travelling is that you get to come home and make everything feel new again. Great blog.:)

Judith van Praag said...

Dear Samanta, Thanks much for stopping by this hub. Being a frequent traveler has helped me to see even places I know well with the eyes of the newcomer. How will the first impression be, how was it for me that first time I touched ground, drove across a bridge, entered a new territory, it remains a source of inspiration and fresh thoughts. Will check out your landing strip at SheWrites too.

Meryl said...

I love this post. I think the past is so important to steering us towards the future while navigating the present. The past is who we were - it is a part of us. My take: don't dwell - use it to steer!

Also loved the travel piece. I find as I am getting older jet lag lasts longer but I still love traveling!

It's been a while since my last visit. Too long. I'll travel back here soon.

All the best,

judykitsune said...

Hi Judith - as you know I often do art about my ancestors and family history. When I'm creating I do not feel I'm working in the past, or in the now - it is another zone, a timeless place. Time is irrelevant.

In January I created an altered kimono to honor my loss of ancestors and connection to my culture. 2 months later the Japanese earthquake happened - the piece was a premonition of this disaster - not only about the past, but also about the future.

I think creation time is like dreamtime. It doesn't matter where I am or what day/time it is - it is magic time.

Judith van Praag said...

@Meryl, Thank you! And so true, the past is us. Yes, please do come back soon, you hear :-)

@Judy I love that you say that time is of no relevance while you are creating art | dream time | magic time
I fold my hands and bow to you.