Gold foil illustration of stars


Nostalgia for a Time You Never Experienced

Looking at old photos, it’s hard not to feel a kind of wanderlust. A pang of nostalgia, for an era you never lived through. Longing to step through the frame into a world of black and white, if only to sit on the side of the road and watch the locals passing by.

These are people who lived and died before any of us arrived here. Who sleep in some of the same houses we do, and look up at the same moon. Who breathe the same air, feel the same blood in their veins—and live in a completely different world.

It’s a world still covered in dust from the frontier. A world of adults, whose lives are hammered out by hand. A world of front porches, of fires to light in the evening, of conversations over a fence. You’d feel the energy of the boulevards teeming with crowds, gathering to tell dirty jokes, awaiting news reports, or crisscrossing at random, just barely dodging the horses. You could hear the voices of hardscrabble homesteaders, calling in their children for their one and only family photo. Or look around at the architecture of the old city, whose ornate limestone canyons fade back into a ghostly haze, dotted here and there with people lounging in the windows, trying to escape the oppressive summer heat.

You’d watch as they carry on with their lives, that seem so important. Trying to read their faces, or look into their eyes, so piercing and otherworldly, their gaze fixed elsewhere. They have no way of knowing that their story has already been written. If only they could look around the way you could, they could relax and soak in the atmosphere of the moment.

Of course, to them, it wasn’t all flickering silence and grainy black-and- white. They saw vivid color rushing by in three dimensions, heard voices in deafening stereo, confronted smells they couldn’t escape. For them, nothing was ever simple. None of them knew for sure what this era meant, or that it was even an era to begin with. At the time, their world was real. Nothing was finished, and nothing was guaranteed.

That world is now gone. If the past is a foreign country, we’re only tourists. We can’t expect to understand the locals or why they do what they do. We can only ask them to hold still, so we can capture a photo to take home with us. So we can pretend to ourselves that we’ve learned anything at all about who they were, and what it was like to live in another time.

The photo itself means very little, in the end. Maybe all we ever wanted was the frame. So we could sit for a few minutes in a world of black-and- white, with clean borders that protect us from the rush of time. Like a tide pool just out of the reach of the waves—so clear and still, you can see your own reflection.

Ancient Greek ἄνεμος (ánemos), wind + νόος (nóos), mind. Compare anemosis, which occurs when a tree is warped by strong air currents until it seems to bend backward, leaning into the wind. Pronounced “an-uh-moi-uh.”










Vulture Shock