When I visited Japan last fall, I kept having flashbacks to my 20-year old self, the person I’d been when I first traveled there. Every Proustian taste and every recollected phrase pulled me into a strange parallel universe, where I was simultaneously then and now.
Then I happened upon this passage from Zora Neale Hurston, where Janie is reconnecting with her own self after a long separation.
Years ago, she had told her girl self to wait for her in the looking glass. It had been a long time since she remembered. Perhaps she’d better look… She took careful stock of herself, then combed her hair and tied it back up again. Then she starched and ironed her face, forming it into just what people wanted to see.
Friends, we’ve all left little bits and pieces along the pathways of our lives, breadcrumbs that we might follow to mark the way back to ourselves.
What might we find if we gathered them up,
re-membering as we go?
The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread, Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
– Derek Walcott, Love after Love