Souvenir of Pre-Nostalgia: It is All Alright

On my way to Japan aboard Air Canada vessel number 9 (disembarkation point: Calgary), I watched Douglas Coupland’s Souvenir of Canada. It was about halfway through the 12-hour flight when I spotted it the “Canadiana Section,” or at least that is what I remember it being called. Yosha! I had seen it twice before, but really did not feel like taking in a Hollywood movie at the time, nor did I feel like reading, studying Japanese, sleeping, or listening to music. I just wanted to watch one of my favorite authors explain his thoughts and emotions behind his homeland – a country that the press often refuses to grant him the rights to. Immediately, I began to miss Canada and wondered just what I was getting myself into.

Anyway, it is an hour and change long documentary about the author/artist’s take on what it means for him to be a Canadian. It is amazingly interesting and by all means, you should give it a fair chance if you ever come across it — Air Canada flight as you leave Canada is recommended.

The heart of this matter is that in the documentary, Coupland speaks profoundly about the mysterious concept of “pre-nostalgia.” He explains how he becomes nostalgic for inevitable days that are yet-to-come, such as when his father will no longer walk the earth. During said explanation, Coupland almost chokes up, as if he cannot handle thinking about these forthcoming days.

This is the point where Coupland went from an iconically witty author to an actual real, living, breathing human for me. The look in his eyes during this scene is comparable to looking at equal parts land, sea, and sky. You cannot decide which one is most beautiful and as they all start to blend together, you realize that your time here is precious. You realize that you cannot hold on to the present, no matter how hard you cling. You realize you can only accept, and be grateful for, the past and, well, the future is an inevitable — not to mention unnerving — reality that cannot be ignored.

I have been battling with this concept of “pre-nostalgia” for a while now, even more so since I have been living in Yamaguchi. I think everyone feels it to some extent or another, and it is absolutely difficult to put exactly into words the feeling you get from this state of mind.

But…I will try: I was riding in a Honda Civic to 大畠駅 (Obatake Station) from Oshima Island with a friend last night. I told her we had to put on a song that would cap off the weekend to perfection — “All Alright” by Sigur Ros. The sun was beginning to set over the lush green mountains, reflecting off the sea like pristine glass, as the song played through its six-and-a-half minutes. The atmosphere was completely still, only the car etching its nimble way around the narrow, winding mountain road. As Jonsi’s immaculate falsetto faded into the final faint piano strikes the sun hovered like a crown above a far off mountain peak. At this very moment I knew everything would be all alright. And I began to become at peace with this incomprehensibly inevitable concept of “pre-nostalgia.”

I cannot avoid goodbyes that have not yet been said, and the goodbyes that have been said are ever-so-difficult to swallow. However, I have learned that I can and should not dwell on these goodbyes – past, present or future – as there has to be a hello before every goodbye, followed by another hello.

Each moment in life has the potential to stir up nostalgia in a deeply affective way and its in these moments where life really begins to happen.

One of John K. Samson’s finest lines: “I remember when I could remember when.”

Now is when I can remember when.

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