reply to post by SolarE-Souljah
Interesting thread-topic, especially your question as to whether or not the brain releases 'some sort of chemical'
For me, very often, the trigger is 'light', for want of a better word -- a certain type or intensity-of, also reflections (say upon the ocean,
bodies of water, even window-panes)
I achieve almost blissful states sometimes, caused simply by the way light might illuminate a room, or filter through leaves or bounce off water in a
way which instantly/automatically 'takes me back'. I've learned not to analyse it, but to luxuriate in the sensation for as long as it lasts. And
of course, there's limited duration because of the way the light changes so swiftly
Sunsets in particular (certain types-of) are very good at eliciting the sensation of nostalgia, in my case. Strange thing is, although I can achieve
almost ecstatic states of mind that way literally within seconds --- very often, the nostalgia and 'memories' are not connected with anything I've
experienced in this life. It's been that way since I was a child. For example, when aged about 7 years of age, I used to walk to a point about a
mile from where I lived, in order to view a specific section of town where it overlooked the water. But only at certain times of day, i.e., under
specific light conditions (late afternoon, with the sun behind the buildings). Mornings were not the same, didn't elicit 'the feeling'
We'd moved to the area from another country entirely only 12 months earlier. We'd never lived in the section of town which overlooked that stretch
of water. Nor had we lived in or near the region to which I walked simply in order to enjoy that delicious sense of nostalgia and longing. Nor had
we ever. In other words, the memory evoked by the scene which so enchanted me, had no place in my personal history
Moreover, despite the draw of that particular scene at a particular time of day --- it was not an accurate representation of the place I really longed
for/remembered. But it was
similar enough to evoke the nostalgia if I allowed my eyes to slip out of focus
I used to wonder what it was exactly, that I was remembering ? Why did the light and scene at a certain time of day create in me almost painful
nostalgia and longing ? Why that stretch of town and river ? Where was it 'really' ? I had no idea. But the happiness it gave me was sufficient
for me to take the walk and risk having to explain myself to my parents (I couldn't have explained it. They wouldn't have believed me if I'd
For years, a certain light in an entirely different setting has been enough to evoke nostalgia of that stretch of water and town -- which itself
evoked nostalgia re: some unknown place. Sounds complicated, but occurs spontaneously and is so pleasurable that the mind simply goes with it for
those moments and closes the door to questions of 'why?'
I'm citing this little example here, because it was only the other night -- whilst watching a movie -- that I finally, after many decades, was jolted
to alertness and considerable sense of nostalgic joy when I 'recognised' a scene which I instinctively believed must have been the 'original'
source of those long-ago childhood moments of nostalgic longing. It was Paris. It was a fleeting glimpse (in the movie) of the Seine and of the
buildings overlooking it at some point
Obviously I've seen dozens, maybe hundreds, of scenes of Paris and the Seine during my lifetime. But the movie provided that one particular view.
And it slotted into the missing section of the jig-saw. It was an intensely emotional moment of 'ah ha', for during that split-seconds' view of
thsoe buildings and the river ... my mind was overlaid by memories of that other section of buildings and river which had so drawn me, but which I'd
known at the time wasn't 'quite
right', a world away -- a lifetime ago
I'm no wiser now than at any other time as to why that view, that light, at either town and river (Paris or the lookalike on the other side of the
globe) should fill me with a nostalgia which had the power to stop me in my tracks. For I've never been to Paris, not in this lifetime
Similar situation occurred to me as an adult, to the point I would schedule my evening walks to coincide with a particular type of light. For if I
did, I was able to enjoy a wash of nostalgia caused by a specific stretch of pavement, street-lighting, buildings and 'atmosphere' or ambience.
Again, the combination of buildings overlooking water, although in this latter case, it was the ocean, glinting in hte lights from the town approx.
one hour after the sun had set
It was a very specific location of perhaps 100 metres in length, and involved a handful of particular buildings. The 'feeling' was not elicited by
any other building or combination of light/water/buildings
You speak of 'shivers down the spine', a particular 'mindset', and yes, that's how it felt. In fact, as I entered the location in question, it
was almost like stepping into the past. Except it was no part of my real-life past. Wonderfully nostalgic sensation however. I was often tempted to
retrace my steps, but worried if I did, I might lose the magic
So I'd walk through the 'nostalgic window' and then, inexplicably, at the same point each time, I would suddenly emerge out the other end, some 100
metres or so further along the footpath. Because 'the feeling' would suddenly stop. I had no control over it and could not 'extend' it past
In daylight, that stretch of my walk had no magic and did not elicit sensations of nostalgia. It was just an ordinary-seeming strech of footpath,
flanked on one side by the ocean and the other by unremarkable buildings. At night however, at a certain time, it transported me to someplace I've
never seen in my life. The closest guess I have is that it might have existed at one time in a French Quarter of somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere.
It could be anywhere because I just don't know. Maybe New Orleans or somewhere similar ... perhaps Jamacia .. don't know
The sense I got however (as I walked through that brief, nostalgic window in time) is of a place in its prime, buildings proud and well-maintained --
two or three floors in height, considerable prosperity and optimism, horses and carriages and women in long, full-skirts, feathers, satins, laces,
intrique, romance, assignations. All that and a sensation of 'remembering' being in that place, elicited by a certain time of day and a length of
footpath in a country far-removed from what I was 'seeing' or 'remembering'. Absolutely no way that stretch of road had ever hosted the place I
nostalically revisited during those brief moments, for the actually footpaths I trod were no older than 50 years of age and before that, the actual
town had not existed and had been simply beach
Another time, I went with my family to a restaurant we'd never stepped into before. The meal was so-so, the ambience the same. Perfectly ordinary,
in other words. But for much of the time, I was in 'another world', because from where I sat, I could see the entrance to the restaurant in totally
different perspective to when we'd entered. And for reasons unknown to me, I entered what might be described as a 'nostalgic fughe (sp.?) --- was
transported to a place I almost wept to be returned to -- yet which I'd never known, never seen in my life
It was so incredibly real
to me in those moments ! Impossible to describe. Instead of the restaurant foyer, what I was seeing (and
)was a junction of corridors and stairwells in a building which opened
onto a harbour-scene, somewhere in the Mediterranean
I was a child of the opposite gender to my real-life. My mother was calling out to me from our apartment, issuing instructions. Other mothers' and
children's voices echoed in my ears. The ceilings were high, things echoed yet were muffled. I ran down the stone steps to street-level. I was
skinny and brown and wore sandals. As I rushed down the steps (several flights) I could smell food coooking behind the doors as I passed. I could
also smell the mouldy dampness which permeated and cooled the walls. There was no money, the furniture was old and sparse, everything echoed emptily.
But I loved
that place ! From deep within me. It was my life. Everything I loved was there.
Then, I was outside. It seemed to be late afternoon. A bit cloudy. Fish, fish, fish ... fishermen, boats, people calling out, laughing, bargaining,
buying, selling .. and boats pulled up and turned upside down, others in the water just below the sea-wall. People busy, moving, talking, doing. I
that place. It was all
I knew. I was there
I can't tell you the strength of nostalgia and longing I felt as I sat in that restaurant (Italian restaurant) a world away from what I was seeing in
my mind's eye as real-life people ate and drank, conversed and came and left all around me. I was blind to my real world. Didn't want to be pulled
from what I was seeing and feeling with my mind and senses
Finally it was time to depart. I dreaded nearing the restaurant's foyer. Didn't want to 'lose' what I'd just experienced. Then reality hit.
Nothing about the foyer could explain what I'd seen. Just an ordinary foyer and beyond it, the entrance to a casino. I wished I could have left a
different way, one which would have allowed me to retain my illusions. Or .. wished the foyer had borne some resemblance to the echoing interior of
the ancient building I'd 'seen and remembered'
from my seat inside the restaurant. It was one of the most powerful episodes of
'nostalgia' I've ever experienced