Looking back, looking forward: time warping

After two weeks of proper summer the weather has reverted back to grey and wet …. at times very wet.

Seen from the window, rain coming down like stair-rods

The wildlife is coming indoors to get away from the wet

My efforts to get the garden back under control are now slotted-in between showers, waiting for the ground and foliage to dry out as well as the rain to stop.  But I have a made a little progress.  As well as clearing some of the overgrown vegetation I managed to harvest most of the soft fruit while it was still sunny and have stashed about 40 lbs of raspberries, gooseberries, blackberries and rhubarb in the freezer ready for winter.  Since the weather turned I have been able to pick enough fruit and veg for meals but the ground is too wet to harvest the potatoes.

As a consequence I have been spending more time indoors and, unwilling to let that time be dominated by household chores, I have been writing up my diary of the 2 months I spent travelling around Greece.  Which has meant reminiscing, sorting through photos to include, looking back fondly on blue skies.

I rambled on in the last blog about how selective memory of past summers persuades us that they were once sunnier and warmer than they are now.  It’s perfectly understandable that we should remember the sunshine and the good times and blank the grey.

What I hadn’t anticipated was just how selective is the memory of even the recent past.  With the return to grey and wet I have found myself looking back wistfully to days of walking in the Taygetos Mountains under flawless blue skies and cooling off with a swim in the Aegean at the end of the day.  When I started to write up the diary of the trip, requiring a more systematic approach, I was reminded that during the first couple of weeks in Meteora, the Pindus Mountains, Ioannina and Parga there were showers most days, some of them pretty beefy.  Admittedly between the showers it was warm and sunny and it was that which was at the front of the mind.

In the cloud in the Pindus Mountains

Black clouds looming in Meteora

Storm clouds approaching Parga

Bath-house at Ali Pasha’s summer place with storm brewing

So here’s a thought.  Our memories provide us with a very selective recollection of the past.  When we adopt a more systematic approach and look at recorded evidence, whether written or photographic, we get a more complete picture, get closer to reality.  But even that is highly subjective.  Photographs tend to be taken when the sun is shining, focusing on things which have caught our interest. Words, particularly if written to be read by others, inevitably put a gloss on things.  We don’t like the greyness to seep into our brain and when it does we don’t like to admit it.  By remembering the sunshine the memory protects us from the greyness of the past seeping into the present. It’s one of the mechanisms which the subconscious employs to cope with a grey present.  Looking back on sunny days helps to keep us positive.

So does looking ahead to a sunnier future.

It’s now only a couple of weeks before I fly back to Greece and I’m already planning, with quickening interest, what I’ll do.  The second part of my 2012 Greek Odyssey will be very different from the first part.  Then I went to new places all the time, moving on every few days. This time I’m going back to Nisyros and Symi, two islands in the Dodecanese which I know well.  I’ll be on Nisyros for a month and then finish the trip on Symi meeting up with friends and my daughter and her husband.

How does this fit with the aim of going to new places and doing new stuff?  Simple, it’s a matter of balance.  Revisiting places which I have previously found fascinating and rich in experiences feeds the memory.  I have probably taken more photographs of Nisyros than anywhere else I have been.  Amazingly, each time I have been there as well as favourite walks I have found new places and completely new landscapes.  And there is always the buzz that this time the volcano might blow once again and I’ll be there with my camera. Now that would be something new!

NOTE: The volcano which is Nisyros last erupted in 1888 and is classed as ‘active’  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nisyros

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