I was riding in the car with my son, just the other day. He recently turned 7. As we approached my old studio, which I left in 2013, he let out a big sigh. It was demonstrative, that sigh.
“I miss your old studio,” he said. “I miss the good old days. Those were some good times, back then. We used to look at animal videos on Youtube, and play with stuff, and Juma the barber was still alive. He used to give me pretzels. We’d visit the Montoyas. Your landlords. They’re nice people, and they’re going to die soon too.”
“Those were some good times,” he finished.
Again, I stress this child is 7.
“You mean,” I said, “that you miss the days when you were 4? Back when life was simpler, and you didn’t have to do homework in 1st grade?”
“Exactly,” he answered.
“There’s a word for that,” I said. “It’s called nostalgia. It means you long for the easy days of your youth. It’s a kind of sadness that makes you feel good at the same time. It’s a complicated emotion. A first for you, I think.”
“Nostalgia,” he said. And then promptly forgot the word. But we did stop the car to visit the Montoyas, who are nearing 90, unwell, and not long for this world. His deep sigh, which kicked off the entire conversation, led us to visit our elders, which is always a mitzvah.
It’s funny how that thought-pattern seems so deeply ingrained in the human psyche. Did our ancestors used to say things like,
“Grog, I really miss that cave we used to live in, back in those mountains over that way. You know, the one by the broken tree near that river? The smell of bat shit was so pungent, its true, and we never saw the sun. But those were some good times, in that cave, making fires and painting horses on the wall with berry juice.”
I wonder, especially now, having just put down “Woodlands,” a new book by Berhnard Fuchs, published by Koenig. Back in 2011, when I first started this book review column, I reviewed a book by Mr. Fuchs. Those were some good days. I don’t remember his book, exactly, but if I hadn’t liked it, I wouldn’t have written about it.
This one, entirely made of color landscape pictures, was photographed in the land of his youth. I’m guessing it’s Germany, but I suppose it could be Austria.
In a short, but relevant opening passage, Mr. Fuchs says these tree-filled hills bring him back to his youth, and give him a feeling of “everydayness.” (Which is a kind way of saying it all looks alike.)
You can feel the longing buried amongst the snow and gray skies. There are green, summery pictures too, for sure, but they all deny me the deep horizon that I crave, living in New Mexico, where I can see for 100 miles. They’re claustrophobic, these pictures, and there are a lot of them.
By the end, I was rushing through to get to the end, so I could breathe again. There are a few photographs that are stellar, on their own, but mostly, this is another experiential book.
You feel the place.
You get nostalgic, even if it’s for a city somewhere, or an island, or a waterfall that’s only for you.
There are no cultural markers here. No road signs. No irony, really. It is what is says it is. Woodlands.
Bottom Line: A seductive sameness in the woodlands of Germany
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