“Loss is a magical preservative. Time stops at the point of severance, and no subsequent impressions muddy the picture you have in mind. The house, the garden, the country you have lost remain forever as you remember them. Nostalgia – that most lyrical of feelings – crystallizes around these images like amber. Arrested within it, the house, the past, is clear, vivid, made more beautiful by the medium in which it is held and by its stillness.
“Nostalgia is a source of poetry, and a form of fidelity. It is also a species of melancholia, which used to be thought of as an illness. As I walk the streets of Vancouver , I am pregnant with the images of Poland , pregnant and sick. Nostalgia throws a film over everything around me, and directs my vision inward. The largest presence within me is the welling up of absence, of what I have lost." (115, Lost in Translation, a memoir, by Eva Hoffman)
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I've always loved amber and I've always been nostalgic. When I was fourteen, my relatives in Denmark sent me a large amber tear-drop with a dried insect inside. At the time I thought it was a very odd gift. My father told me 'those people do that when a girl reaches a certain age.' Oh, yes, that explained it. Not really, but many years later I read in a book that Freya, the sun goddess and goddess of compassion, sheds amber teardrops, which are found in the ground by humans. The gift of an amber teardrop marks the healing gift in womankind. I gratefully accept such a gift.
Amber has always felt like a significant color to me. The leaded-glass doors in our parlor featured amber and deep green, and when I had my first home, I installed amber glass shades on our ring of hanging lights. (Eventually I couldn't bear that color at night, and changed them.) I wrote recently that I was enjoying someone's memoir because it was very 'amber-feeling.' you can just imagine my sense of recognition when I went on to read eva hoffman's words a few days later. I think she is so brilliant. I'm surprised how much, as an American, I relate to her words, but then I do come from a vanishing people (on my mother's side), and from a place that has effectively vanished for me, so i suppose it only makes sense that i relate to her subject and her handling of it, I can recognize as masterful.