Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Goldilock's Syndrome

Last night I woke up in the middle of the night and had no idea where I was. As the room came into focus, I saw the bed, walls, windows. But where was this room? In a small hotel in Istanbul, in the South of Spain. Was it at my cousins' farm? Was I home? I didn't know where the door was or the way to the bathroom.

Then, slowly, it came to me. I was in Amherst, attending a friend's wedding. But I had been sleeping in so many beds in the last several months that it took a while for me to be sure. I have taken to calling this "The Goldilock's Syndrome." A kind of traveler's cognitive amnesia. A little like "If it's Tuesday, it must be Belgium," but not quite.

This comes, I think, from a deeper place. The confusion, at least in my experience, isn't just about place. It is also about time. Am I a little girl again? Do I need to get ready for school? Is my daughter home? And where's the dog. Perhaps because I move around so much, my coordinates in time and space are often confused. Some day I wake up a teenager in love. Fortunately I have never projected myself far in to the future.

Last night at the wedding Larry and I were talking with one of our hosts. He is an optical engineer and he was explaining how he had been working on a lens that sees into the past - millions of years into the past, in fact - at galaxies that existed before life began. And he said there is actually a way that one could see into the future. There is a way that one lens can bounce of another. Like the Navajo, I said. Past, present, future, it all exists in one vast continuum of space and time.

So perhaps I was waking up in that hotel room in Istanbul. An apartment in Paris. Some funky Mexican town. I was sixteen. I was thirty. My heart was broken. I was home. Or I was with my husband, in a B&B in Massachusetts, a little hung over. The bathroom was to my right. The exit was behind me.

Once I located myself in time, I was able to locate myself in space.

But for just a moment I could have been anywhere.

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