The lost privilege of being homesick

billhocker.com

The other day my brother sent me this site of photos taken back in 1981 at our hometown in Chengdu, China. It was taken by a San Franciscan named Bill Hocker.

It’s a long-gone era of our childhood memory.

billhocker.com

I wrote an email to Bill Hocker. First, I thanked him for taking and posting these pictures that meant so much for us. Then I asked for his approval to post some of this collection and make a whining about it.

Bill replied with his blessing and asked a favor if I could mark some of these photos’ exact address.

I did not tell him that there is no way to mark these pictures with geolocation anymore. In the last four decades, China went through the most aggressive transformation of urban development in its five thousand years of history. Chengdu is among the pioneer cities of this progress, and it tore down almost every building, especially those old shabby ones in the center of the town. It was not until two decades later the city started to realize they have overdone the demolishment and some very previous old structures should have had been preserved.

But the damage was already done.

While our left-behind loved ones and friends were happily moving on with their daily lives in our hometown’s newer and shinier city landscape, my brother and I found we no longer could recognize the town anymore.

We did not feel sad, as we were so busy traveling in time and playing catch up on the other side of the world.

We were so busy moving forward that I forgot what a homesick is after relocating to three countries and five cities.

Then, one day early this year, sitting in the beautiful kitchen areas of the company where I just started my new job, sipping coffee, and one co-worker began to talk about the color of the ocean seashore in his hometown.

“It is the translucent color of turquoise.”

He pulled up a few pictures, and the color deeply moved me.

When I lifted my eyes from the photos back to my co-worker, I saw that his facial expression changed and softened. His voice became dreamy and airy. His eyes gazed into a very distant void.

It resonated with me of a full length of “homesick.”

To me, homesick is such an ancient melancholy mood to possess, haunting and poetic.

In the ancient times, it was a long tradition for the Chinese intellectuals to periodically travel around the country. The purpose was to meet other scholars and to visit well-known places. The trip usually took months and sometimes years to finish.

They wrote poems on the trip; half of them were about homesickness.

I grew up with those poems, and I also happened to grow up with a dozen of Scottish, Irish, and American centuries-old folk songs of homesickness, like “Loch Lomond,” “Dany Boy,” “Green Green Grass at Home,” “The Swanee River” and “Home on the Range,” thanks to my parents.

I did not know that I lost that privilege of being homesick till that day sitting in the kitchen watching my co-worker’s facial expression change.

And it was not until I saw Bill Hocker’s 1981 photos of my childhood hometown that I understood why I lost that ancient poetic feeling.

Because my childhood hometown has been long gone, vanished with almost no trace left.

【纪念逝去的乡愁情怀】

几周前,弟弟给我传来他刚刚发现的一个博客,上面有作者1981年在成都拍摄的各种生活场景的照片。作者是一个旧金山人,名叫Bill Hocker。

那是一组关于我们童年时代的高质量的彩色记忆回放。

http://billhoc

我立刻给Bill Hocker写了一封电邮,首先我感谢他拍的这些于我和我弟弟弥足珍贵的于当年我们成长时期的成都照片,并且在网络上分享。其次我征求他的许可来转发一些他的照片, 因为他的照片的观察角度我们只有在曾经沧海之后才能倍感其深厚凝重。

Bill 很快回信,说他很高兴他的照片可以在近四十年后觅得知音,转发完全没问题,如果我能帮他确认他的那些照片的地理位置就更完美了。

我在心里苦笑,没有回答他说找到那些照片的地理坐标几乎完全不可能了,因为大陆在过去四十年走过了一段其五千年人文历史上最彻底快速的城乡发展阶段。成都市是其中的急先锋之一,在前面的二十年一股脑儿把市中心几乎所有旧房子全部拆掉。直到本世纪初市政府才意识到矫枉过正,把澡盆里的婴儿连同洗澡水一块儿倒掉了。

很多被拆掉的东西是一去不复返。

我们留在故乡的至爱亲朋在一座越来越新越来越美丽的城市里兴高采烈地生活下去,我和弟弟每次回乡探亲,在惊叹成都的变迁发展时,往往也有一丝深深遗憾:这座城市的旧痕越来越少。

我们没有时间悲伤,因为我们忙着在大洋彼岸穿越时空文化。

我是如此全神贯注我的生活大前进,以至于在换了三国护照,搬离五个城市之后,我几乎把什么是乡愁忘得一干二净。

然后,在今年年初的一天,我和一群同事在我新近加盟的公司的硕大无比的漂亮休息区喝咖啡闲聊时,一位同事讲起他老家的家门口的海岸线的海天一色。

他掏出手机给我们看几张照片,我被那种几近透明的海水深深吸引。

“那是一种宝石绿的颜色。”

等我抬头再看那同事时,我注意到他的面色柔和了许多,声音变得飘忽不定,目光已经投射到万里之外老家后院的海滩去了。

那简直就是一幅活生生“乡愁”图在我眼皮子底下倾情上演。

我突然意识到,乡愁是何等一种古老的,极富诗意的奢侈情怀啊。

想想我们的祖先,尤其那些富贵的知识分子们,在他们的一生中,必要定期出游四海,以会天下名士名山名水。每次出行几个月甚至几年不等。

他们一路上赋诗作画,作品中一小半都与乡愁有关。

我是伴随着这些诗词长大的,我碰巧也是伴随着十几二十首外国乡愁民谣长大的,比如苏格兰的”罗蒙湖上“,爱尔兰的”丹尼男孩“,美国的”故乡青青草“,”斯瓦尼河畔“以及”牧场上的家“。

直到那天目击一位新同事的乡愁流露,我都不知道我其实已经失去了”乡愁“情怀。

然后,直到我浏览了Bill Houker镜头下我们青少年时代的成都风情特写照片,我才明白我为什么已经失去了那份其实是非常奢侈的,古老的诗情画意一般的情怀。

因为我的青少年时代的故乡的四维空间早已消失得干干净净,无踪无影。

It all started with the 2020 SIP