I’m thoroughly absorbed in my work for spring term, and I’m really enjoying working with medieval manuscripts.
However, I find that the unexpected sense of head-swimming nostalgia I got the first time I held a medieval book in my hands just doesn’t come to me now. Even after holding the same Book of Hours again a couple weeks ago, I didn’t feel it any more.
On one of the forums I post on someone mentioned how these triggers hit us when we least expect it, but then they’re gone and we can’t go back and retrieve that feeling at will. It was a slightly unsettling feeling, but not negative at all. It wasn’t like the downright-eerie feeling I get when something reminds me of Phil’s life, or the profoundly sad or fearful feelings from John’s life. It was similar in some indescribable character but the overall impression I got was that none of the lives I lived in medieval times were regrettable.
Maybe it’s just the fact that it was so long ago that I’ve made peace with anything bad that happened back then; I’m inclined to believe that’s so. While “nasty, brutish and short” is an over-simplification, life in medieval Europe often fit at least one of those descriptors depending on where you were and what you did for a living. Perhaps, if I can make peace with the countless bad ends I must have come to in those times, then I’ll make peace with the bad end I came to in France in 1915.
What I have been getting out of this, however, is a growing sense that I was a monk in at least one life. No memories yet, sadly, but the special collections at Portland State and the County Library just down the street from campus are such comfortable places for me, in silence and surrounded by ancient books. I am now almost completely sure that I spent several lives reading and copying texts like these.
Maybe I’ll stumble onto a trigger that brings it all to light. Until then, I’m thoroughly absorbed in my work and quite happy that way.