I've been letting my mind wander today while I complete some necessary hand-stitching. I was thinking about my daughter whose apartment was destroyed by a fire a few days ago. She is in a difficult position, not just physically (without a home of her own) but also emotionally. (She was not home when the fire started. It's possible that she'd not be with us if she had been: the fire began near the door and window, the only escape routes. We are grateful for tender mercies.)
I was thinking about the challenges of her situation when Pandora played a song that I frequently heard a few years ago when she was at college across the country and I felt sad and lonely with her so far away. That was not an easy time but today I thought how "safe" it was compared to now and the challenges she faces. For a moment I wished to turn the clock back and return to that safe time.
I'm not romanticizing, not imagining that the past was easier, gentler, happier, etc. Just safe now that it's over. Perhaps looking at the past is like reading a novel. From the distance of time -- or fiction -- we have a safe view of events.
I think of ancestor mothers who lost children or nursed them through months of disease; of husbands who lost wives; of families who lost fathers to suicide or tragic accidents, and mothers to senility or illness; of fires, floods, other disasters. Living through those times would have been horrendous. Years after the events did my ancestors, like me, feel a safety in the past when viewed through the lens of time?
This impression has come to me before and I wonder how is it that the past seems safe when living through it there were times that felt like living in a hurricane, being at the bottom of a black pit, or in the ocean without a lifeboat? Is it because, having survived that past difficulty, one feels stronger? Is it because it's over and done that the past can be viewed as safe? Is it the idea that the past difficulty, safely maneuvered, is more comfortable than the present difficulty?
Safe or not, the past is gone. The safety is only in my mind.