Sunday, November 21, 2010

Have I been here before?

 Have you ever had that eerie tingling sensation of familiarity with a place that’s entirely new? You know the one. All the tiny hairs coating your flesh ripple to attention as though summoned by some unseen force. Your entire being recognizes your surroundings and nudges your consciousness even though you struggle to deny it. It’s not possible. You know you’ve never been there before. Wikipedia’s definition of déjà vu is as follows:

Déjà vu (French pronunciation: [deʒa vy] (meaning "already seen") is the experience of feeling sure that one has already witnessed or experienced a current situation, even though the exact circumstances of the previous encounter are uncertain and were perhaps imagined. The term was coined by a French psychic researcher, Émile Boirac (1851–1917) in his book L'Avenir des sciences psychiques ("The Future of Psychic Sciences"), which expanded upon an essay he wrote while an undergraduate. The experience of déjà vu is usually accompanied by a compelling sense of familiarity, and also a sense of "eeriness," "strangeness," "weirdness," or what Sigmund Freud calls "the uncanny." The "previous" experience is most frequently attributed to a dream, although in some cases there is a firm sense that the experience has genuinely happened in the past.

Some people believe in it. Some don’t. I guess that’s normal for anything unexplainable. I’ve always kept an open mind about such things. My family used to give me the collective eye roll when I’d wink and explain that the reason I couldn’t wear turtlenecks was because, in a past life, someone must’ve strangled me. Imagine their expressions, when we discovered that one of my poor ancestors suffered hanging and then burning after accusations of witchcraft. Now, I’m not saying that she was me...or I’m her…but who knows?

I experienced the eerie feeling of déjà vu quite strongly a couple of times during our tour of Scotland and Ireland. The first rush to my senses occurred while standing at the edge of Culloden field. My bones ached with the desolate chill of the place. Sorrow. Futility. Despair. The wind reeked with sadness. I couldn’t stay on the battlefield very long. I told hubby I couldn’t bear the cold and retreated to the coffee shop inside the museum and waited for everyone else to finish their tour. I knew my ancestors had taken part in the Jacobite uprising. I don’t know if I ever walked on that field before but I knew I couldn’t walk it again.

The second rush of “welcome back” came to me while standing at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. You see, my ancestors that weren’t slaughtered during the Jacobite uprising escaped or were herded to Ireland. I remember my brother found a scrawled statement in one of the papers that they’d left the land of their hearts and fallen in love with the beautiful women of the green isle. Hope. Yearning. Homesickness.
The air-splitting caw of a solitary crow shouted these words across the wind. This crow kept pace with us while we enjoyed the lovely cliffs. I wondered if he was trying to remind me that I’d been there before. What do you think? Have we walked these paths before?