This February I find my heart strings pulled by a good many wonderful people, but I also find myself waxing sentimental about the physical places and spaces that have shaped me. Some of these places are far from Georgetown, others a mere stone’s throw away: Reno, NV and Lake Placid, NY; my family’s dining room table when it’s dappled with sunlight; the VCW 7X common room; the Shenandoah Mountains. I, like most people, like to remember the places that have meant quite a lot to me.
The trouble is, memory isn’t fail–safe. Recollections so often become distorted or faded; few are immune to the wear of time. I often take preemptive measure to compensate for the vulnerability of my memory. Creating physical mementos and documentations of the places I hold dear to me ensures that at least some aspects of these places will remain preserved in time.
I keep travel journals sometimes. At the moment, precisely 7 journal entries live in my iPhone notes. I’ve filled dollar store notebooks with shaky sketches made in the back seat of my family’s Ford Explorer. I’ve collected pressed flowers (weeds…? 12 year-old Christina wasn’t quite attuned to the finer details of botany) and tucked them into drawers to be found years later. I’ve created playlists dedicated to specific locations.
Each of these mementos is a love letter—a physical acknowledgement of a relationship that has shaped my life for better or for worse. I think of photography in much the same way that I do all of these other “love letters.” In some ways, this method of preserving memory it is the pinnacle of love letters. Nothing ever quite seems to beat the magic (or historical accuracy, for that matter) of capturing a moment with a camera. Moreover, I don’t think I could quantify the amount of happiness I’ve derived from sitting around, looking through old photographs with friends and family. There’s something deeply comforting in recalling the places that we’ve all been, that have left indelible marks on us.
This month I aim to do quite a lot of sitting around, sifting through old photographic “love letters.” I’m often nostalgic for one place in particular: the coastal countryside of Väröbacka in southern Sweden. My Swedish relatives spend every summer there in a little cottage tucked into fields blooming with wildflowers. I’ve been lucky enough to spend several summers in Väröbacka, partaking in Midsommar celebrations, eating my way through myriad Scandinavian sweets, and brushing up on my Swedish accent.
The time I’ve spent in this place has helped me become more attuned with my heritage, has shaped the importance I place on family, and has cemented in me a belief that a simple life is often the most fulfilling life. It’s difficult to express in words the sentiment attached to the time I’ve spent in this place. The photos I’ve taken while in Väröbacka, however, capture many of the little details that contribute to the importance it holds in my life. So, I suppose I’ll let them, my visual “love letters” to Väröbacka, do the expressing.
Christina’s piece is one in a series of articles, titled “Love on the Hilltop,” that will run until Valentine’s Day. Whether it’s a bond with a person, place, or keepsake, these articles highlight the unique relationships of Georgetown students. Stay tuned to Halftime to see what other relationships Hoyas are celebrating this February 14th.
Photos: Christina Libre / The Georgetown Voice