For now, in celebration of the launch of a new travel blog, I'd like to write about being home.
This July, I made the trip back from New Mexico to Pennsylvania for the first time since January. In an effort to "save money" on both airfare and the cost of shipping my belongings to New Mexico, I decided to drive. I had not forgotten how long it would take to accomplish this, but I had forgotten how homogenous the view was in the plains-states. After nearly 3 days in the Midwest, my eyes were very nearly sick of the flat, corn-filled horizon. The excitement over the color green had parted ways from me somewhere around Lincoln, Nebraska. I began to wonder if I still had it in me to appreciate the Appalachian Mountains. After all, weren’t they just rolling hills covered in trees anyway? What could possibly make their vistas more exciting than those that had almost lulled me to sleep in Iowa? I’ll admit, I’ve been spoiled by some magnificent sunrises and sets in the Southwest.
East of Youngstown, Ohio, I was struck by the sudden, dramatic, ripples in the landscape. As I neared State College I knew that my fears were unfounded. This state is undoubtedly magical. The weather was perfect for my drive in. I passed through rain showers that ended just as I crested each mountain. At the top of several mountains I was able to look out and see waves of green for miles in every direction. The passing showers had left behind clouds, seemingly on the valley floors. It felt like flying to be up there.
Now, I’ve been home for a couple weeks, and I’m about ready to head west again. I’ve spent much time with family and friends throughout the Northeast. The magic of this heavily forested landscape is making my packing a very undesirable chore. The biggest challenge I’ve faced on this particular visit, it to do away with long, sappy good-byes. This is my fourth visit in a year. Each time I’ve felt that I was cramming in every activity and person I possibly could so that I would be satisfied with my accomplishments when I returned to the lonely West. However, what I really felt underlying all of my joy at being home, was a gnawing stress that I wasn’t seeing enough people, or soaking in enough nostalgia. I felt fear that when I would return to New Mexico, I might suddenly realize I had forgotten to do something that could only be done at home. I had turned all of my previous trips into “good-byes” rather than “glad-to-see-yous.” This one, I will remember differently.
There was something about the woods that day in mid-July. The sunlight filtered through the trees, bright enough to illuminate every leaf, but still soft enough that no one needed sunglasses. Six of us trudged, time limited, up toward the reservoir near Hamburg. Each of us entered with a list of woes, most of which concerned our current standings with each other. As we walked, each of us found different things to become interested in. Nichole found a stunning view of a babbling brook, which required my boots to descend and Ted’s rope to ascend. Troy and Andrew entertained each other with their sounds echoing whimsically through the valley. Brandon mused over the role of parents in the creation of young culture. With our allotted hiking time drawing to a close, we rested at a well-worn campsite, and found tremendous pleasure in granny smith apples and granola bars. All of our stress had dissipated into giggles. I was simply happy to exist in that moment.
Today marks exactly one year from the date I accepted the job offer in New Mexico. I hadn’t had time to say an official good-bye to anyone. While away, I longed to have that closure. When returning, I sought to make peace with the fact that Pennsylvania is simply no longer my home. This time, I’m realizing that the experience of returning home never had to be about saying farewell, as if I would never come back. Instead, it’s time to see these visits as salutations to all that I hold dear. Through travel and writing, I am bending time, extending my stay beyond my physical occupation of a place, and preserving precious memories. Furthermore, I was wrong. Every place is irreplaceable. No amount of exploration could ruin Pennsylvania for me.