Friday, June 3, 2016

Going Home...Sort of.

Waiting for my book signing to begin in the library of the town in which I grew up, I paged through my high school yearbook (yes, the library keeps them, in a prominent place). I'm not one of those to reminisce happily about high school. It was a prison sentence to slog through, where I never really felt like I fit in, and I was ready to go out into the real world rather than cling to being a kid. The few classmates who find me on Facebook always seem amazed at how I have turned out, as if you are doomed to be the slightly awkward, quiet person you were in twelfth grade. 



I've lived two-thirds of my life away from my home town, and it has changed so much that it doesn't really feel like coming home. My home is in the mountains now. But as I hiked the North Country trail, I wondered what kind of person I would be if I had stayed. I would have different hobbies, I decided: with so many lakes, I would be a kayaker for sure. I wouldn't do all the mountain hikes and runs I do now, but I might bike more. Maybe I would have taken up sailing. It's really hard to say. Instead of hiking the entire PCT, maybe I would have wanted to circumnavigate Lake Superior.

I always feel a little uneasy going back to places I have lived. I come face to face with the person I was, and realize all the roads I could have traveled. What if I hadn't decided to take an unpaid internship with the Park Service, which launched me into the work I do today? What if I hadn't copied my dad as he started running? What if I had married the boyfriend I had when I was sixteen? I'm not one of those who believes everything happens for a reason, or that our lives are laid out according to some kind of plan. I can't look at the rivers and the mountains and how they change through entirely random events and believe the same isn't true for us.

My fourth grade teacher came to my reading. How old are you in fourth grade, ten? At the time, she seemed so old, but she probably wasn't, because here she is. The mother of two boys I went to school with was there too. It must be strange to see how former students change into butterflies. I started to run here, and if it hadn't been for those long runs from the arena and around the island, I might never have graduated to marathons. If I hadn't grown up in nature, I wouldn't have been comfortable in the woods from a young age. While there is nothing wrong with it (live your own life), I feel glad I never became one of the people who need fancy stuff and never set a toe in the outdoors.

I found my home town to be lovely and full of things I never remembered: so many trails! So many lakes! I would not want to live here again: I belong in the mountains. But sometimes I think it is good to go back to where you came from, just to see how far you have indeed come. 

11 comments:

  1. That looks an awful lot like Park Point...did we both grow up in Duluth?

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    1. Nope, but they are both on Lake Superior. I grew up in Northern Michigan.

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    2. Aaaah. Funny how similar it looks, considering the vastness of the lake.

      Like you - couldn't live there again. Although I do love going back and marveling at how much it's both changed and stayed the same...

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  2. Yeah, I remember going to my 20-year high school reunion and everyone I met still thought of me as the quiet, nerdy person I was then. Needless to say, I never went to another one.

    Congrats on your book tour! It must be gratifying to come back to your hometown as a published author.

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    1. I didn't go to any reunions for just that reason. Also, thanks, it is pretty great.

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  3. I know how you feel Mary. I grew up on a small farm surrounded by the Allegheny mountains just outside of State College Pennsylvania. I loved exploring those mountains, by foot or riding my horse and as young girls those mountains seemed so big to my sisters and myself. They were our playground, so full of amazing and wonderful things. A trip out west when I was sixteen showed me the Big mountains that I would someday fall in love with and I told my parents that I would someday move to Oregon and I did when I turned eighteen. Now when I go back home those mountains seem so small to me, but I still love them, they were my first love and they gave me my deep love of being in the woods. Like you Mary I still would never want to go back to live, I love the west and it's Big mountains.

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    1. I still love Lake Superior and wish I lived by more kayak able lakes. But it's a good tradeoff.

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  4. I feel like I could have written this post. You and I are a lot alike. Which is your hometown? This looks like Munising to me but also maybe Marquette? (Iron Mtn. is mine.)

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    1. Marquette, but you very sharp-eyed identified an Iron Mountain pic (the first one). I flew into IMT.

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  5. I too was that awkward girl in high school who felt pigeon holed into a group I didn't belong. Thankfully that have me the motivation to relocate at 17 as soon as I graduated and reinvent myself. The words of wisdom I share with high school graduates is (1) this is but a tiny snippet of what your life will become (2) don't get stuck on one outcome, instead take advantage of opportunities and take risks as you write your book of life. I could have never imagined the chapters that have become my story.

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  6. I, too, hated high school. And these same what ifs run through my head. My 20-year HS reunion is this year and I am hesitant to go. I am not friends with many HS friends on FB, but I see their activity. And it seems the same old, same old.

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