Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Annual pilgrimages vs. discovery

I can't believe it, but I have lived in one place for ten years. The old me would have been horrified by this. Keep moving, see what is around the next bend, was my mantra. People who stayed in one place were..boring. (They really weren't, but I was young. Forgive me.)

Part of this incessant traveling was based in my line of work, which was largely seasonal, and necessitated leaving when I was thrown out of the bunkhouses. Plus, there was an always changing cast of characters who gushed over the exciting places they had been over the past season. Who wouldn't want to be part of a migration like this? It was an incredible experience that I wouldn't trade on most days, even those when people younger than I am can retire (we can have amazingly young retirements in this agency) and who come into my team at the same level as I am but are twenty years younger. Life choices, but I feel as though I made the right ones.

On Sunday, L and I made an annual pilgrimage to Freezeout Saddle. Some of us go there every spring. It is how we mark the beginning of renewal, and register the differences between the years. "The balsamroot isn't even out," she observed, unusual for this late in the year. Down in the canyons, we snagged boughs from a blooming feral apple tree. We climbed up the switchbacks to the saddle, where it lived up to its name as we burrowed in down jackets and hid behind rocks. It is never warm at Freezeout, but that is part of the ritual.

some snow over in Idaho
As we descended toward the sun, I missed my discovery days fiercely. It isn't the same, going on short jaunts away from the county. Back then, I moved to whole new ecosystems, exploring blank spots on the map. It is hard to admit that part of my life is over. At the same time, I listened to L as we drove down the somewhat creepily fascinating access road. She pointed out all the abandoned cabins. Who used to live where, the scandals and mysteries that made up this part of the landscape. "I've known Pam since the 1970s," she said. "She used to live over here." What would that be like? Here in a place with so much history, I am caught between two extremes--no longer a traveler, but not a local.

"If I were single, I'd be going to Greenland too," I whispered to Big Spindrift, who travels the globe doing temporary jobs like this. But would I? I don't know. He has a house, but he is never in it. Others take care of his dog. While we all flock to see him on the infrequent times he is in town, he can't maintain the same level of friendship as if he stayed. I've left really good friends and we promised to keep in touch--but invariably, distance separated us.

Maybe I'm always wanting what I can't have? I think about the canyon and the people who fought hard to stay there. The books I write, that are always bound to landscape. There's something to be said for familiar pilgrimages. There's also something to be said for adventure. How to merge them both, that is the question.


  1. A couple of posts back you mused about whether you would keep blogging. I hope you do.

    I for one have not had an interesting life, but it is mine, and I wouldn't know what to do with the life of anyone else.

    I have a few physical problems, and they are not welcome, but everyone has some. Everyone. When I hear about the physical problems that others have, or any other things going on with them, then I'm glad that my issues are mine, and that theirs are theirs. I know how to deal with mine. So be it.

    Before I moved to Ecuador in late 2012, I had lived in one apartment for 18 years and 11 months. I still can't comprehend that number, but that is what I did. Prior to that, I had lived in any one place only a couple of years. How did that happen? I don't know.

    I had to get residency here three times too, after permanently moving here, and then permanently moving away, twice, and coming back, and coming back. I'm not reliable, am I?

    Now I'm not sure about permanency. Not sure any more, but at the moment I have a nice place to live, and am on close terms with two really fine cats who enjoy biting me.

    Things happen, don't they? We become people that we otherwise never would have even imagined, though I for one still don't have an interesting life. But no one cares, so they take no notice, and I'm free to do whatever I want.

    Every now and then I take out my memories and turn them over and over in my mind, and then go for a walk and enjoy the bright sky. That might be enough.

    Then again, others do it differently. If you're of a mind, take a listen to "The Arctic African. Why a boy ran away from West Africa to live in the Arctic in the 1960s." BBC,

    As Oscar Wilde said, "Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken." He knew something, didn't he?

    P.S. (I just remembered this, hey. Might be interesting too.) "The Longest Paddle." at

    "In 1932, an unemployed German citizen named Oskar Speck set out on a paddling trip in his folding kayak that would take him 30,000 miles and bring him to the shore of Australia over seven years later." Wow.

  2. I like this. I think it's good to remind yourself that nobody cares; that most of the wrangling goes on in your own head. And that things can turn out very differently than you planned. I think that all of this musing is normal as you get older and life seems shorter. Also, my cat enjoys biting me too.

  3. I like the phrase "take out my memories and turn them over in my mind and then go for a walk." It's a real approach-avoidance dilemma sometimes, isn't it? A life and people you love, and a desire to move and see and experience that would take you from them. L. seems more inclined to celebrate the places and the memories, which is probably healthier than my inclination, which is to go and see! You will work it out.....

    1. My inclination is to go and see also. I don't think there's anything wrong with that!

  4. I spent half a year trying out #vanlife when I was 23, and decided it wasn't for me. I'm really a homebody at heart — with a desire for more places to call home. Of course I suffer from wanderlust as many do, but I need strong anchors close to familiar people and places to be happy. I'm glad to know this about myself as well, because whenever that daydream crops up about climbing onto my bicycle and leaving it all behind, I can easily push it aside. There's never a strong "what if" ... I know I am where I want to be.

    1. But here's the thing. You have worked out your life so you get to go on these amazing long adventures! I admire that you have been able to do that.I think I'll always be a what if person. Doesn't mean I don't enjoy my life, but I'm always wondering about the road not taken.

  5. I think there is comfort in returning to old familiar places year after year.

    1. Agree, I was thinking today that even these can be very different from year to year.

  6. I agree with Linda. Event hough familar, there are always changes to observe.
    I also wish I had the means to explore all the unfamiliar places on my bucket list, starting here in Oz,

    1. Me too! There are still tons of places in this country I want to see before I go on international trips.

  7. I think a lot of people have this internal argument. The grass is always greener on the other side! For the me, there is a duality of travel that will never stop. When I am on the road, I yearn to be rooted & balanced in one place. When I am at a "home," I miss being carefree.

    What made you settle down (finally) in Joseph? I am curious what finally did the trick.


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