Monday, October 11, 2010

Nail my shoes to the kitchen floor

There's a song I've heard Nancy Griffith sing called "Can't help but wonder where I'm bound." Ive always thought this song is about me. I've been a wanderer all my life, always looking for the next mountain, past the bend in the trail, something bright and shiny and new to fill me up.

As I stuffed my belongings into a pickup outside of another bunkhouse, I used to wonder how people could stay in the same town all their lives. Didn't they get bored? Weren't they slowly suffocating under the oppressive weight of the smallness of their lives? As I pulled away from each place I lived, studiously ignoring the prickly feeling behind my eyes and trying not to look back at the stayers-on waving wildly, I convinced myself that this was good. Moving kept me young! There were so many places to see, why stay in one? I'd find new friends, new mountains, new love that was just as good.

The hazard of being a rambler is that you pull an invisible veneer over yourself. You don't belong here, you aren't planning to stay. You don't want to fall in love with the place or the people. You are just there to suck up all the sweetness, to climb the peaks and swim in the lakes. You breeze through the lives of the locals, sometimes causing heartbreak. After, you blow up photographs and put them on your wall. "Yeah, I lived in Alaska," you say. "It was beautiful but." Depending on the audience, it could be the rainy climate, the sheer dreariness of all the dripping spruce and overcast sky. It could be the omnipresent bears, lurking in the shadows. The isolation. It could be anything.

Now that I've decided to stay put, I am finding my life weaving into this place, stubborn threads that won't be so easy to unravel. It isn't always easy, letting go of the rambler. I think about it sometimes, find myself searching the job announcements with the old heart-pounding feeling I used to have.

This weekend Jerry and I hiked up to Thorpe Creek Basin, a wild and mountain-ringed cirque at the base of Sacajawea. Larches blazed like fire on the canyon walls. Mountain goats ghosted along the sheer cinder walls of Chief Joseph peak. I had never been there before and had pushed for this hike, even though it was a tough eleven miles, the trail snaking uphill with a relentless bite.

To get to where we crossed Hurricane Creek, we had to hike two miles of the main trail, a familiar path I run and walk often. I sighed from boredom as the miles ticked off, itching to see new country. There was the wilderness sign. Deadman Meadow. I had seen it all before.

Jerry walked along peacefully. "I never get tired of hiking the same trail," he said. "There's always something new to see."

I knew he was right. I knew I had a lot to learn about staying in one place. I don't want to discard lives anymore, flinging one aside when it gets difficult. I don't want to be a chameleon--a camo wearing, rifle-shooting, boat-driving woman for a few years in one place, a pensive, long distance runner in another. I want to gather up all the parts of me into one whole person.

I walked through Thorpe Creek wide-eyed, snapping pictures in the questionable light. I looked up at Sac's face and thought about climbing it. I searched the canyon walls for tiny Deadman Lake, rumored to be a hidden jewel. I peered up at Chief Joseph and schemed on attaining the ridge.

Then we dropped with aching knees down to Hurricane Creek, to the known and familiar. I braced myself for a dull walk out. But maybe I am learning something. Unlike before, I felt like the trail was wrapping its arms around me, welcoming me home.

1 comment:

  1. Always something to learn, to see, and to reinvent....that's a very good thing to know. Love reading your great writing about transitions and eyes-wide-open.


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