Sunday, August 24, 2014

Why We Come Back

And just like that, you're 25 years old.

The passage of time can be vertiginous when the places around you have changed far less than you. When you return to those formative places, those character factories of your late teens and early 20s, just the sensory nostalgia of homecoming is enough to make you forget all the interim. The same fiery sunrises, same cracked dirt oven heat of mid-afternoon, same raw smell of ponderosas after rain.

Then there are the re-lived experiences, the big dinners and star-strewn nights with your old friends who are back to visit. You talk, of course, about the new stuff, the desk jobs and the boyfriends and the graduate programs, but that's not what sticks in your abdomen and spins your mind for a loop. It's the dumb movie quotes you remember, the now-swollen legend of the day you peaked seven mountains and still made it to the bar afterward, the night you fell out of your roommate's truck.

But places with real depth do more than hold you in the bosom of the past. The land, like us, is never still. There is endless challenge in the mountains, a springboard capacity for absorbing even the longest fallers and propelling them back into the unknown clean and galvanized, bringing along the frontier zen of morning sun beside a little trout stream, the indefatigable cheer of banjo rolls on the crisp night air.

These are the places to which we return, the love we don't let die. An average of 29,127 days on this ball of earth and rock and water -- how many will be spent in the same stale fluorescent-lit air, having the same superficial conversations, thinking the same tedious thoughts?

We grow full in the shadows of the mountains. If we are lucky, we stay with them. If we hold anything like truth, they stay with us.

New Mexico Weather, Mt. Phillips, May 2012