Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Bandelier National Monument

I've always loved coming home. To my bed, to my stuff, to my familiar TV channels, to my food, to the sights and smells and everything else so familiar and reliably predictable and comforting.

But for some reason tonight, after this trip, of all the trips I've taken (or maybe of all the homes I've had), I'm feeling like a bit of a stranger here.

I miss standing on mountain tops. I miss breathing pine-fresh air. I miss the endless surprise around every corner. Seriously, my jaw would literally drop time after time after time every day, whether it was a huge valley below me or a horse-filled pasture beside me or a ridiculously improbable and precarious peak above me. It was seriously a constant thrill, a feast of wonderment, a banquet of awe.

Driving 95 miles per hour. Bare foot. Feeling the hot sun on my face free of that last, superfluous 6,000-12,000 feet of atmosphere. The tightness in my lungs, gulping down the thin air. Leaping from crag to crag at a plunging cliff-side free of nanny-state guard rails and warning signs (when did heights inspire so little fear in me?).

Standing amid the thousand-year-old ruins of a long-lost people. Listening to the stories of struggle and pain and conquest and perseverance and acceptance. Tracing the history of these cultures in the faces of the people who sell your gas and take your tickets and clean your rooms.

And the smells. The smells alive inside centuries-old churches. And the feel of mud and straw walls and the darkness of old wood beams and ox-blood painted floors. The dust in the air and the dirt under your feet, the impossibly blue sky.

The daily struggle of basic human interaction. Strangers coming together, negotiating their way through relationships and transactions. Each wanting to receive and give in sometimes equal and often unequal amounts. The minor favors, the unintended slights, the small gestures, the give and take. The standing up for oneself if only to be heard and respected and have control, only to grant a favor because we all know it's a hard world out there and sometimes the only thing we have is the ability to confer a small kindness and the only thing we want in return is to be acknowledged for the giving of it.

These tiny, invisible, delicate threads that connect us all, like wobbling tightropes inviting and daring us to step out and come across and meet somewhere on one side or the other or in the vast middle. And we do it, with conscious effort or unconscious instinct because in some place hidden or acknowledged we know there is no other way.

It's aliveness. Maybe that's what I'm missing at this moment. Or connectedness. The kind that's risk-free and thus so easily taken for granted in everyday life. Or maybe it's just sleep. Maybe that's all I need to blend back in where I belong or at least live.

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