One Place, a Thousand Times

by Eric Alan
April 30, 2017
One Place, a Thousand Times
One Place, a Thousand Times

There is a celebrated magic to travel. It’s an opening to the vast wonders of the unimaginable; and endless adventure that wouldn’t be complete in a thousand lifetimes. It’s a beautiful opening to all the aliveness of possibility. I celebrate travel, crave it in stillness, yearn for it when routines and responsibilities keep me home.

Yet there is another kind of travel less celebrated, still equally worthy, and too rarely practiced in a restless world. That is the travel of walking the same place a thousand times. Not many even have that opportunity, in a rootless time when stability is mostly mythical. It’s especially rare to walk the same wild place a thousand times, when wild places themselves are disappearing faster than the days are.

It’s my celebration this time to go nowhere but home. No matter all my wanderings across other landscapes, I’ve returned to walk the same forests and meadows for thirty-eight years, and to take the same waterfall trails nearby as a ritual—a celebration of the returning of spring. I feel the folds of the meadows, creeks and hills as I do the comfort of a blanket under which I sleep. I feel them as I do the familiar whispers and sighs of a long-term lover. And never, ever, do I truly know them. Never does the land truly know me. 

Simply put, one place is never the same place twice. This particular leaf, which was shadowed yesterday, is a little more open today and considerably more sunlit. That fallen oak is a little lower than last year, having sunk into the ground inch by inch in the course of a wet winter. And this decaying log: I not only know it and see it as it is, I remember how it was when I first found it about thirty-five years ago, fallen even then but hosting different life in the beginnings of what some would term decay—a decay that is in fact the beginning of new life in other ways. The waterfalls, too, are different every moment of every visit, with water ebbing and flowing and choosing a slightly different course down the canyon in subtle, vital ways. This year the flows are the highest they’ve been in several, and the sheer steady power of the flow is a source of wonder and reverence for me. It’s perfectly new. I’ve never been in this moment before. 

Yes, to stay home is to travel too: it’s a traveling through time in a quiet, patient way. It’s a journey that takes no less than a lifetime. It’s often the most profound journey of all; the journey I will celebrate most when the time comes that home is only memory. I celebrate it now, when the wonder of the future still stretches ahead like the unfurling of the next sunlit leaves.

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Beautifully said! I can relate completely - that wonderful love affair with a place you've visited a thousand times. There's an excitement I feel exploring new terrain, but there's a comfort in walking familiar paths and an expectation of the beauty you know will be there. I enjoy the intimacy in recognizing all those subtle little changes that occur in a beloved place. So nice to take a little time out of my day to think about this. Thank you, Eric.

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