A year ago, I left for Wyoming, and as the miles between Washington and me continued to grow and grow, I wrote this:
Back in the wild sweet nothings of the interior west. It’s these lands, the ones void of busyness and distractions, where I am stripped of all but everything I’m sure of in this world. These lands own me.
This past year has been furnished with wild, blessed moments. When I left home, I was hesitant to leave everything and everyone that comforts and warms me. The entire time I was home, I thought about leaving. I thought about not leaving. Eventually, the curiosity of the place and grizzly bears succeeded in pulling me, for what I thought would be just another season. I missed home every ounce of the way, but I don’t regret intimately knowing such a vast, untamed place and the ruggedness of the Intermountain West.
Each place I’ve lived has a sweet spot reserved in my soul, a spot now instilled for nostalgic moments, a spot saved for brightness during darker days. After Stehekin, I missed dusting up dry dirt from winding paths, the smell of pines in the heat of the day, waving to every car that I passed on my bike, central bonfires, resourcefulness and collecting memories by the day like most places do by the month. After Alaska, I missed the northern lights, my friends and coworkers who became family, the streams filled with more salmon than water, all the bears, and how immensely green everything was. I even missed seeing lichen on trees and the sun waking me up at 4:30 am, and I found myself wondering when I’d see 40 eagles at once again.
I sometimes wonder what I’ll miss from here, what memories will surprise and gently remind me of what sweetness filled my Wyoming days. I’m working on cherishing a bit more of what each place offers while I’m standing there. I’m working on appreciating what’s right in front of me, not what could be six months down the line, or where it could be.
I never would have known the sound of Grizzly Creek while I slept, watched the hills turn from red to lavender to grey running to catch the spirit of the land or seen my own self mirrored in the eyes of a wolf. I would have not known so much. Wyoming reminds me day after day that if you’re tough enough to push through the dark winters, you will be rewarded with the most gentle, vibrant sights, smells and sounds come summer. You will know a spirit that has been long forgotten in too many places, certainly in too many day-to-day lives.
All that is rare for the rare, Friedrich Nietzsche said.
And that is a gift all its own.