This week has been accented by the sun, peaking through blankets of white clouds. I saw this in the final days in South that took up the first half of the week, and I also saw it in the Oregon Coast as we returned home. It is chilly outside, to be sure, but the outdoors have been calling me with a louder voice of late. I am hungry for it. I am ready to be out, to be active.
Allyson and I spent the first half of the week in Murray with her parents. We were also keeping our twin nieces who are 10 years old. Each day, the girls and I walked down the country road to a small bridge where a swollen river was flowing. We talked about their current interests which range from cell phone games to ancient Greece to their cat Moonshine to Nazi Germany. They are in that phase where they have grown enough they look almost adolescent, but they still have many Elementary traits. They are in a doorway, one leg in one room, one in the other.
On Sunday, the afternoon was pretty open, and Allyson’s mom was kind enough to let me use her car and make the hour drive to Benton County, Tennessee to see our land and visit Lakeshore. Stepping onto it again, time slowed a bit, and I walked the familiar paths that have developed there. The wild grains are nearly chest high, and it makes the place look golden, even in the dead of winter. The place I build bonfires has grown up. The path I began building that wraps around the first hill is still in tact, and deer seem to be using it regularly.
It is wild to think that over six years ago I first set foot on that land, exploring it, thinking it would be a fantastic piece of property care for. I remember feeling so in love with it, but thinking it would be a pipe dream to ever own it. The river and steam mill are still visible from the high point, and the creeks are flowing strong right now. I found a grove of pine and cedar trees on the side of a hill that had wonderful climbing branches. I ascended the cedar, and it’s branches and soft green needles surrounded me. Digby sat patiently underneath as I breathed the smell of evergreen and looked far off in the distance.
I also went back to Lakeshore, the camp where I had worked over about 20 years. I visited with Gary and Vickie, in their house where I been over to visit so many times over the years. I hiked up that familiar hill that I know without sight. I’ve walked that hill covered in ice. I’ve walked it on the hottest, most humid day of the year, when you could taste the heat. I passed through the Conference Center like a ghost, saw the Sunroom where I have looked out over that wide river many days than I could count. I knelt in the Prayer Chapel. Digby and I circled the hill. He knows it well too.
I think about how we know places so and times so well. You could tell yourself that you never left. You could avoid a mirror and convince yourself you did not age–that you are still this other version of yourself. You didn’t cross the threshold into a different room. You remained the same. For a moment, memory is real enough to feel that. But, we do age, we do change, we do choose one thing or another. And as familiar as any place is upon return, it is always changing too. Long enough, and we might both get to a place where we are unrecognizable to each other. But, that is a long, long stretch of time.
We brought the twins back to Nashville the day before our flight back to Oregon, and we spent nearly a day with Allyson’s sister Laura. The day of our flight Allyson and Laura were having sister time and suggested that I could get out if I was having cabin fever. I took the minivan for a quick hike in Percy Warner Park. Digby and I circled a hill among the hard wood deciduous that I will not see for at least months. Digby needed to empty his bladder and colon, because he would have a long flight without a bathroom break. I needed to walk, to explore, to move, because I would be sitting inside for a long time.
Back in Oregon, I have felt refreshed and full of energy. Going back to the South, haunting so many old spots, encountering the joy of those places again reminded me a bit who I am, which is easy to forget when you walk into a new room. I found as we set foot on that familiar PDX airport carpet this light, excited feeling. I was seeing Oregon again with fresh, new eyes, loving it the way you do a partner you have been separated from. Thursday morning, I woke ready to get out of bed. The sky had clouds, but peeks of blue and sunshine. There was the lake, the green mountains, the omnipresent ocean.
Changes have come to the coast in the small bit of time I was gone. The ocean carved away seven or eight vertical feet of sand all the way up to the tree line. Where you would normally walk straight out from the woods onto the beach, now you must step down or even climb some places to get to the beach. Our first group of 2016 is here this weekend. I will have reached my one year mark in just a few weeks, and I’ll begin to see groups for the second time. I am growing out of this infancy to Camp Magruder and the West Coast.
Maybe it’s the new year, maybe it’s the travel and return, maybe it’s a change in perspective, maybe it’s all these things, but I feel something new happening within me and around camp. Something is growing, and I hope it continues, I hope it is good. I know that a day will come when I will step out of this room into something new. But today, I am content to know this place better, to know it is home right now. It is a good home, and I will keep it, like these others.