Transient Connections

I spent the weekend part inside the future of my past. The Pacific Northwest was my first landscape of adulthood—it was where I learned how to be an independent woman and climber set free by the snowy peaks and the soft earth. Back in the beginning, I lived in Bellingham, WA. I came out there in 1996—a time in my life when I believed that the only way to live was to get as much climbing as possible. I would cross the boarder into BC whenever I could to go rock climbing at Squamish. Climbing in WA was good—great even—but there was nothing like packing up my truck and crossing the border into Canada to make me feel like I was a grown up.

I woke up Saturday morning in Vancouver and hiked in the foothills of the city on damp trails where each step felt like a marked re-entry back into the land. I tucked between leafy tree branches and rotten logs and breathed in air that I swear smells like no other. I felt familiarity with every softened step in the rich soil. And I wondered where it came from.

I did not grow up in the PNW. In the grand scheme of things of my life now, I spent very little time there. But maybe this is an unintended by-product of a life of transience. I get a powerful over-wash of home in a dozen places. It is always bittersweet and full of what ifs. It always makes me stop.

I was in Vancouver to speak at the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival. I was in the lobby before my talk meeting new faces and re-connecting with old friends. Everyone felt familiar—a carry over of the land? Sometimes our conversations would wander into my having lived in the area for a time in my life, sometimes they would not, but I always felt as if I were connected to the other person and of the same makeup. If I continue to have a life of movement, and continue to loop back to the places of my past, will I then feel more connected to everyone?

When I took that hike on Saturday I thought that what I was experiencing the physical display of nostalgia: a powerful wash of sadness vis a vis the possibility of the past. I thought of this as a quiet, singular emotion. But maybe I was misinterpreting it. Maybe nostalgia is really a point of connection with our former selves in our current reality. Maybe instead of being overwhelmed by that emotion and unsure of its benefit, it is time to relish it. Maybe having a life of movement means a life of greater connection. Or maybe it does so long as we pay attention to it and allow our transient lives to allow a chronicling of emotion via an unfixed notion of place, and of home.