Why do we return to the places of our youth, especially those places that once held promise and mystery? Perhaps it is in the hope that the mystery remains, that it can be rediscovered. That even with the passing cycles of time and the often-heavy price that “progress” exacts on natural spaces, we can reorient our bearings from a place that still holds meaning.
I grew up near a quiet coppery stream in the low lands. The sandy soil gives rise to pitch pine, American holly, and a few varieties of oak. Of our horizontal cousins, squirrels are the most common, with the occasional chipmunk or mallard duck. Every once in a while you may come across deer, and every once in a rare while, a stag.
Between the noise, air, and water pollution, and the continuous human imposition on the surrounding area, the boundaries of the open space are shrinking. It is too frighteningly similar to a boxed display in a museum or a caged animal in a zoo.
Time in the mountains of the West irrevocably altered the scope and scale of what natural space meant to me. Whereas explorations into my own backyard mixed being in the woods with a sense of imagination, journeys to the High Places became pilgrimages. In the music and the silence of the mountains, in the companionship of solitude, the heavy fetters of the lower mind are lifted like the smoke curling off of a campfire.
And then there is the return.
The descent back down the mountain is the gift you give to the world, just as the world gave you the gift of the mountain. Returning to the lowlands, the population, and the energetic buzz of society paints a stark contrast against the alpenglow of the mountain. It reasserts the challenges we had when we left as well as offering new ones. The cycle of descent and ascent is the noetic and experiential commerce we agreed to by being human. Simply,
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can.