Travel, even for reasons as simplistically goal-oriented as arriving on your mom’s doorstep to give her a hug for the first time in almost two years, puts a frame around a period in life. Whether for a few days or a fortnight or a month, your perspective shifts, your views change, and you’re forced out of the ruts of pattern, habit, and routine.
The other thing about travel (as opposed to moving or relocating), of course, is that even as doing so involves going away, it also implies return.
Coming home from our July vacation was a different sort of pleasure than the trip itself. I was glad not to be in motion, happy not to be focused on the details of navigation or parking or finding a place to eat or deciding whether we should pull into the next gas station or rest stop. To arrive home after a long drive to check in with the horses and garden (all ably cared for while we were away), and then crawl into our familiar bed in the quiet dark of the mountain summer—windows open, no need for a fan or AC—was its own kind of luxury. As grateful as I was for having the opportunity to travel and to visit distant family, I was relieved to be back to my home place.
If travel shifts the perceptual frame, return boomerangs our attention to the familiar with senses un-desensitized. Home again is home refreshed. I know I’m spoiled, know I’m privileged to live where I do, but to arrive here after a long traverse across a good portion of the country to think, It’s so beautiful, and There’s no place I’d rather be was an unexpected finale for the trip.
My gratitude was no doubt heightened by the stresses of pandemic life. Ongoing uncertainty and the hovering sense that even minor public interactions are now wired with hair triggers that may backfire in unsettling ways made being home its own form of relaxation.
It helped, too, that we returned to the continuation of a beautiful summer. The weather had made it both easier and harder to go away: conditions weren’t so dry we were reluctant to leave lest things spontaneously combust while we were gone, but it also felt like a shame not to be around to bear witness to abundance. The grass greened in May, then, watered by a sufficient monsoon, launched glossy stems to flower and set seed. By August, the grasses were curing, more straw-gold than green, but they retained their silken shimmer and still were flecked with the white, yellow, purple, and orange of wildflowers. Patches where I’ve been seeding and transplanting for years finally erupted in botanical fireworks. The garden thrived. The horses, to put it bluntly, grew fat.
Twenty years ago, in 2001, we were living twelve miles away in Guffey while we built the barn, cabin, and walled garden. During the week I would commute to “our place” to look in on construction and wander the land, beginning my acquaintance with the topography and geology, the flora and fauna. Most weekends, we drove back to Boulder, where our house in Fourmile Canyon was for sale. I would do laundry, run errands, pay bills, sleep in our familiar bed.
Thinking back on that summer from the distance of two decades, it’s funny how vague the Boulder leg of our itineracy seems now. Is it because those weekends were taken up by the unremarkable routines that so easily overfill our days, or is it that my time at Cap Rock was doing double duty: filling my perceptions with the fresh novelty of terrain traveled-to, while already laying down the patterns of comfort, security, and attachment I associate with home?