Monday, July 02, 2018

On Belay: Summer Adventures

I am incredibly excited to add a new Blogger to my rotation. I met Shelby Mathis while our husbands were stationed together in the Azores, and she has also come and worked on our farm! She will be posting on Mondays!

Fourth of July last year, my husband and I had been on the road for a month. We were chasing the tail end of fair-weather summer days through the Pacific Northwest into British Columbia. We made a lot of for-now friends and people I hope I'd see again if we revisited those once-homes, but we were always leaving. We'd get too hot, or too tired, or too restless, and we'd cram all our camping and climbing gear and 70 pound Rhodesian Ridgeback into my little KIA Forte in a sweaty game of Tetris, and we'd hit the road to the next place.

We'd moved to Denver that January, only 6 months earlier. The military life was our former normal, and it taught us movement was okay. Movement was to be expected. Movement was normal. It was also unsurprising for us to get itchy a few months into something. We had never stayed put for long.

I decorate like we're sticking around though. I had hung a North America map on my office wall when we moved in. Though it had lines and shapes and the essence of mountain ranges, it seemed in this place to hang on our wall like a blank slate. A few months into living in our new space, as if right on cue, we ended up staring at that map until a route was born.

My husband had three months off school that summer. I could take my work on the road with me. We were free to go anywhere. We attached 10’s of blue tags and they'd flap around in the mountain west and toward the west coast. They pegged places where we wondered if we could spend the summer learning to use the new-to-us climbing gear we'd been outfitted with by my retired-climber uncle.

Rifle. Moab. Red Rocks.
Tahoe. Yosemite.
Wild Iris. Devil’s Tower. Rushmore Needles.
Smith Rock. Leavenworth. Squamish.

Lane's the dreamer who can put pins in the map, and I'm the planner that can navigate from the airport to the train station to the cheapest campground sniffing out the best coffee or ice cream along the way. He's good at where and I'm good at how. We make a great travel duo with one another though we'd never done something this big. We were instantly giddy with anticipation. And I surprised myself by how much I wanted to keep being transient and get back on the road now that we finally had the chance to settle down without the threat of a military move or deployment looming ahead.

We made it to less than half the places on our tagged map before we were worn threadbare. It was somewhere in the dense Squamish forest between the Stawamus Chief and the Howe Sound that homesickness set in. I realized I wanted to go home, and not to our tent. Our address was in Colorado, so that's where we'd go back to. But home still felt elusive. I wasn't sure Colorado was home just because it was where we'd hung our map.

In Squamish, we spent our days hiking to and from hidden alcoves with some of the world's best granite cliffs. At sunset, we'd marvel at the paragliders who'd summited the Chief and took the short way down, floating downward by air with the sun. We spent our nights around communal picnic tables learning new camp cooking techniques and trading the day's epic climbing stories. The community was real and tight, but it was also fleeting with onset of summer heat. We'd all move on, just like we always did in the military.

We came home at the end of July to our new neighborhood. We'd changed that summer, and our home had too. Just like we had to restock produce, we had to restock on relationships. Some didn't survive the summer, and some needed some rekindling. That's the price of leaving too soon.

I hung the map of North America over Lane's desk in our new shared office. The blue sticky notes still curled into familiar rolls like they're braced for another move. This year, some of them mean places we've been, and none of them are places we're planning to go right now.

Above my desk, I have a collage of notes, photos, and quotes. You could call them maps, because they are reminders of where I'm going and who I want to be. One of the quotes was spoken by Jill Briscoe at IF:Gathering a few years ago, the only year I attended live in Austin. It reads, "You go where you're sent, stay where you're put, unpack, and you give what you've got until you're done." She speaks to my wandering heart and challenges me to find the adventure where I already am.

Summer has been my season of adventure, only this year, I'm not hitting the road. I've decided to stay. Staying means fighting the urge to book tickets last-minute to a conference or vacation. Staying means I am not migrating north with the heat. Staying means my mornings look mostly the same as they did the week before. Staying means I have maps on the wall and they're not ideas. Staying means I've unpacked. Staying means a lot of things to me now.

  • Inviting people into my life and story instead of constantly wanting to be invited
  • Making new friends and being able to keep in touch with them
  • Helping friends pack up and move (someone else this time, and not me)
  • Walking through hard stuff and doing real life with a tribe of women
  • Celebrating new family life at a baby shower
  • Celebrating new faith life with baptism
  • Hearing a summer sermon series in my beloved Psalms
  • Hours-long coffee dates after church with friends I already love
  • Doing my own yard work and gardening to care for the patch of corner lot we call our own
  • Making connections with local activists and humanitarians already active in places I long to work
  • Voting in state primaries (basically) in person for the first time ever
  • Visits from parents who want to see us, and also what our life is like
  • Serving my church that still drums on when I'm not around, but misses me as much as I miss it
  • Making progress on tearing down walls
  • Setting a table that people know they can count on having enough seats for them
  • Building a community that's not going away.

I am not surprised at all that staying means having time to invest in building things, building people up, and building community. I think I knew this in the Squamish forest. I knew this was the home I was missing because I hadn't risked enough to stay and build it. I knew I missed a home I hadn't built yet.

I can hop in the car and live out of a tent and wake up and go climb every day and still, my comfort zone can remain small. Leaving was familiar. Travel was easy. It may always be my comfort zone. I think I will always love going and doing and seeing and moving. But I am not sure I want to live a life where homesickness reigns.

I'm taking very few photos and logging basically zero ticks next to routes in guidebooks this summer. It's much less interesting to document what it looks like to make a place home than an epic roadtrip.

But it's where I've been sent. It's where I'm learning to unpack. It's where I'm giving it what I've got.

I'm finding staying is one of my greatest adventures yet.

Climb on,


alex amarxon said...

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