Tuesday, June 11

don't pity the girl who opened her eyes

people ask me which of all the places I have lived is my favourite. it is a very difficult question, which I usually answer with a careful three-pronged response. depending on the day, I might crave the damp, slightly-salted, piney green and rain and coast of the northwest a bit more than the thick, spread-out heat and fireflies and harsh/striking not-Utah-ness of the midwest. other days the warm nights and oak trees of Missouri make the best memories, sparkling against the cloudy grey of Seattle's perpetual drizzling. and besides those are the in-between, cozy, country, small-town lazinesses of my youth: walking everywhere, kicking rocks, make-believing along all the canals and fences, through pastures and gardens, across rooftops and gravel roads.

most of the time they all share pretty equal space in my memories of places I've spent lots of time. there are smaller chapters full of England, Canada, and Texas.
Cache Valley, Utah
my true place-I-am-from home has these: mountains more real and more gorgeous than any other mountains may ever be for me. these beautiful, steady slopes have always (for a given measure of always, of course) been here, even if I haven't. they make me marvelously happy. I don't know why.

the varying beauty of the entire world seems like an odd thing, if you think about it. why do we respond the way we do to the colors of sunrises or of autumn leaves, to the blue, blue texture of the summer sky and the green, green patterns of tangly growing plants? (a TED talk I found upon googling my question presents some ideas and thoughts about this.)
I excavated a few boxes thisafternoon, chasing a vague memory of the above essay. I found it along with plenty more of my old writing, which has been strange to go through. I remember the high school english teacher whose scribbly comments you see above, but not his name. he had once been a lawyer, loved Hemingway, and had a tattoo of a rainbow trout on his ankle. I don't remember what kind of assignment these 2.5 pages were a response to. there is no title. no footnotes. the thing is a metaphor-stuffed ode to my childhood and its setting.
Cache Valley
the last paragraph predicts that my third person self will never forget that place. "Whenever she thinks of her home in the mountains she will see it as she once saw it ... covered with the soft, golden blanket of an endless summer."
 
is that true?

well, my newly graduated from graduate school self winces a bit at such absolute statements. truly whenever? maybe that's a bit much to expect. why put one's brain and memories in boxes like that? all the words in that high school essay could be carefully redefined now. there are layers and layers of extra meaning to draw from, dozens and dozens of holes to poke in the concepts of home and seeing and endless. part of me doesn't know what any of those things mean anymore. do they exist? can they exist?

for the past few years I've been home for more winters than anything. and home has rotated. so little is the same--me, you, here, there, this, that, those, them. it all seems to rotate. where I am from is a story. home is not a single, static place. and even if it were, I may not really belong there. I may not really belong in any of these places and surely none of them belongs to me either. but I'm glad to have them in this story. I hope all the future places are at least as lovely. I hope my brain and my memories treat them well.
Wasatch Mountains
coming back to these mountains last week was subtly exhilarating to a degree I didn't expect. it hasn't quite worn off yet, either. my first glimpse from the plane of the glowing late-afternoon pre-sunset on those green slopes, or driving anywhere and watching the light and shadows flittering, or every day looking outside and catching the elevated horizon--so surprising after two years in the flatness of Texas--it all still strikes me with a sense of glory and gratitude. while I'm lucky enough to be caught in this not-exactly-endless 2013 summer, we might get to go hiking here or here. I want to breathe the sweet scent of this chapter of home as much as I possibly can.

{ photos borrowed from a handful of awesome people (see links) on flickr. }

postscript:

in searching for photographs better than I could ever take of the Utah mountains, I found a great one (the second, above) by this talented gentleman, with whom I worked for a while on the magazine he founded, Mormon Artist. the magazine has since become dormant, but thanks to Ben and the other flickr photographers I've borrowed from. 

4 comments:

Elsie Boyer said...

I love your descriptions and thoughts about the places that we call home.

Also I am still very sad that Mormon Artist is no longer publishing. I loved doing interviews for them.

amelia chesley said...

thanks Elsie.

it is sad Mormon Artist died....
maybe we should volunteer to resurrect it.

Nic S said...

Can I come hiking please?

amelia chesley said...

yes, Nic! what are you waiting for?