Cape Perpetua(lly Wandering)

“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien


One day. One week. One month. One year.

This is how I’ve counted up, up, and away from loss and loathing and crushing defeat. Every sunset adds to the layer of separation I’ve been building between my heart and my hurt. Every dawn strips away my hesitation and reminds me of the big, bright world I’ve only begun to explore.

And explore it I have. This year alone I will have visited 19 states and 4 countries. From world-renown wonders to local haunts, from ancient landscapes to modern constructs, I have wandered to and fro, There and back again, alone and in company, quiet and with joyful noise, in mourning and in celebration, in darkness and in the vivid glow of the sun.

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At 3:30am I called a taxi.
At 4:00am I checked my royal blue suitcase at the airport ticket counter.
At 4:30am I successfully emerged from security.
At 5:00am I boarded the plane, wishing I’d eaten at least a piece of toast before embarking on the long day of travel from Atlanta to Cape Perpetua.

But, east to west, it was only 10:30am when my connecting flight landed in Portland, Oregon, and an entire day awaited me still, grey and golden and glorious.

“Come. Hike. Sweat. Laugh. Cry. Soak. Bask.” I believed once that Oregon itself spoke these words to my soul, calling me out of my sprawling urbanity. But it is not the place – not the scent of pine trees or the sounds of the sea. It is the people I found there – and here and elsewhere; the people who found me when I was least ready to be found.

They are in Yachats, Oregon; they are in Atlanta, Georgia; they are in Billings, Montana; they are in Silver Spring, Maryland. They are from all over, where they were all along – on dim, sun-soaked porches, devouring the day; at smoky, corner tables stubbornly writing and scratching out and writing again; in the silent, wild woods, solo and strong.

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I am so grateful for them, these women and men who do not tell, but show; these kindred spirits who soothe with laughter and strengthen with tears. They are the wanderers, the makers, the doers. They are my forever-loves, my best companions.

“You are stronger than you think,” they tell me. “You are braver than you realize,” they repeat. “You are necessary to this world,” they insist.

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And so I return for more, over and over, to cramped apartments and cozy bungalows and airy beachside cabins. This is where I find the friends who have held back my hair, pressed tissues into my fists, and plied me with board games and comfort foods and soul-shaking music.

Because not one of us knows how long we have here. Not a single soul can say when or where their journey will end. One day? One week? One month? One year?

Do I hide from monsters? Or do I go out chasing unicorns?

My kindreds will say, every time, without fail, “Unicorns. Definitely unicorns.”

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And I am not fooled. I know how this works. I know I will chase and I will trip and I will bleed and I will wish beyond wishing that I had just stayed home, safe in my little cocoon of old quilts and dog fur. But deep within my spirit I will understand that I could not – that I could never stay, could never hide, could never settle. Because I, too, am a wanderer, a maker, a doer. I am my own forever-love. I am my own best companion.

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So I will get up, slowly, begrudgingly, sniffling and pitiful. And They will all be there – my Unicorns, my kindreds, my family-who-is-not-blood. And they will assure me: “There is more. There is good. There is love. Go be in your life.”

And I am.

One day. One week. One month. One year.

One more time.

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