As I left Portland, I still felt far from home. I was a visitor exploring new lands, tasting new foods, and meandering new streets. The moment I entered Clatsop State Forest everything shifted. I felt a settling and a stirring with each breath that intensified as the miles melted away.
As the trees grew bigger and the sky became smaller, I felt like I was ringed in a familiar cocoon. The smell of damp cedars accented by the promise of dripping blackberries overwhelmed my senses. As we descended toward the Pacific Ocean, the coastal fog appeared to be preserving the evergreen hue of the landscape with its quiet strength.
I have a confidence here that I haven’t felt in a while. I know what berries to pick and eat. I understand the dangers on the trails and in the familiar crashing waves. I don’t have to hesitate or observe first. I can jump right in and beckon my children to follow as they watch me race into the woods. The tide pools are like mirrors into my past, as memories tumble through the crystal reflections. As we build our driftwood house near the dunes that muffle the gulls cry, I know I am home.
That profound familiarity is what makes it easy to never leave home. It is a gift to feel an effortless sense of place and knowing. It is clear to me now, however, after two years away, that the appreciation I feel today was not as pronounced before I left. Absence amplifies presence, not just in foreign lands, but upon our return.
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