Sometimes, without warning, provocation, or desire, I’ll think of somewhere I’ve been.
A certain sidewalk in Bergen, next to a playground full of wooden animals; children squealing and parents standing close together in conversation. The same as anywhere.
A room in Amsterdam with three single beds, tall windows, and smoke-stained curtains undulating against the summer’s heat.
A lonely road in Oklahoma, the only one awake, peering out at towering clouds and a darkening sky, speeding along as a radio announcer listed counties in danger of tornadoes.
A city beach in Honolulu, my first trip there, watching palm trees lazily sway, understanding finally why Hawaii is such a dream for people.
A different beach, in a small town in Spain, watching a group of seniors setting up their spot – setting it up so swiftly that it must have been a habit, a daily occurrence – just next to a younger group, more boisterous, who must have been exactly them 50 years earlier.
A snowy mountain in Switzerland, on skis and terrified, knowing there was just one way to get down.
A darkened hospital room in California, holding my newborn so close that everything else – the pain, the noise – faded away.
A terrace in the City of Light, a yellow awning, the smell of cigarette smoke, trying to muddle my French together well enough to speak with the elegant older woman next to me.
A bar with my college roommates, in London – far away from where we met – sounds and noise and people crushing everything together.
A bedroom in Galveston, quiet and spotless, the fan circling overhead, the heavy drapes drawn against the day’s light, the plush rug thick below my feet.
A ballroom in Pennsylvania, urging a bride and groom out to the balcony to see the sunset, my friend from graduate school yelling out, “This is what I love about you!” to me.
Right here, when I am gone, the feeling of my dogs’ soft fur, the sound of the ocean and the fog horn, the silence that comes from a small town that is missed when I am far away.
All these places, all these people, all these moments: they come and they go, they sharpen into focus and sensual presence and fade away again. It is one way, of living a life, to walk this world and be grateful for it. To carry it with me, when I go somewhere else; to hold it close, when I go nowhere at all.