Tag Archives: adventure

The 15-year-decade

salvador-dali-persistence-of-memory-clocks-meaningDon’t worry, this won’t be one of those look-back posts where I sum up everything that happened to us last year.

Though, admittedly, 2015 was a big year.

But it’s been a big decade, for that matter.

Only they don’t have names for 15-year increments. At least they don’t have common names everyone can use like decade or century.

There’s actually an old name for 15-year cycles that comes from medieval Europe called the indiction and which had to do with a periodic reassessment of an agricultural or land tax.

What I’m talking about is the last 10 years of our lives, a cycle that I can’t quite fit nicely into a decade.

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The Back Story

WanderlustIt all started with an insatiable wanderlust.

And a girl who wanted to go along for the ride.

We have traveled to dozens of countries together. We’ve lived in seven cities in five states. We’ve moved 26 times in our 20 years together.

And it’s time to come home for a while.

Every adventurer has a home base. And for us, that home base has always been Salem, Oregon. If you’ve seen it, you know it’s the perfect place, sandwiched between the Cascade Mountains and the Coast Range, full of rivers and lakes and trails. A perfect place for an adventurer to keep his or her legs fit and eyes ever looking towards the next vista.

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Writing: The Nightstand

I don’t believe in writer’s block, but something happens in the spring. I can write a thousand words every day in winter, but when the sun comes out, I want to live it not tell about it.

Still, things happen every day. Lessons are learned, experiences are had. Some you catalogue out of a sense of duty, some are buried away for contemplation on a rainy day, and some are fleeting, like a cool breeze on a warm day.

This is why you write every day. Some of us have minds like vast containers capable of storing every imaginable thing. And some of us have minds like cluttered drawers, chalk full of the detritus of our travels and adventures. 

My nightstand looks like this. I cannot cram the old drawers shut any longer. The bottom drawer is full of small things that remind me of long ago. There are marathon bibs and medals, an action figure I’ve always loved, a badge a friend gave me, papers and notebooks I save, even if there are just a few notes in them. The top drawer is full of newer memories, manila envelopes with old tax statements, a knife I earned on an outdoor adventure, some newspaper clips from my reporting days and a leather pouch with some favorite pipe tobacco in it. 

Writing is like this. You file away the pieces of your experience in sentences and paragraphs for later reference so you don’t have to make up the details later on. 

You write to capture all the in betweens, the intangibles leftover from the stuff in the drawers.

I this way, you have a more complete picture of your life or the life you’re trying to create.

Home is where the heart is, but my heart is nomadic –

I rode the bus to work with our CEO Torey Malatia the other day. We chatted about a bunch of little things, and then he asked me if we were settled in.

That’s a question we get a lot.

I used to think I knew how to answer it. Now I’m not so sure.

When I said, “yeah, we’re pretty settled in now,” he said, “No, I mean does Chicago feel like home yet?”

It would’ve taken too long to answer that question with its real answer, so I just said, “yes, in a roundabout way, it does.”

The routines are set, the train rides are a blur anymore, and the lake from the windows at WBEZ on the pier is a palate of grays and blues like picking muted ties that never quite stand out.

But does it feel like home?

We lived in Hawaii on and off for several years.

It never felt like home.

We lived in Missoula, Montana for three years. It felt like home, so we bought a house there. Then I was laid off, and it felt a lot less like home.

Alaska never felt like home.

But when my boss there asked me if we were settled in, I always resisted the desire to tell him that we were more dug in than settled in.

Cheryl and I met in Oregon. We were married there. We had two of our three children there.

I attended university there.

Our families live there.

It never really felt like home for me, just a base of operations. And I always had an overwhelming desire to flee it.

I’m not sure I’m qualified to know what feels like home, much less explain to someone else that it feels like home.

They say home is where the heart is, but my heart is nomadic.

It’s the curse or the blessing of having parents who are missionaries.

They also say that not all who wander are lost.

The definition of lost is – unable to find one’s way; not knowing one’s whereabouts.

I can accurately say this describes me for the last 5 to 10 years.

I feel like a place will only start to feel like home when you know it like the back of your hand.

This has not been my experience.

In Alaska I did not drive for the first year, and as a result, I did not know my whereabouts. I trusted my global position to the pilots and drivers for whom Alaska is home.

Here in Chicago, I trust the train drivers and the bus drivers as well as the maps and GPS on my phone. I don’t have that familiarity of place. Sometimes I take a different road home, and I’m in another world for a while.

Home, for me, is where my best friend lives. It’s where the three lives that we created tend to dwell in a cacophonous chaos that mysteriously adds to my life. And for me, I’m whole as long as they’re in the same time and space that I’m in.

So yes, Chicago feels like home. For now.

The Crisis of Time –

Just passed the three-month mark in Chicago. No matter how old I get, I continue to be blown away at how fast time seems to pass. The plans we make never equal the time in which our minds imagine they can happen. To that end, there were a few beach trips we didn’t take, a visit to the zoo, just a few untried restaurants, downtown streets and parks unexplored and neighbors unmet. I don’t know if it’s the relatively short stays in our previous locals or the general march of time, but we have always suffered from a desire to do too much in too little time. Or the realization that we did not do enough with the time we had. This leads to suffering regret, and I detest suffering regret. Maybe it’s the west or the familiarity of youth, but I know very well the list of undone things even in my own hometown.

The peaks unclimbed, the trails not hiked, the lakes and rivers not fished, the beaches where no sandcastles were built. All of those things were infinitely possible in the span of time I spent there in Cascadia. But I don’t regret the things I did instead. Those things shaped my life. No, I did not enjoy the solitude of the Mount Jefferson Wilderness or the view from Three Fingered Jack. But I did enjoy the benefits of the company of good friends, the hard lessons of childhood and the delights that come with living in a place with no thought of leaving on the horizon. Illinois is my fifth state, a tiny number really, but more than a great many people will see. And even though we moved here to give the kids a more settled lifestyle, there is in me a desire to try and experience it all, just in case the clouds fall again. Maybe it’s a product of being laid off in a bad economy from a dying industry. If that will not make you jumpy, nothing will. The thought of staying home on a weekend and doing nothing but watching some football, making good food and enjoying life is appealing to me in ways my adventurous nature kind of abhors. Is it age? Wisdom? laziness? I have a desire for permanence now that I have not felt before. Just as you might live in Alaska always prepared for the ground to shake under your feet, I still think about fault lines and magnitudes a lot. I was never a Boy Scout, but I have tried to live always prepared. Maybe it’s the wanderlust of my upbringing by missionary parents. When your life looks like a National Geographic magazine, the domesticity of the American Midwest makes life look like it’s lived at the slow crawl of a glacier by comparison. And as much as I always dreamed of seeing the things my father told us stories about, I find that I’m more fascinated by the untold stories next door to me or in the heart of this big, old city these days. And still time passes, and you realize that experiences will never add up to the amount of words you can write about them and analyze them with and carry them into the lobe of memories. Tim