I know that, for each of us, the title of this post means something a little different.
And I am sure, as well, that nearly immediately after reading the title, you thought a little to yourself what that means: Returning home.
For me, I did that yesterday morning, just a little after sunrise, on the NCR Trail (now dubbed the TCB Trail officially, but that’s probably the last time you’ll ever see or hear me refer to it that way), in northern Baltimore County.
I have always felt a great affinity for the woods, the shore line, the mountains. And it doesn’t take much immersion for me to feel like I have returned home to a place that is both as natural and comforting to me as any childhood dwelling might be for others.
I am at greatest peace, and feel my strongest, when surrounded by nature.
To those of you who know me, it is my Querencia.
First, the history, then yesterday’s ride.
I spent more than half of my childhood days in the outdoors. At just six months, I was tenting all over the region with my parents and older sister (I’m not sure if any of my brothers were still camping with us when I started; they were all in their teens when I was born). My parents had a few favorite spots they would go to when I was older, like Morris Meadows, Gettysburg, Harper’s Ferry, Cape Henelopen, and various places along the Susquehanna in Pennsylvania. We also stayed close to parks along the Chesapeake as well as the Appalachian Trail.
Life didn’t change much when we got rid of the tent and started using a truck camper. These were the memories with my sister that I will treasure forever. It seemed like there was never enough to do once we arrived at the campground: fishing, swimming, community center, miniature golf, hiking, and meeting and reuniting with camping friends.
The pit fires in the evening were nearly spiritual, as we all stared into the flames, sharing stories and just absorbing the moments, both personally and together. There’s something about the campfire that transcends most other community experiences. The silence, broken at times by the crackle of the fire, is reverent. You just can’t get that in front of a television or computer, no matter what might be airing.
As I got older, I started camping on my own, taking hikes still along the Chesapeake and the Appalachian Trail, communing with nature with close friends as we day-tripped or sojourned for three days or more, immersed in all that was natural, peaceful.
Along the trail or on the shores, I always felt like I understood my place in this world, where I remembered that I was never greater than all that surrounded me. Having this respect, this reverence, was a wonderfully humbling experience that I was able to hold on to when I was back on concrete walks and in man-made buildings.
That’s how I knew–and still know–that my true home, my querencia, is in the woods, along the trail, and on the shores. For it is here that I am most spiritual and cognizant of my place in this world.
Yesterday morning, I went for a short, 8-mile ride, and I felt that spirituality again, that calling to return home. The call is so great in my heart today, and I am scrambling, looking for the time to get back there.
Immersing myself in nature is a constant for me. It’s something that is as natural as breathing, and when I make the effort to shift a few of my priorities and return to the woods, I find that the rest of my life falls into place simply and without effort.
I’ll do everything I can to keep centered in this, to thread the experiences close enough together so that my return home is not a a day-trip reunion but a longer walk, a thru-hike through life, that helps me handle the day-to-day stresses along those concrete walks and in man-made buildings. . . .