We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
~T.S. Eliot “Little Gidding”
My list of all the places I want to see is far longer than the list of what I am actually going to see in my lifetime, and I have had the privilege of seeing some incredible views already. But I have come to find that my favorite views are in the land that is already mine. I claim any land as my own that is public and that I can get to, enjoy, and return from in 1 day. Fortunately for me, that includes coastline, urban parks, riversides, and diverse forestland.
How, when I’ve gazed down at the Grand Canyon and hiked 14ers in Colorado, could Hunstville State Forest and Brazoria Wildlife Refuge be my favorites? I found that answer in this poem. I never cease to explore, but at the end of my exploring, I always find myself back where I started. I am stunned to find that even if I have been to a place 100 times, if I get quiet and look with care, it is always like getting to know the place for the first time.
This is a beautiful picture of my cyclical life. History constantly repeating itself. When my shortcomings get repetitive, I can become scornful of my own heart. But we are all repetitive – with our histories and personalities and fears and habits. What if, when I find myself at a familiar crossing (or a familiar patch of mud where I face planted), I could get quiet and see the place as if for the first time? It is never the same, because even though my stumbles are familiar, I am always new – hopefully more steeped in love and grace!
I certainly enjoy the spectacular and the new, but I love the subtle changes of places like my trail along Spring Creek as the seasons change and the years slide by. These places have infused bits of themselves into my soul and remind me that being my regular old self is enough. Some people might be like the Tetons or Niagara Falls. I’m good with being the neighborhood hiking trail, hopefully just as accessible – a comforting place for the other regular folks around me.