Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about circles, about going back to places we started from. I keep hearing stories. A woman returns to her hometown after 40 years. A couple, who parted bitterly, find themselves reunited at the end of their lives. Over and over we return like monarch butterflies to the same tree.
Maybe that’s why I like local history, me who has felt rootless for so long. I want to absorb it, know the gods who live in the mountains, the stories in the rocks, as well as the people who made their mark on the land one or two hundred years ago.
And maybe it’s getting ready to go on another long journey that causes me to remember Ohio and her green hills that look like they had been born for that black, fertile soil. I arch back further still to some genetic code, some lineage that runs through my veins that I feel but will probably never understand. Even my name has changed over the years. No longer do I wear the heavy German name, like apples and dumplings, that I was born with. I’ve become a creation of place, of travel, as surely as I’ve shaped my own identity.
I had always imagined my life along the ocean, the roar of waves and barking seals on the rocks. And I’ve been happy in cities with horns blowing and people elbowing their way through the crowd. But here, the wind is hot and dry. It blows across the hilltop and like a dream disappears over the mountains. Today a friend of mine said, “I get the feeling that even if you weren’t taking this trip to India, you’d be perfectly content to just stay home.” And it’s true. I would. And that’s the big difference between this trip and every other time I’ve traveled or moved. I always felt in flight, running from one life and into a new one. Each time I moved, I saw it as an opportunity to shed old skin. Become someone new. Except now. It’s taken me have a century, but I can finally accept who I am and where I am. I don’t need to shed my skin any more. And, yet, I’m sure I will.