The place where I live is not one spot, one pin-point on a map, or one house with blue trim and a red door. It is neither one watershed or mountain range alone, but it is just as much a place as well a way of life. A place where each step is rhythmic, the melody changing as I go from swift stretches of bare granite to deep pine duff, thick roots occasionally reaching across to break the beat. It is where each day is both known and unknown, challenges cropping up with only one solution: keep walking. Long distance hiking reminds me to live with place deep in my body.
Hiking 486 miles on the Colorado Trail from Denver to Durango brought me home when I had no discernible place to claim as my own. Sleeping, eating, and taking each and every breath outside as I moved from spot to spot along the trail was inextricably tied to a search for place. Weaving together thick dog hair pine stands, burn scarred forests, high alpine tundra, open ranch lands, and the high and rugged San Juan Mountains, the Colorado Trail became the rug on my bedroom floor.
With each new scene offered along the way, there was an opportunity to redefine myself as I submerged in each place and reexamined what I love, who I love, and how I love. The smells, sights, sounds, and feeling of the ground beneath my worn soles were never constant; I could even taste the difference in water from stream to stream. Each day as the sun rose, I would thank my campsite and move on. As I hike across new landscapes today, I realize it is my unbroken presence and perception amidst constant movement that creates place. On long and winding dirt trails, I learn that the place where I live is not contingent on finding the perfect home or neighborhood, but is located within my own awareness of being and knowing its worthiness in this world.