"Go go go! You literally have less than a minute" Paloma waves my ticket at me.
The train to Kings Cross is leaving. As if in a 1940's film, the conductor holds the rail of the train and yells out a last call, whistle in mouth. But the train isn't run by a steam engine and I'm not leaving for the great war, only going home for three weeks. As I jump on , suitcase in tow, sweat building on my forehead, I realise my trip has started. It's not a real train ride nor adventure without a last second dash early in the morning.
I'm starting the travel blog again but this time it's different. I'm travelling to Seattle, Washington area, home. But is it home? I haven't lived with my parents for 7 years, but without a doubt it's the answer to 'where are you from?' My activities won't elicit a daily post, and that's not the point of this trip. Instead, I'll be reflecting on what home feels like from the fringe. Moreover about why we may feel at home regardless of geographic location or any real objective metric.
“Ohh I see, so you live here but you're from Seattle? The Heathrow employee asks as she applies a sticker to my passport.
“Yeah you got it!”
“Oh I see! And which do you like more?”
I laugh, pause and thank her.
At 35,000 feet, stuck in a hunk of metal circulating my neighbour’s breath, home is a mystery. Is the older lady behind me, engrossed in her Reader’s Digest, at the end of her trip? Did it just start? Or is she just passing through Seattle to somewhere else? That's the beauty of travel, it's all a mystery. The only thing you have in common is that change is coming. The grossly vague but persistent concept of change will be a focus of my writing while I'm here, in parallel with my more long term blog that I'm starting up very soon.
As my mom’s car drops around the corner, down and round, exiting the spiral ramp of the massive airport parking garage, the first raindrops to hit western Washington soil in several weeks stick to the windshield. What timing I have. Coming into the trip I was reading about wild fires, long droughts, pounding rays and sunburns. How soon my expectations were crushed. High wind storms, near constant clouds and rain have been the climate so far. I’m wearing rain jackets and sweatshirts. Everyone is enjoying the break from the constant heat, and while I’m happy the State isn’t (literally) as on fire as it was, couldn’t one more day have been ok?!? Seriously, there are alot of trees around here and my pale skin was aching for a little sun.
An hour before, as the plane broke through the clouds I jerked my head to oval window beside me. I instantly recognize north Seattle directly below, with the deep blue Puget sound and accompanying islands, peninsulas, and mountains flanking the distance. Something struck me deep and true. It was as close as a human can get to an inherent feeling of familiarity, as a salmon returning to its spawning grounds. It took me by surprise, the zap of emotions, the feeling of nostalgia and excitement. Rushing around Cambridge the last few days kept me distracted enough to give the feeling an extra kick.
It may be that this moment is the closest to a definition of home I get to on the entire trip. It was unspoken and subjective, responsive and immutable. There was no fighting that rush of hormones and neurotransmitters that accompanied seeing Seattle and the surrounding beauty. It was whole and instant. As the plane continued south, I recalled memories from the different landmarks in the city passing below. In the distance I saw a tiny toy boat in a big bath tub, which was the ferry I’ve taken my whole life to get to Seattle.
My airplane perspective made all human things small. Yet seeing the bigger picture can put great meaning onto seemingly minuet things. It was clear to me - surging with the washing machine of emotions and adrenaline only possible after a long day of travel – that what drew me back so instantly were not grand memories. It wasn’t my graduation day from UW that I was reminded of when we went over the campus, but BBQ’s in the gravel yard behind my house, walking home with friends from playing basketball, a slow spring breeze amongst the cherry trees. It was the accumulation of thousands of feelings, a sea of tiny strokes that made up my painting of home. It was rooted in the landscape, born in the palate of blue and green, grey and brown. A full year of distance was but a yarn string to be snipped by the sharpened force of home.