This Saturday, Ryan and I visited the parents of one of our friends in San Antonio. We had a lovely time with good company. We barbecued in their yard, sat around the dining room table during an afternoon rain, and relaxed in the muted, post-rain sunshine after a delicious dinner. As Ryan and I spoke to our friend's father in the yard, I started to shift my focus from listening to our conversation, to listening and noticing him in his environment - a big-picture view. I was reminded at that moment of one of the many reasons why I appreciate having lived in so many places around the country and world: I find myself in the welcoming homes and company of so many wonderful and interesting people that I may not have ever had the chance to run into. There we sat with him, hundreds of miles away from our hometown, the other towns we have lived in (such as Moscow, Idaho, and Boston, Massachusetts), with many friends and family scattered about. We were even an hour and a half drive from our home base away from home, Austin. We were both visitors to San Antonio and to Texas in a way (even after four years, I still don't feel like a true Texan). But what I felt in that moment was an immense sense of place, albeit a portable, nomadic sense of place, like something I could pack up and take with me. This, after all, was his space, the world he had created for himself, and we were invited to glimpse it and get comfortable in it, even for just a few hours.
I have felt this nomadic sense of place and belonging before, over the years of being invited into the worlds of many people out West, back East, and across the seas. We wave goodbye to them all eventually and head on down the road. But we never forget the glimpses, the snapshots we take for our memories, and the people woven into the fabric of our lives.
This evening I went for a jog along Town Lake, the section of the Colorado River that runs through the center of Austin. The immense amounts of rain we have been experiencing in Central Texas has caused all the waterways to swell, forcing the river authority to open the dams full-throttle. Our passive, mopey "river" has become a torrential deluge, charging with its army of white caps through the center of town. There is a point on the North side of the river path where the currents are at their peak (see above). It was there that my jogging feet this evening were hypnotized into a zombie-like stride toward the river's edge. I joined a small group of passersby, mesmerized as I was by the swells rarely seen in our fair city. I could tell everyone was caught in the middle of their usual Sunday evening activities - biking, jogging, strolling - when they stopped to see this strange occurrence taking place in their city.
Like a comet passing through the atmosphere, these waves were a fleeting site not to be missed. For those two minutes or so that I stood there, feeling my elevated heart rate slowing, I felt a connection with the strangers around me and to my city that I have loved for four years.
I am not saddened by these moments, or by saying goodbye to our friends in San Antonio, Austin, Idaho, or wherever we may drive away from in the future. For these are the gifts I have been given for leaping a bit farther from the nest than I could have, and keeping my heart open to anyone willing to answer my knock and invite me in.