There is a shift that happens when one leaves and returns, especially when that space is over the span of a year around the world. Some of the friends you missed so much still seem far away during first conversations. You become a short-lived novelty, a talking point that lasts for an intro and then it’s back to the latest local gossip or next best thing on Netflix.
After wandering the world for a year, I yearned for home. The one place that tugged on my heart strings most was Mackinac Island and I planned a trip there months before I returned to Michigan. I have never lived there and the only thing it houses are memories. This magic island however, encapsulates the things I love most about the USA and the state I grew up in. It is a perfect slice of American pie that satisfies a soul searching hunger in me every time I return.
The small Alaskan town of Petersburg is a place where time is told by the tides. High and low will let you know when you can come and when to go. Water winds its way through the land from the narrow sloughs out to the sea where the latest catch is being brought home. A rain forest rests along these shores with lime-green lichen coating wet, dark stumps on shady paths. The contrast of color makes green life glow in the dim light that filters through endless tiers of hemlock branches. Moss grows thick underfoot and if you aren’t careful you might just lose yourself to the quiet.
There is a place of salt and water, age and algae called Mono Lake in California. It’s a place of strange shapes formed from mixing calcium and carbonate. Over the years, towers formed called tufa. Tan spires of all shapes and sizes bloom under the water’s surface and older ones fill the shoreline.
I thought I didn’t have a favorite place on my trip. Well, not a clear winner as there have been many beautiful places I’ve visited that I call favorites. Sitting on a boulder on the edge of Glacier Point in Yosemite changed that. A girl I met here, Lauren, compared Glacier Point to the Grand Canyon and now I see why. It opens up before you like a big mystery revealed.
One morning in Kyoto, I set out to explore the famous torii of Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine. I woke at 5am and put my body on auto pilot, following my phone’s directions to the nearest station that headed there. Few people stood on the platform as the melodic chimes signaling a train approaching rang out. I boarded and sat alone on a bench as I watched the skyline of the city fly by in the morning light. Blocks of cream and blue blurred by as my gaze lost focus in my sleepy mood.
One rainy day in Japan, I became a ghost of white from another time. I floated through sliding doors and knelt in layers of red silk with a small smile on lips of the same color. I held a fan up delicately into the air and gazed out the window at the rainy sky of Kyoto. When one thinks of Geisha, an era of times past comes to mind and yet the tradition lives on here still. Geisha are the embodiment of Japan.
When I was a child, my parents gave me a small porcelain statue of a geisha. It belonged to my father’s mother who passed away before I could form a memory of her. The statue was all white with pale blue and pink markings. The geisha knelt with a small drum beside her as if she were about to play it. Her hair curved high above her head in a beautiful sweep and a small dab of color formed tiny heart shaped lips on her face. That one impression of a beautiful culture so different than my own, planted a seed in my child’s heart, growing a love for all things Japanese.
Long ago in Japan, a deity appeared on Mt. Mikasa riding a white deer. For centuries after his visit, deer were seen as messengers of the gods and to this day are protected under a national treasure status. Nara is the present day area where these once sacred creatures roam.
I arrived in the mighty metropolis of Tokyo after a sleepless ten hour flight from Australia. Dazed by the bright morning light, I heaved my bags through a sea foreign faces. Unknown to me, I was walking into a spring holiday and people had flocked to the Asukasa area to celebrate. It was one of those rare, first warm days where everyone feels the need to escape outside. The change of season finally sets people free from winter’s cold confinement.