M and I were both afflicted, as midwesterners, by birth, with a thirst for what Chiura Obata called Great Nature. It took over a decade of our adult lives and residences in a fists-worth of name brand destination towns for that thirst for novelty and spectacle to settle, and for us to put more time into appreciating the larger neighborhood. The last two years have made that more accessible, Helena being our least renowned and, in a two hour radius, most un(publically)explored of our home towns.
Intimacy lessens the need for spectacle, but after a time habit can only be cracked by the heat of novelty.
So we enjoyed North Idaho and Central Washington, where the trees are stately and comingle, cedar and ponderosa and fir and cottonwood all harmonious in height and girth along the same river or pond. A cathedral of verdure which prompts at once the leisure of a timescale beyond our comprehension, and an anxiety on considering how close so many other forests might have been, elsewhere, in places where the march to the anthropocene was in circumstance more hurried and definitive.
This is why there is such a hunger for The West, and perhaps the main reason why US national parks continue to grow so starkly in popularity when so many factors, crowding and expense, would push against them being so: people want to feel small. Inarguably small. There is majesty in Iowa skies rolling September gold beyond all horizons, but that majesty is cut within four corners framed by humanity and human exploit. And thus, because we don’t want to be members of our own club, not to trusted.
After his first trip to the Sierra high country Obata wrote that “It evoked in me the days of the gods.” No atheist who has been acquainted with August hail, or with miles who refuse on the way back to shrink, can argue with this. And so, it is periodically important to go somewhere new, where new mosses grow on familiar trees, where rivers carve new rock, where hills heave to different rhythms. To relearn things sedimented over by routine.