The cycle trail sign points the way, blue signs with small orange triangles, until I reach the top of a lookout over mountain ranges and coast in Northern New Zealand.
The evening sun touches grass below, blue sky above, my bare arms at my sides as I pull over to take it all in, trading saddle for soft grass.
The sheeps graze onward, sharing an occasional glance as if to honor my humanness, and I, the same.
It all feels so familiar.
Yesterday it rained so hard that it flooded. And today the sun’s crescendoed from covered in thick clouds to an unstoppable illumination.
I’m brought back to a memory of a similar hilltop reflection at the top of the Pyrenees Mountains on the Camino de Santiago, dark rainclouds slowly rolling off tall peaks, my wet feet slowly moving forward with a heavy pack, undeterred by the rain, exhilarated by the beauty, slowly pilgrimaging on with dozens of sheep leading the way ahead, bah-ing by my side, dotting downward down the hill I just traversed.
I keep having these moments.
Where one experience brings me back to another.
Where a sign in New Zealand reading “Lassi: $3” reminds me of the cool, refreshing feeling as that creamy drink slides down my throat after 33 degree [celcius] runs in Kuala Lumpur.
Where these peaks here remind me of the peaks of Cat Ba National Park, the singing hills wanting to match the singing joy in my heart as I drove a motorcycle there for the first time in my life.
Where a conversation with one traveler reminds me of another with another, and I feel that familiar feeling as I think fondly of the traveler who made the biggest impact on my journey.
Where the history of oppression of the Maori reminds me of the oppression of the Australian aboriginals which reminds me of the oppression of Americans to the Vietnamese which reminds me there is not a country I’ve been to that hasn’t been the oppressed or the oppressor and that our oppressive histories of the world share a common story, each one having their own characters of differing hues and accents, who slowly learn to see each other’s humanity just enough to stop killing each other.
And seeing humanity reminds me that
this is all connected
And I grieve the people and places I miss and the passage of time and this damn beautiful lookout in which I am still sitting staring out at the sheep, feeling at though I’m on every one of these 19 countries I’ve been on, all at once, as though the shadows of the trees on this path are actually the shadows of all I’ve met along the way, all that I met before I left, somehow sojourning beside me in silence recognizing that there is so much going on here that we can’t explain- filled with a wonder that prevents us from ever daring to think we can fully understand this world, this beauty, the footprints and fingerprints of another.
Off in the distance, a sign points in cardinal directions the kilometers to reach cities in countries near and far.
Some read of places I’ve been, that bring me to some of these repeating memories.
Some read of places I thought I’d go, until visa troubles and life re-shaped my journey into one I never could have planned, but whose re-routed Plan B became entirely quintessential to this experience.
And still others read of places I will go- have tickets to, even.
And others of places I may never go- who knows?
So we travel.
Building memories upon memories.
Places upon places.
Meeting people who touch our lives, high five our hearts, and go onward.
And with those precious few, we hold on.
We become moved by beauty
Chasing mountains, waterfalls, rainforests, beaches
Get in sync with the cycles of the moon on trails
Get brave as we hike or camp or move about space alone
All the while carrying people and places in our heart
Until we climb a hilltop
And look out
And feel like we’ve been here before
Because we’re reminded of all those places, people.
Here in this imperfect present
In which I am missing
In which I am grieving
In which I still don’t know
In which it’s better not to know
In which places cross
And the world feels equally familiar and unfamiliar.
Emerson once said, “Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.”
I take only what my heart can carry- these memories
Of place to place to place to place
And the people, precious people, who colored this journey in vibrant hues
And put my feet in front of the other.
And slowly sojourn on.