Connection to Place

Traveling back to school, navigating airports and delayed flights, always seems to kick-start the inevitable rush of being back. Running to gates and staring out the window of the plane as the sun starts to fade below the clouds are the first steps to finally putting off studying and bumping into friends around campus. There’s something relaxing in the familiarity of it all, something that keeps me up a little bit later the night before the flight.

It’s always a hassle though. I fly out of one small airport that has one gate and one rickety plane that sounds so loud that it must not be good. are you sure this is safe??? to San Francisco, with foggy skies and a multitude of delays. I came prepared this time, though. A half-knitted scarf; a book I had barely started*; podcasts I had yet to listen to**; and a lunchbox filled with an assortment of snacks.

I found myself talking to the guy sitting next to me. We had both been staring down the aisle, watching the flight attendant fiddle with bags. She opened up an overhead bin to tuck a strap into it. By the time she managed to close it, the fabric had fallen out again. I glanced at him: “Did you see…”

He grinned and nodded, “I’m glad someone else caught that.”

The plane started moving along the runway and we settled into an amicable silence. The plane stopped. The lights went off. A static voice came on the speaker and said that there was some sort of technically difficulty. They were working on it. We would just have to wait a bit. The lights would come on in a minute.

“How long do you think it’ll take us to get to Seattle?” he asked.

“I feel like we’ll be there within five hours.”

He informed me that I jinxed us and if we didn’t make it there it’d definitely be my fault. We fell into a steady rhythm of asking each other questions. His name was Lenny, a nurse living in southern California. He traveled to Thailand, worked in fly fishing for years, and was visiting his brother’s eight-month-old son. In turn, I told him about my inability to walk on flat surfaces, that I like my tea with no milk or sugar, and when I was little I wanted to be both a princess and an astronaut.

We had fallen back into silence when he asked me what my favorite place in the world is. Numerous places fell into my mind, places that give me the feeling I get when I’m sitting up late at night talking to friends and when I stand overlooking the Sound and I feel connected to everything.

“There’s this place, about forty-five minutes from my house. Off of an old highway, a few miles down from the campground I’ve been going to since I was five. The campground where I read Harry Potter; sat cross-legged in the entry kiosk talking to the camp ranger; swung from a rope swing and cannon-balled into the river. A few miles down there’s this small-loop trail, carved between a forest-floor of redwood sorrel and ferns that stretch up to my chin.

“Part of Star Wars Return of the Jedi was filmed there and there’s this tree trunk with its root structure spanning fifteen feet high. Off of the main path there is a smaller grove within the grove. There’s a sole big leaf maple tree with moss growing up the side of the trunk. A green glow is cast on everything and I can’t define exactly what it is but it’s something.”

I haven’t been to Cheetham Grove in months, but I still feel a connection to the place. I think that’s how I’ll feel about Puget Sound after I graduate. Even when I’m not on campus, I’ll still feel a part of something greater.

cheetham grove

The big leaf maple tree in Cheetham Grove, December 2014.

*The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

**Dear Hank & John, Filler Podcast, and the Mortified Podcast.