Shelf Life


Every summer, like clock-work, I find myself desperate to travel more. Maybe it’s the warmer climes that make my blood rise and stir up some crazy in all of us, but I simply can’t help but crave a bit more adventure. Luckily, this feeling will not be ignored. It gnaws and pokes at me in earnest, whispering over and over again, “just go”. During this time I gaze a few moments longer at photos of exotic places, check flight prices incessantly—”just in case”—and start to dream up a new life somewhere else, where maybe I’d ride an elephant to work instead of a car. 


As far-flung an idea and foolish some of these thoughts may be (or maybe not; I’ll let you decide), it doesn’t distract from the knowledge that if I ignore these curiosities then I’ll be ignoring myself. And if I’m ignoring myself, I’ll go bat-shit crazy. Who wants that?

My grandfather gave me this photo of my mom not too long ago, which he took of her in 1980. She was 19 years-old and on the way to drop my uncle off at the Air Force Academy in Colorado from New Jersey. When I held that old, grainy photo in my hands my heart skipped a beat. There my mother stands barefoot in the desert, holding one hand up to shield her eyes from the sun as she looks out into the distance. She stands tall, hip cocked out to one side, looking as confident and at home as a captain standing on the deck of his ship reading the quiet patterns of the sea. Maybe it was just the artistic eye of my talented grandfather, but she seemed to fit perfectly into the sparse desert scene despite how out of place she actually was.


This picture captures a moment so picturesque and so full of possibility that it takes my breath away. That it’s my mother in the photo only makes it that much more treasurable. As soon as I got home, I felt this urgent need to frame it and place it up high somewhere so she could continue to look out in to the horizon. I got a shelf, set it up, and placed it purposefully alongside a handful of other meaningful momentos where I could memorialize this photo in a way that made it special—so that it stood out, like it did when I first saw it. I think that I acted in this way in large part to preserve something I didn’t even know existed in the most beautiful and eloquent way I could, but also to instill this quality and way of being into myself and my every day. To remind me to never stop searching and looking ahead; to take your shoes off and stand in the middle of the desert; and if you’re surrounded by so much beauty that you can hardly see, then surely, you are in the right place.


Additional Reading:
“I think anybody who travels knows that you’re not really doing so in order to move around — you’re traveling in order to be moved.”Pico Iyer, “The Art of Stillness”, via On Being

“It’s knowing where to go without knowing where it’ll lead me. And having peace whichever way.”Celeste Noche, “Hello from New York”, via Wanderlogue

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Green living and lifestyle writer. Blogger at The Basic Goods. People person.

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