In the next few days or weeks, many of you are going to be arriving at a brand new place, setting off on a new adventure, a new experience, a new chapter in life. When you hop off the bus, step out of your car, or walk out of the airport, the air may feel a bit crisper than where you just came from – cooler, cleaner, brimming with the electric excitement of discovering new sights, new friends, a new home. We know this feeling well, which is why this time of year is our favorite.
My seasonal years were spent in the Tetons, and even over a decade later, every single time I smell snowbrush (Ceanothus velutinus) on the trail, I’m immediately ushered back to my first season, my first stroll out to the Phelps Lake jumping rock, where I spent the night with brand new friends, jumping into the absurdly cold water, singing songs, howling at the moon, and generally being terrible campsite neighbors. You’re only 23 once, right? I like to think that grey-haired future me will be able to crack a smile when I’m out in the backcountry and can’t get any sleep because the 23 year olds in the next site are having too much fun. It makes me smile to think of it now, because a future where 23 year olds are still excited to head in to the backcountry is one that makes me hopeful.
It isn’t just the smells that elicit such vivid recall. Flipping through those old pictures, I can still feel how the air temperature dropped dramatically as a thunderstorm formed out of nothing on our hike out to Heart Lake, how the backs of my legs slightly deadened as I peered over a sheer drop-off near the top of Mount St. John, how my breath shortened and the smile spread across my face as I drove over Togwotee Pass after a long slog from the east coast and saw those magnificent mountains for the first time. We all have those images stored away like bookmarks tagged to our strongest memories.
|The sounds take me back, too. We all have those songs that make us remember. That one song that you listened to on full blast repeatedly during your maiden voyage to your new great place. The anthem that the cool EDR staffer would crank up and belt along to every time it came on, the beloved campfire song requested of whoever brought the guitar along on the work night camping trips, or that tune that the kitchen crew would blast early in the morning to get geared up for another onslaught of orders as an endless stream of vacationers and tourists came pouring through the doors. Those songs stitch together a unique collection that will be yours forever – the soundtrack of your summer! |
You are setting out on what could be a single season adventure, or a fork in the road that will dramatically alter the rest of your life. But don’t let the future claim possession of your focus right now. You only get to experience a new place for the first time once. The person you are at this moment right now will be a changed person before you realize where the season went, and this moment will pass from a tangible experience to – hopefully – a cherished memory and the first line of one your favorite stories. You only get to hold this moment once. Savor it.