Put a 5-year-old on a beach with his mother, and he will spend some large part of his time picking up shells, one by one, over and over, running them back to her, proclaiming in awe and delight, “Mommy, look at THIS one!”
You find a great new eating place, you go back and TELL everybody. You discover a beautiful little waterfall on a hike, you take pictures and go back and SHOW people. You hear some juicy, or sad, or amazing, bit of news, your first impulse is to find a friend and SHARE it
So there are some things I’d like to take home. Things I’ve done. Things I’ve seen. Things I’ve discovered, out here in the wide world.
And though I don’t exactly think of the place I came from — that house, that neighborhood, that school, that town — as Home anymore, there are people back there who are home-y, and whom I’d enjoy sharing things with.
Because I’ve seen so much.
I don’t doubt that every person back there, and every person reading this, has lived a life as rich and full as mine is to me. But I’ll bet there are some things, maybe even a lot of things, that I’ve done that none of them have experienced. Because I left home, made my way in a somewhat larger world than the one we all grew up in, while some of them are still living right there, right in their home neighborhoods, right in the same part of town. With those same middle-class, white, Christian, English-speaking, Houston, Texas, CITY people.
Hey, I grew up with people who’d never been on a plane before. People who would never get on one. People who thought (think?) wildlife is for shooting, and nothing else. People who thought tacos were exotic foreign food. People who thought tea came in one style – iced – and to whom the very idea of hot tea was silly and foreign.
So here are some things I’d like to take Home and share with my people:
Sushi. Lagavulin single-malt scotch and George Dickel whiskey. A sip of apricot brandy after dinner.
Sitting in a natural hot spring and watching the full moon rise. Seeing the Great Sky River from the slopes of a 10,000-foot mountain. Lying on rocks at Yosemite National Park and watching a meteor shower. Walking outside and seeing the Aurora Borealis overhead, shimmering, flickering, dancing in the night sky. Rainbow rings around the full moon. Sunrise over the mountains. Sunset over the ocean.
Coyote song. The distant music of the bull elk. The roar of an African lion. The unearthly call of a mountain lion in the night. The bark of a red fox. The quork of a raven. The group howl of a pack of sled dogs under the full moon. The sight of a pika with a mouthful of harvested grass. The slick feel of a dolphin’s skin, and the pebble-grain roughness of a grizzly’s paw. The boom of a blue grouse taking flight overhead.
The smell of a Jeffrey pine. The crisp scent of falling snow. The smell of rain on mountain trail dust. The taste of water cupped from a trailside creek.
Bathing in an ice-cold mountain waterfall on a hot summer day. The view from 3,000 feet, under a parachute. The sound of the wind against the skin of a sailplane. The feel of a steady trail horse under you, patiently plodding along, and the view as you crest a rocky pass and see a mountain lake spread out below you. Waking to pre-dawn firelight, and coffee, and camaraderie on a wilderness horseback expedition. The feel of bone-deep weariness as a day of ranch work ends. The splashy spectacle of a mountain-bred rainbow trout snatching a fly from the surface of a creek, and the taste of it minutes later fresh from a campfire frying pan.
The rush and thunder of a wild river under a rubber raft. The this-is-where-I-belong comfort of a mountain hike with two good dogs.
You people back home, I know you’d love all this stuff. Oh, it might take an effort to get you to try sushi, but if you did try it, I’ll bet you’d like it. The rest of that stuff, even if you never get to do it, I could describe it to you, and if you’d listen, you could enjoy it vicariously.
There’s one thing more I wish I could bring home to you. Something I know most of you wouldn’t believe, wouldn’t accept. But if you trust me just a little bit, if you find any of the rest of this stuff interesting, or alluring, or just thought-provoking, I promise you this thing is a LOT better. Or at least as good.
It’s just this: The freedom you feel when you break away from religion. The cool comfort you get when you understand that the entire world is this honest, trick-free place with no hidden powers, no demons, no eternal torment. The fact that the only person in your head is you, and you can think anything you want; there is no lightning-wreathed fist waiting to smash you for your independent, irreligious thoughts. That there is no such thing as SIN, and that WE get to decide how to be good. That church-inspired charity – bargaining chips for your own selfish eternity – can be replaced by acts sparked by true compassion. That you can put the Bible down and never again worry about what it says … about anything.
That evolution is real, that we are risen apes, kin to every other lifeform on the planet – every bonobo and bear, every redwood and rhino, every dolphin and dingo and dragonfly – and that there is warm, radiant glory in knowing that.
That the fate of our neighbors, and ourselves, and our planet, is in OUR hands, and not those of some disembodied supernatural superbeing.
If I could bring that home to you …
It would be the best Christmas ever.