Where-Ness

A while back after my boss returned from sabbatical in Europe, we had a conversation about the thing we really remember and hope for from a trip. Those encounters of “where-ness.” This has nothing to do with all the stuff you saw or plans you made, but rather a single experience—often just a flash—where you felt like you were an authentic part of a place.

He told of a sunset walk through Madrid with his wife, the air all warm and glowy pink, when they sauntered into a medieval square and were greeted by the student choir sitting on the fountain steps singing “Hey Jude.” The tune rose and fell as the pigeons flapped for scraps, and people milled around in a relaxed fashion—on their way home from work or out for an aperitif.

This moment had a live-in magic, and he thought he might remember it forever—or for a long time at least, long after he forgot the train rides and museums tickets.

It got me to thinking about trips of my own. What were the highlights? The squishy candy middles?

My rally through Canada last summer was full of them. Like: our first morning in Nelson—a laidback mountain town on a cold-water lake. My old friend Mark who lives in Nelson advised us on a morning wander. “Hike up the Pulpit early before it gets too hot,” he told us and we listened. Straight from the café with paper cups of dark roast still in our hands, we began our ascent on a morning of dazzling heat and beauty. The trail to the Pulpit—a big rock looming on high over the town and lake—was essentially just a steep set of stairs carved into a plummeting hillside. We climbed and climbed. Soon we were high on caffeine and lung-fulls of warm, tree-scented air. I nabbed a sweet, mealy saskatoon berry and popped it in my mouth. The temperature rose. We sweated into our tee shirts. Less than an hour later, we emerged onto the precarious sun-washed rock AKA my forever happy place. Overhead, bluer than blue sky. To either horizon, steep green valleys. Directly below, the city and of course the lake—calling us back down for an afternoon swim.

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