Relief. It’s the feeling that embraces me, comforts me, as I ascend the hill, pass through the gates. People whom I very much respect remain here. People who I suspect, despite my idiosyncrasies and my flamboyant flashes of weirdness, respect me too. People who have always embraced the overeager, odd child, and who I think always will.

Rosse Hall Angels, Kenyon

Embraces at airports now, rather than train stations. In Finland, it was always train stations. Now we’re meeting in the U.S. It has been four years, almost. Four years out of how long? Ten or so years, much of it spent across the world. But we watched each other develop through nerdom, music festivals, midsummers, stumbling down streets, stumbling through relationships, and settling.

I shove aside the ocean that normally separates us. I inwardly rebel at the circumstances of borders. But the if onlys do remain. If only distance was less.

Elina Tire Swinging, Kenyon

I was excited for months and months about Elina visiting. She would be with me for two whole weeks! Of course I would show her around my current part of the U.S. And of course I would show her Kenyon. It seemed only natural to show someone who has grown up in conjunction with me one of the places where I did a lot of growing. I wanted to take some of the important, understanding people in my life and say, “see? Here is one of you.”

Indeed, hanging out with my professors, Elina alongside me, felt perfectly natural, for these people long knew who I may become. Conversations were slipped into like there was no gap of time.

And yet. I was four years out. I don’t belong in this space anymore. I can visit, but I can’t live. Something is ajar. This is a place of the past, mostly inhabited by strangers. It is deceptively familiar, but my world there is gone. The people are forever for me, wherever they are now, here or elsewhere, but the place is not.

Flowers of Middle Path, Kenyon

It is nice to visit old places. To tramp these grounds, to see certain patches where the fabric of my life shifted into something new, unbeknownst at the time, but utterly proven by now. At this picnic table a shadow was left on my mind. It was on this tire swing that I spun around, my younger self hurled and tossed like I was nothing. This patch of grass held me as I was told I was fine, don’t worry. On this bench my life as it is now began to delicately take shape. But it is the people who truly remain, who stretch past space. They’re what is still with me, by my side, somewhere.

Bench by Ascension, Kenyon

So, I’ve learned: it’s not a place, as wondrous and beautiful as it can be, that is important. It’s always the people. Places alone don’t teach you anything. They leave imprints, but not knowledge. People teach. People support.

I crossed half of a goal off my year’s list. Finland is the other possible half. But, it’s not just Finland itself. It’s Finland and the people there. It’s what I can further experience there, not what I have already done. Move forward.

Friends, mentors, until again. You carry me and push me forward still, irrespective of place, or space.

Kokosing Gap Trail

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