No Place Like Somewhere


I opened the front door yesterday morning, like the fool that I am, and this is what I saw. On the day after Easter, the second day of April, something like the 12th day of spring...I think all points have been made here.

It wasn't what it might look like. That's mostly graupel, little pellets of ice and maybe some frost. Maybe a few flakes. We got our share of snow that night, but a bit higher up in elevation. The mountain passes were awful, with lots of accidents and a horrible fatality, even.

I'm less than an hour from both of those passes, by the way, and even though I'm about 2 miles from the Sound (it's literally at the end of the block), we sit at about 700 feet above sea level. We sometimes get weirder weather.

We live in a convergence zone, which, speaking of weird--these form almost directly over my house, it seems, and are the result of topography. I live between two big mountain ranges, obviously.

Is it? I have no idea. It does seem as though a lot of people are unfamiliar with my neck of the woods, which makes sense: I can get lost east of the Rockies, easily.

I've been taking this quiz once a day, a geography test that's harder than it sounds. I usually do it just before bed, sort of a wind-down, and it involves picking U.S. states off one by one. If you make a mistake, the game's over. If you pick the right (unlabeled but with borders) one, it disappears. If the randomization is particularly nasty, you really have to know the geography. I have lots of problems with Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, for some reason. I don't think I've won this game yet; my high score is maybe 47/50. It's a harsh thing with no room for error.


I wasn't always this wild about geography. I distinctly remember the days of playing Trivial Pursuit in its heyday, back in the early to mid-1980s. I hated geography then, trying to figure out where the Danube was.

But the internet came along, with satellite imagery, and one day I realized I could wander the world click by click. I was fascinated and played with maps for hours, and it stuck.


I started to fix this picture, blend in the faded/scratched paint from where the door bangs into the wall (my son enters this room like Kramer in Seinfeld), the dust, etc., but my interest dwindled pretty quickly. This is taken from my chair, and you can see the elements of my personal geography. That's an old map of the Lewis & Clarke route with the Corps of Discovery hanging on the wall, just above the globe (and to the right of my grandson's artwork). I have an interest.

It's mostly daydreaming, too. Maybe that's why I'm a little shaky on my own country, and more familiar with the general layout of South America, or Europe. The Lower 48 are accessible; maybe I figure it'll always be there for exploring when I have the chance. I'm not likely to get to Slovenia in this lifetime.

I think about Slovenia a lot, BTW. That whole area at the northern tip of the Adriatic, where Italy gets weird and where, I firmly believe, trolls, ogres and giants live. For some reason.

I don't really daydream about Maine that way. I've never been further north than Massachusetts in New England, and I don't know what the chances are, but it's more likely than the Land of the Giants.

I've also never been to Florida, although I have no desire when it comes to that. I've driven through the rest of the South, Southwest, West, and a chunk of the middle. I'd like to make a pilgrimage to Iowa to see the Field of Dreams place. I wouldn't mind driving from, say, Texas straight up to North Dakota, with some side trips. I'm completely unfamiliar with the Great Plains and I'd like to be familiar, please.


I'm just not much of a traveler, so this is mostly vicarious. Some of you, maybe most, are far more worldly, and while I envy this a bit, I do get a lot of enjoyment out of my little late-night fantasies of far-off places.

And most of my desires end up in my ancestral home, northern Europe. I can trace my family in North America back into colonial days, so I'm playing fast and loose with ancestral (and not going back to Africa and Persia, obviously).

But our dream trip involves Scotland. Ideally, it would be all the UK, from Wales north, and with time and money Scandinavia and maybe even Estonia (I love Estonia, or the idea of it). The land of the Ice People, then. My peoples.

Not Ireland so much, dunno. I can spin fantasies involving North Africa, too, and Chile, Slovakia, the Caribbean...what's up with Lichtenstein? I'd go there. Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg. Over to Vampireville (Hungary, Romania, etc.), maybe. Malta--how did humans end up there. I've got questions with my maps.


But I know where home is. My family was part of the westward migration in this country in the first few decades of the 20th century, from Alabama and Georgia and New England and Texas to Arizona and ultimately California, and now up here in the Northwest.  This area resonates with my soul, somehow, and I'm always ready to come home. Virtual wandering or IRL, I always come back. We have no ogres or trolls, just trees and mountains, but it feels right. Balanced. Where I should be.

We do have Bigfoot, though. And Ichiro. And graupel in April, which is still weird.

Chuck Sigars1 Comment