Any time you’re away from a place for an extended period of time, you take a good hard look at it when you return.
Sister Jo and I returned to Kalispell Monday. Given my poor eyesight, it generally takes me a bit longer to pick up on changes along city streets. This time I didn’t have any difficulty spotting some of the changes.
Our list of notations began before we arrived in Kalispell. They started along the I-90 from the Idaho state line. The high north-country had moved from winter’s grip into its other season—construction.
By the time we entered Kalispell we were mentally prepared for other observations to add to our list of changes.
A car dealership gone from one street, a new building going up on another, the new highway bypass opened up with the requisite stoplight all made for immediate notation. Work begun on the perimeter of the apartment complex parking lot in December had begun again this past week. Winter hiatus was finished evidently.
There were small signs of change everywhere.
One of the things we had to get accustomed to on the road was the fact that change happens quickly, though some flavors linger over distance. We recognized the fact that we constantly remembered certain aspects of the places we left behind. It takes little to recall a place that has affected us in some way. The result is an automatic comparison to where we are now and an evaluation of which is better and why.
The funny part is that even little kids do this “I remember when… and it was… I think I liked it better then.”
So it has been for us throughout our trip. When we returned to Montana, we got to do it again but with many more comparisons. We had all of that knowledge from our previous life here and all that we’d experienced while on the road. I’ve noticed that it makes for a heady combination.
How does one compare the Redwoods with Glacier Park? Which is better—a beach or lakeside? Is there a better?
You see the difficulty, I’m sure. I find myself trying to decide where we found the best food, or whether the people here are as friendly and helpful as those we found in Tennessee, or if I’ll be able to find pine needles here as long as the ones I found in Idaho to make my pine-needle baskets.
On top of all that is the knowledge that we get to travel this mental road every day we work on our book. I have this virtual picture of us sitting around our work area doing an imitation of “This Is Your Life” and arguing about the virtues of each place and how it affected us and why or just what happened at that convenience store we patronized at that last little beach town along the Oregon coast.
I’ve already begun the comparisons. In the end that is part of this process that we must go through in order to put together our thoughts for our book. They are necessary for the writing and the layout design.
I wonder, though, if we all don’t continually write our lives’ books from those small, silent comparisons of things seen, conversations voiced, and people known. Are we, when all is said and done, merely a compilation of comparisons from our years of life?
I know that memoirs are something we all have. The question is—do they make us what we are? You tell me.