Ten years ago in Mexico, I sat beside my best friend in the backseat of a crowded van watching the mountains of Querétaro as we drove further and further away. That is when I learned that the more distant mountains become, the more they grow. They do not recede into the distance or dwindle away: first they grow, swelling to fill the horizon and tower above cities, and it is a very long time before they return to their normal proportions, even longer before they begin to shrink.
It was a trick of perspective: my best friend and I were facing backwards as we drove out of Querétaro, and the drive was uphill so that with each mile more and more of the city fell behind, revealing more and more of the mountains it had hid. But even knowing that it was an illusion, that is how I think of Querétaro to this day: the mountains growing even as we left them behind.
That is the only time I have ever seen that happen, and yet I think it has always been true for me. I have not been to Colorado in 8 years, but I spent most of my childhood summers on vacation there visiting my father’s family and exploring Estes Park. We also occasionally vacationed elsewhere: Disneyland and Disney World, Corpus Christi–so I’ve been to the beach, Atlantic and Pacific, plus the Gulf of Mexico. I love sun and sand, swimming, sand castles, starfish and seashells and rare sand dollars.
But the beaches dwindle in my memory the more the years pass, while the mountains–they are always growing, looming larger than life across my past. The mountains are where my father came from, the things he loved, the things he taught me to love. They are the chipmunks I fed by hand in Estes Park, walking in the tundra of Pikes Peak, hiking to Glacier Lake for a picnic; the bright colors of Querétaro that seared Mexico into my heart like a brand; the first things I came to love about living in the Inland Northwest–still something of a struggle after all these years. More than anywhere else, they are my solace.
And way up north in Republic, there is a graveyard on the edge of a mountain that overlooks a valley ringed by more mountains. I first saw it months ago, at the beginning of Spring, and then again a couple of weeks ago. Those mountains are growing on me even though I am far away from them now, and I know I will have to visit them again soon, as I must always return to the places my heart recognizes as home.