A Sense of Place

  • June 24, 2017
  • Posted by Mark Strayer

I moved out of my apartment on May 10th, 2017. On May 11th, I packed my car, picked up a friend and two near-strangers from Madison, WI, and started the drive out to Seattle, WA. Along the way, we visited lots of places, places that all have their own stories. Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The embattled Missouri River. A gas station in Snoqualmie, WA with to-die-for tamales. I knelt and cried at the 2200 mile marker on the Pacific Crest Trail, the trail still covered in seven feet of snow.

When we arrived in Seattle, already dirty and smelly from hiking and being on the road, we were greeted by a city of incredible diversity and warmth. We felt at once at home in Pike Place Market, a phenomenon reminiscent of the weekend Dane County Farmer’s Market in Madison. We were welcomed into our host’s home with open arms, hot spaghetti, a treat after days of road food, and with greetings from our seven friends who flew out to join us on a backcountry trip to Olympic National Park.

After the trip, it was time for our band of 11 to part ways, and our motley crew of four was soon down to three, after one was dropped off at her friend’s dorm for an extended stay in Seattle. The last three had a final somber trip to Pike Place, to the Three Sisters Bakery, for breakfast, before the crew became two, as another was dropped off with his host. Our little sense of place, our little home founded by our bonds, was eroded.

My sense of place was erased totally when I parted ways with my last friend at the train depot in Whitefish. I was being relegated to homelessness, feeling abandoned in a place wholly unfamiliar - the Flathead Valley - two days before I started my term of service with the Montana Conservation Corps. I was adrift. Placeless.

Making a new home, finding your place in an old place new to you, is something worth experiencing in life. I still haven’t found my place here in Montana, but after a month and two days of service, I finally feel the pieces coming together. My crew is finding an identity, and I’m finding people that I already know I will miss dearly on my departure. To those people, and to the people already on extended hitches in the Bob - may we each find our places, but may our paths yet cross again.


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