Wonder

“Have you forgotten the absolute wonder of flight? The absolute wonder of the world?”

Those two questions I asked on Instagram accompanied by a picture of the Tennessee River snaking through the countryside just after dawn, taken from the window of my flight to Minneapolis. It’s easy to forget the spectacular when you’re surrounded by it every day. Re-orienting and gaining a new perspective is vital to keep the wonder alive. I am terrible at this.

I love airports. There is an obvious connection to a complete lack of business travel in my world. I hear they become much more of a chore when connected to work. But for me? They’re gateways of promise and connection. A new location—or an old favorite. Old friends—or the surprise acquaintances you’ll make along the way. It’s easy to achieve wonder when you’re in someplace new or rediscovered. It takes a lot more work in the comforts of home.

I’m out in Oregon visiting friends from Italy. Leo summed it up nicely, “It’s weird to see you in America.” Our entire friendship to this point had been in the shadow of the Dolomite Alps. Now, almost eight thousand miles away in the valley of the Cascades, it’s an easy reminder that location doesn’t define the friendships that matter. Though, jury is still out on whether sprawling mountain-scapes do affect this one. Tough to call, pretty to look at, though.

I’ve come into his and his wife Beth’s home—and their one-year-old son—and am stepping into life alongside of them for a week. Their routine isn’t changing for me. In a lot of ways, it’s business as usual. But I’m caught up in the beauty of the mountains they see every day. Their downtown where they walk every day, the storefronts catch my attention with unique, local artisan crafts so different yet similar from my life in the Appalachians.

That’s why travel is important: it connects something thousands of miles away to your daily life. We are all human, and the world is wonderful vibrant connected place.

When my friend Lia got back from over a year in Italy, her first reaction to the South was, “I forgot about all of the trees.” When I got back to Italy after a two-year absence, I looked at a menu and said, “I forgot about café ginseng!” (And ordered two.) It makes sense that we forget about the places far from us. It doesn’t make sense how often we forget about the things we see every day.

I’ve wandered downtown Knoxville quite a few time recently due to some random happenstances. There are new parts of campus I’ve seen, some amazing sunsets, and some new restaurants that I would love the income to try one day. There’s a new concert venue. There’s new microbreweries and distilleries and art galleries and all these very cool things around Knoxville that I just don’t (can’t afford to?) do. There’s also countless hiking trails, waterfalls, icy creeks, lakes and rivers, vineyards, and Dollywood. Yes, in East Tennessee, Dolly Parton is a part of the natural landscape. She is a queen and will be treated as such.

In leaving home, I was able to look down on it and be reminded that to most people in America, East Tennessee is quite the amazing place. It’s hard to find the wonder within the location of where most of your depression and darkness has happened. But it would be irresponsible to suggest it’s not there, and even more so to suggest it’s not worth finding. Now if only I can eventually get around to putting in the leg work.

There’s a free art museum downtown I’ve never been to, so maybe that’s a good place to start once I get back.

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