Addition and Preservation

In 2018, I went on a solo hiking trip to Moab, Utah. I went because at that moment in my life I needed to understand something about myself that I didn’t feel I could without it–something about the truth and validity of my personhood, something about who I was, which I hoped this new context would reveal. I hoped to come back with something clarified, maybe even affirmed.

That 2018 trip has become the biggest story I tell about myself, the one that I turn to when I’m trying to sum up my essential truth or be pithy about what makes me, me. Utah and the solo pilgrimage to it, first in 2018 and again in 2019, has become my heartbeat.

When Matt and I officially got together, it was 2019, the day before that year’s Utah trip. His texts traveled the miles with me to Utah but I was there alone, as in 2018, for many days of solo hikes through national parks. In 2020, Matt said to me, “I want to go to Utah with you.” He proffered this not as a demand but as a gesture–the sort of statement that says, This is important to you and I want to know about it, if I may. We arranged the trip for May.

That trip did not come to be. What did come was hours spent cancelling Air Bnb reservations and getting plane ticket vouchers, with the hope that we might reschedule for later in the year. With more than the hope–I said, “If I don’t have a Utah trip on the calendar, I’m going to crumble.” Heartbeat.

October, then–and the rescheduling allowed us a full two weeks, a luxury of time in Utah I’d never had. We’d go to ALL the national parks: Zion, then Bryce Canyon, then Capitol Reef (my first time there!), then over to Moab to Arches and Canyonlands.

We would see all the things I’d seen, and more.

And so as I sit here today thinking about additions I am thinking about that trip and what it meant to add not only a new iteration of past experiences to my memory but have that iteration be one that included another, making every same thing different by virtue of my companion status.

I like to believe this form of addition preserves the original numbers.

Today Matt and I completed our Utah national park collection by “picking up” Canyonlands. We’ve now hiked all five Utah parks and if I weren’t so tired I might say something about the unique personalities of each park, which would likely reveal more about my own personality and the various ways I’ve connected with each place than it would about the objective park experience. What I will say is that this visit to Canyonlands proved for me to be a repetition and and an extension: I showed Matt some trails and features I’d previously seen, and Matt being with me made it possible for us to conquer some steep trails I’d not been brave enough to tackle when I was here alone in 2018. The obvious virtues of partnership are not lost on me; I like to savor equally the memory of the woman who first had the idea to come here on her own and the reality of the one who can now experience an already beloved place differently.

– From my daily trip posts, October 2020

Today’s prompt: 2020 required us to both omit from and add to our lives, in both large and small ways. Write about one of those omissions or additions.

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