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First, there were games of real-life, backyard Oregon Trail, packing “supplies” into a rusted red wagon and making my brother haul it through our suburban grass. Pretending to fall asleep in the car so I could be lifted into the house with my head on my dad’s shoulder, smelling aftershave and laundry detergent and a light sheen of sweat. Fruit roll-ups and sleepovers and plastic VHS cases, and a haze of invulnerability.  

Then there was a deep, thick coffee-bean smell and school-tired limbs stretched over fraying furniture. The thrill of the first movies and shopping trips and nights free of parents. Quizzing for AP History, the shape and sound and color of the country rushing past on textbook pages, scented with ink and tinny graphite. 

I’ve talked about this more than enough, but then the mountains were green, and I lived around other people, constantly, in the smallest places and somehow it opened my soul up wide. The roads circled in loops around the hills and the rain fell and it was good, so very good.

And then there was a new kind of smallness. A little town: one Main Street, coffee, Town Hall, sandwiches and potato salad in a dim storefront crowded with antiques. Politics on the small scale, which is to say, the smallest, fiercest political dance you can imagine. Sweetness I barely noticed until I left it.

Now there’s this city wreathed in trees, wracked with problems, and bursting with potential. I love being young and full of ideas in a place that still needs them. 

Sometimes, I dream of what’s next — of whatever‘s next, whether that’s living close enough to grab dinner at my parents’ house or a new city, new mountains yawning, new bustle and new blight. The next job. The next person. The next unexpected background dropping into place.

It is so hard to change seasons. 

But there is good — there is something so, so good — in all of them.

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