Reading Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, I’m lost in a sea of seeing. It’s a pleasant sort of lost. A place to go when I’ve no interest in being found because I’ve already discovered everything I was looking for, and everything I didn’t realize I needed. Words uttered in soft twilight against my cheek sitting quietly on the bottom of a creek bed. Sentences shouted against the solid sides of mountains loyally limping alongside me, floating behind my eyes like tiny fireflies twinkling as we trek down switchbacks my legs have been memorizing when I was too busy breathing to notice, fire trickling eerily and insouciant down a nearby hillside.
It’s all here. It’s always been here.
In chapter two, appropriately titled “Seeing,” Dillard talks about a childhood proclivity for leaving gleaming pennies for strangers to find, often with chalk-drawn notes and arrows leading the way to said gifted treasure. She talks about the power of cultivating a “healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day” and how, once properly done, you’ll find gleaming pennies planted the world-over. Each day a gift. Each day rife with treasures ripe for the finding.
As she wrote, and as so many others before her have, too: “What you see is what you get.” It really is that simple. And that complex.
The trick is in the looking. In the being there, wherever “there” is for you. It is, Dillard maintains, our “original intent…to explore the neighborhood, view the landscape, to discover at least where it is we have been so startlingly set down, if we can’t learn why.”
I delight in this sort of homeland detective work. It’s what being outside-and, especially-what trail running is to me. What it is to us. To know a place because our feet have merrily and determinedly trod upon it. To participate in the sacristy of miles of trials and trials of miles. To stumble upon an alpine meadow only seen by four sets of eyes all summer. To watch a sunrise soak the sky with light as our legs are climbing higher and higher still, our heads careening through clouds littered with soft pinks and oranges. To be overcome with a quiet awe as we fly underneath trees older than we’ll ever be. To know a trail, a forest, the contours of a valley because we’ve heaped our breath upon it, mixed our sweat with the scent of sagebrush, fir, and alpine tamarack, left our blood alongside coyote tracks and bear scat.
In the aforementioned passage Dillard is of course discussing the metaphorical “why” with regard to individual and universal existence. As to why I’m here, sitting next to the unequivocal love of my life in this perfect-for-us house in this dynamic valley flanked on all sides by gorgeous foothills, I know exactly.
I’m here because I said yes. First to a hike in unexplored backyard trails two Junes ago. Then, more than seven hours later, to sharing fish tacos and beers and more of our respective stories. I’m here because he said yes to one more day, and we both said yes to daily conversation and story-sharing, and to a combined road-trip back from beloved twin cities. I’m here because our lives began to weave themselves together from that first conversation, even as we initially weren’t really paying any attention, were only ever enjoying each other’s company, basking in the beauty that was easy conversation and easy laughter and time evaporation whenever we occupied the same physical space, and even when we didn’t.
I’m here because I kept saying yes, to invites to stay another day, a few more hours, to visit for Thanksgiving and, ultimately: to stay.
What I’ve found here has been staggering, overwhelming in the best of all ways. I’ve found joy, daily. The kind that sticks to your bones, makes you want to run home, to share your every moment with someone who makes you better, stronger, faster, wiser. Someone who makes you laugh down to your toes. I’ve found hope, both quiet and still and loud and brazen, rushing at me from all sides, seeking to seemingly drown me in happiness.
I’ve found peace and progress and forward-thinking and wisdom garnered from experience and from books and from deep thinking, writing, ever more reading. I’ve found chosen family, growing together like groves of wise and exuberant trees. I’ve found mountains. Every day I wake and see mountains looming stunningly in the distance, foothills rising on my immediate horizon, daily donning magnificent wintry shades. I wake and I ogle and I am overwhelmed with gratitude for all that my life is and all that it is yet to be.
I’ve this ring on my finger now. Simple and silver and featuring a tiny knot on the top in the shape of an infinity symbol. A placeholder of sorts for a ring being made, this one equally simple, hand-carved from a Koa tree.
Because, see, what I’m really trying to tell you is:
Over Curdsmas Break Matt asked me the best of all questions. And I, being madly and unendingly in love with him, of course said yes, am still saying yes, actually, as he’s resolved to perpetually ask me until our rings arrive. As he so perfectly put it: “Kerri Anne said she’d give me forever.” I did. And I will, oh so happily and without hesitation, without a semblance of doubt: give forever to a man who makes me feel like the luckiest person in this universe, in every and any universe.
I’m here because it’s where I belong: In a vat of gooey, gorgeous love with a brilliant, compassionate man with superhero legs. A man who makes my life, who makes every moment feel like a ridiculously fantastic gift I can’t believe I get to open daily for the rest of my life.