I always knew I would leave Montana.
The knowledge of this has been like a breeze twisting through my entire life. It’s there reminding me to take care and store memories, remember beauty and faces “Look here, remember this, love them.” One day it would be gone and I wouldn’t be there anymore and I’d need that sense of “home” I’d created to be carried with me into whatever I was going to next.
That sounds dramatic. And it is. But I was a bookworm of a child and everything I understood about life was imprinted onto me through words. The stories of heroes. And I knew that I was one. And heroes always leave. No hero stays at home to save the world or finds themselves or learn magic.
They all leave, whether of their own accord or not. Frodo, Garion, Harry, Jane, Susan, Lucy, Anne, Laura, they all take that first step out their front door into the great unknown. And in the ego of childhood I knew the same would be true for me. At five I thought I’d go through a hidden door and find myself in Narnia. At eleven I was sure I’d get my letter from Hogwarts. At thirteen I found myself gauging my ability to simply walk into Mordor. At seventeen I wanted Mr. Darcy to sweep me up and save me from provinciality. At twenty-two I realized I’d have to do it myself.
The storybooks often gloss over how difficult it can be to leave ones home. More often than not the houses are homes in name only and the leaving is really more of an escape. The heroes can hold tight to the knowledge that they are headed somewhere better. I had no such upbringing. I have a loving and supportive family, a strong network of friends and connections to a place that run bone deep. There were a million reasons to stay. And only one reason to leave. I had to. It was like falling in love; inexplicable and impossible to fight.
The first time I visited Seattle I hated it. I hated the crowds; the people and noise and buildings and I was so overwhelmed I cried. Not exactly hero behavior. It was the mountains that finally won me over. You can see them all around you, on a sunny day you can see Rainier bending over you with her snowcapped facade, it’s like a pat on the shoulder. The mountains made it home for me, t
hey were the home I’d carry with me. Every time I look at them I remember there’s love and family on the other side.
When I did cross those mountains for good I cried the whole way. My version of a hero has a lot of emotions. I stopped in Vantage, Washington, looked across the Columbia River and almost turned back. My fingertips hovered over my phone, ready to call on help and love and a reason to give up. What stayed my hand were the mountains stretching before me. Mountains I hadn’t crossed and ones I hadn’t conquered. Things I hadn’t done, beauty I hadn’t seen, people I hadn’t loved and memories yet to be made. I girded my loins, battened down my hatches, mustered my Roheryn and turned my car west.
This doesn’t make me a hero, at least not yet. If I’m gauging how far I’ve traveled in my own journey I’d say Book three. I’ve taken some risks, faced down some trouble and I carry myself a little steadier. But I’m still far from the final battle, I still have lessons to learn and a rag-tag team to assemble. But I took that first leap, I took a step out my front door. And it has been the proudest of myself I have ever been. I have never fought a dragon. But I like to think I maybe smelled their smoke.
Holding out for a hero,