Wintertime, and I have come to Big Bend National Park, but only for a few hours as I pass through. This is a place where, during the 1990s and 2000s, I spent considerable time, but in moving to California it was shouldered out by the Sierra and distance. I always liked camping in the Chisos Basin, an intrinsically pleasing place with ready access to many trails. My reaction to being there today, as I made short walks and found good places to sit and contemplate, was a little surprising but immensely gratifying (in spite of the crowd, a reminder of how Covid has affected travel habits).

From the Basin I could see trailheads and imagine the trails winding out from them that I have so often hiked. My nostalgia was palpable but not in the form of sadness about what I can no longer readily do owing to age and an inefficient heart; rather, it was gladness that I had done it and knew the experiences all left footprints in my soul that remain with me and helped make me what I am now in ways I appreciate. But nostalgia is not the best word here unless it can be cleansed of its associations with longing for things absent or lost, or a sentimentalized yearning for probably idealized past events. Instead, recollection in the old spiritual sense fits better—a tranquil recalling combined with contemplation of the meaning. I recollected with great calm and pleasure all those miles and sights and natural world blessings. I knew they had been vital and welcomed the present memory of times past and the goodness they brought, which I have not lost.

Photo by Adan Guerrero on Unsplash

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