For several years now my wife and I have had something of a nomadic existence, shifting from north to south with the change of season, and sailing over blue ocean. But life as a nomad isn’t always chasing the great herds across fresh prairie; quite often you return to old, familiar ground and in doing so feel a sense of punctuation in the passage of time.
Recently, after a five year absence, we returned to our house–a house that we built together with my father. What struck me about being there was how well my hands knew where the switches and knobs were, how sure my feet were of the number of stairs when walking in the dark. I would reach, repeatedly, for where a certain lamp used to be, only to find myself mildly surprised that it had been moved. It is strange to think that our physical selves carry memories that our conscious minds stow away. I have been through this before when rejoining ships I have worked on in the past, and also in a different way when meeting up with old, faraway friends. These episodes of muscle memory feel like visits to a former version of your self; they call to mind past efforts and struggles that partly explain who you are today.
Now I’m somewhere else again, working with some pals from past jobs. It’s a sunny spring day in Maine.