Last night I dreamed about Seattle and woke up near tears. If I read this in another context, one where I hadn’t written it, I might have scoffed. I don’t generally hold any sentimentality about dreams, nor do I find mine, (or anyone else’s), particularly entertaining. And yet, I’ve been awake for several hours and still can’t shake the way I felt in that dream. I dreamed of a winter, though wet and gray with low-hanging skies, where I could still go outside every day. I could wait at a bus stop for 15 minutes without freezing the tips of my fingers. I could see life growing in January, a different kind than in summer, but life all the same. I could curl up for hours in my favorite tea shop, the pot warmed underneath by a tiny lit candle, the daylight waning outside.
I know I loved these things about Seattle when I was in Seattle, but I don’t know if I love them more now in the act of missing than I did when they were my reality. I wonder if the fact that I am still thinking of Seattle two and a half months later and missing it as fiercely as when I left is important, or if it’s just something I need to let go of.
When I first moved to Seattle, I met and talked with a disproportionate number of transplants from other parts of the country. I heard an overwhelming number of people say they were drawn to the West and wouldn’t ever leave. I assumed that this was largely due to the scenery and the mountains, and without a visual reminder of the climate, I would not be similarly drawn back if I left. But I have left, and it wasn’t the mountains at all. I don’t know what it is. I suppose it doesn’t much matter, all that matters is that I feel it and understand it deeply.
I wonder if there are places we all dream of returning to, and what percentage is just plain nostalgia and what percentage, if any, is actually worth paying attention to. Do you dream of places you’ve loved and lost, and wake with fierce yearning to return? And if you, too, are inexplicably but insistently called West, maybe I will meet you there someday.