|You can see the ankle bracelet on my right foot here. Simpson|
Beach, outside Charleston, OR, 2013. Photo by Amy Gawry.
Most of the bracelets I had actually fell off during my last year in Oregon, but there was one that stayed. It was made from a scrap of rope given to me by a crew member on NOAA ship Nancy Foster in 2012. I was supposed to practice tying bowline knots in the rope, so I tied a series of bowlines and then secured the loop around my ankle with a figure-8. In 2015, I added a copper charm to the bracelet while on R/V Thomas Thompson (it was a bit of hardware meant to connect two ends of a metallic cord, which I had to use to fix the lander).
The white rope bracelet could have stuck around on my ankle for years. It was a durable, tight weave that didn't rip and barely frayed in the 5 years I wore it. And its presence would have been fitting, too. The white rope bracelet represented adventure. It stood for the courage it takes to leave home and explore a new part of the world. It symbolized movement, travel, and aderenaline-fueled exploration. It represented departure from all that is comfortable.
I took it off shortly after moving to Falmouth, without really knowing why. I just wanted it off. Sure, I could tell you that I was tired of setting off airport metal detectors with the copper charm (which is true) or that it was uncomfortable to wear under field boots (also true). But the real reason took me longer to figure out. I think my subconscious knew something at the time that my conscious mind had yet to realize, and the reason I took off my last bracelet is much more personal.
I've come to realize that everything the white rope represented - adventure, travel, exploration, leaving home - is no longer difficult for me. In fact, moving around the world has become my comfort zone. You know this, readers. Much of this blog has centered on what it feels like to arrive in a place and what it feels like to leave a place. I have spent years jet-setting, going wherever the science leads. I am comfortable in most parts of the world, and I greatly enjoy adding new cities to the list of places I call "home." I absolutely adore my mobile lifestyle, and while I will adamantly never cease traveling, maybe it's time to add another element to my life story.
Since moving to Woods Hole, I have fallen deeply, maddeningly in love with it. With the Cape, with the town, with the institution, with the shoreline and the beach and the colorful sky above me. If I had to design my ideal place to live, this would be it: a world-class, powerful institution in a well-to-do small town at temperate latitude, with four real seasons, right on the water but within reasonable distance of a major airport. This place is Heaven, or at least the closest earthly equivalent.
For the first time, I feel like I'm home. Not in an I-know-my-way-around-and-feel-comfortable-here way but in an I-truly-belong-here way. This place speaks to my soul. I find myself not dreaming about where I want to go or where I want to move next. I find myself fantasizing about returning here, investing in this community, building a lasting home. I have found a place that I want to stay in, and I have found someone who I want to stay with. I have never felt more like myself.
Don't get me wrong, friends, I will never stop traveling. I may even live in other parts of the world for short periods, but I have something now that I haven't had before: a true home base.
This time, I will have the courage to stay.