The other day, I had a Saturday off and my family and I visited one of our favorite ruined castles, Hohenurach. Now we’d been there plenty of times before, from the glorious summer days with the forests rich with stinging nettles and ivy to the overwhelmingly rainy fall days where the waterfall overflowed onto the trail.
On our latest visit, the mountains and valleys were shrouded in fog that came and went, and for the first time, with most of the foliage gone, I noticed the plethora of caves in the cliff along the waterfall. I knew there were a few before, but I could never have guessed there were so many.
Which got me to thinking about what it means to visit a place once versus twice, to visit a neighborhood versus living in one versus returning to one I no longer live in. It’s different every time. Hence, the poem.
Thoughts of Place
that the first time
I visit a place, I am
drawn to the way
the red roofs slope,
the snow-capped mountains tower,
the oceans lap at white shores.
Yet the second time,
I see how
the locals meander the streets,
the salamanders navigate the moss,
the acacia thorns guard the sand.
How did I miss it
Living in a place
is not like visiting—
is not like returning
to where I lived before—
for the image
in my mind
of what was
is no longer
Let’s chat! What did you think of the poem? Which places look different the more you visit them?