A Return Home with Sarah Attar

Words & Photography
by Sarah Attar

As we made our way across the country, I kept reflecting on how as we travelled west, it felt like a return home. The air started to get more and more familiar. The landscape warped and shifted into scenes that reminded me of other moments in my life. But there were also places along this route that I'd never been to that still had that comforting feeling of home. All of this made me reflect a lot on the idea of home in general, and brought a quote to mind from the book I am currently reading, The Anthropology of Turquoise by Ellen Meloy, "of all the things I wondered about on this land, I wondered the hardest about the seduction of certain geographies that feel like home — not by story or blood but merely by their forms and colors. How our perceptions are our only internal map of the world, how there are places that claim you and places that warn you away. How you can fall in love with the light."

"Running often feels like home, a familiar rhythm that I return to time and time again that allows me to find familiarity in new places."

I love the idea of the pull of certain places. I know that sensation well. And I am wholly fascinated by that. I have found home in various places. I think we've all come across the sentiment that home is more of a feeling than a specific place. Running often feels like home, a familiar rhythm that I return to time and time again that allows me to find familiarity in new places. I think it comes back to a certain feeling that I experience when running. The engagement of body and place. The same way places and landscapes can have a certain feeling. Something about the light. Something about the color of the dirt. Something about the quality of the air. Something about traversing a landscape. So maybe that familiarity and sensation of home is more about moments, and it's the moments that hold certain feelings. These moments offer some sort of solace, safety, comfort, as home often carries those attributes. A moment that I always find peace in is the first touch of sun in the morning, and I often experience this while out on the trails. I am grateful to have experienced this in various spots on our road trip. It's the most wonderful greeting. You start out with a crisp cold morning of deep blues. Then the landscape gradually begins to appear all around you as the soft light emerges. It first starts to touch the formations around you, washing over the distant mountains. Then it makes its way closer and slowly fills in your little pocket of earth soaking the land and your whole being. It feels nourishing. Somehow the light in that moment is able to offer a deep resounding peace, a deep resounding calm. I love experiencing this while out on the trail, it's as though I am running to greet the sun as it makes its way over the land.

What is it about these certain places that calm me and claim me. I think the calming feeling tends to be a feeling of familiarity and safety. My nervous system recognizes what's happening and immediately exhales. I feel that on trails. Especially trails that bring me through alpine environments or the high desert, trails that bring me through sun drenched forests, and bring me through crisp cool mornings. Places that claim me come from a place of fascination and awe. It tends to be somewhere new but there's still a sense of familiarity rooted in the feeling. And it's this combination that I think offers a feeling of home. On this road trip there were a lot of little moments filled with that exact feeling. I think that's where road trips are so enticing and dreamy. You experience so many new places and sensations, and then all of the sudden you get this feeling of home in a place you've never been. You feel drawn to certain geographies. Both the Grand Canyon and Badlands were filled with these sensations. While the Grand Canyon was a revisiting, and Badlands was a new experience, they both had that deep resonant comfort paired with complete fascination. Maybe it was the colors and light or the observations of the lines in the rock. Maybe it was the dance of shadow and light across those formations. Or that first touch of light in the morning or the last touch of light in the evening. I left both of these places feeling inspired and comforted. And that adds to the internal map I carry with me. A map of all of my perceptions and experiences of geographies and feelings attached to those geographies. Places where the light pulls me in, places whose forms and colors fascinate and calm me, places that carry that certain feeling of home, even if just for a moment.