Nostalgia, Finding Beauty, and Pennsylvania

A family tearing through the good times on an amusement park ride


We’ve been to places so full of cool stuff, I can remember certain times when we’d think things like, “Yeah, it’s okay,” about a monumental vista or gorgeous waterbound sunset.

I’m thinking of Utah, where two weeks in Zion National Park was spectacular enough to leave us feeling like Bryce Canyon was just okay. Then Torrey and Capitol Reef held our hearts so dear we scoffed at Moab and, again, enjoyed Arches and Canyonlands like just another day for a teenager at the food court.

Michiganders have, on multiple occasions and derived from groups completely unrelated to one another, told us how their sunsets over their lakes were more spectacular than anything we ever could have seen dipping into the Pacific. As though it were a different sun over a different planet’s curve, the possibility that our big star could dip into an ocean in a way more brilliantly appealing to the eyes was simple fact.

Thusly, there have been plenty of times where I saw the sun dip into Lake Michigan and thought, “Eh, it’s okay.”

The expectations of a place can make as much an influence on how we perceive them as anything. I saw Zion, it was grand, and so I held Bryce’s hoodoos in such grand imagination in my mind that even their actual opulent towering natural cityscape seemed normal, what I was imagining at a minimum, if not a tad mundane. To see them was great, to hike them an experience, but my mind had already been set alight with the beauty of lands previous that I was not in awe.

Similarly, the way Pure Michigan felt need to compare and rank themselves to an ocean so dear to my traveling heart left me cynical enough to nod a farewell adieux to the sun but not allow my jaw to drop even if it were warranted.

Inversely, in my own hometown corner of Pennsylvania, a state I never took personally when it came to recommendations, very much the opposite (hence my keen desire to leave it and travel distances). It wasn’t until seeing some of the world and the rest if the nation that I came back at one point immersed in the rolling emerald lush of it all.

A few years since, I now have a fondness for certain places like I know I may never find anywhere else in the world. The fact that they’re spots I have longterm memories of is prevalent in that fondness, but also the relevant joy of what these places are in contrast to my view of the area. After all, I grew up here and am a man of primary interest in new adventure. Nostalgia doesn’t come easily to me, but the exact right combination of splendid and memory mixes together in a few spots in particular here in Western PA.

Idlewild, a fantastical land of storybook tales come to life, wooden roller coasters and the biggest tree house fort I’ve ever seen. Pittsburgh, PA, the City of Bridges, where I met Renee, Tristan’s hometown and my favorite city even after all of these years. And Ohiopyle, where I took my first rafting trip and said goodbye to the sticks and bricks life six years ago this month.