Contradictory Dreams

Becoming nomadic helped me embrace inner conflict

Eve Bigaj
Eve Bigaj
Oct 29, 2020 · 4 min read
Image for post
Image for post

Sometimes I think everything is beautiful. Then I come to a place like this, trees glowing orange over cobalt hills, a beauty so blinding I veil my eyes with clichés — and my worldview shatters.

I had a dream, once, of moving to a cottage in the mountains, but I had settled for city life. I told myself I wanted closeness: to cafés, museums, friends. More importantly, my partner liked the city. (Never mind that he shared my dream of mountains, my inner conflict — it was easier to think that he didn’t.)

Besides, everything was beautiful, people as lovely as nature; I wasn’t really giving anything up. I meant it when I said it — patches of pavement, paintings of corpses, busy city squares have all floored me with unexpected glory — but “everything is beautiful” had also been the spell I chanted to protect myself from my own dreams.

Image for post
Image for post

It was only when I arrived at the dream, the home with trails leading out the front door, that I let myself feel my yearning. It did make sense to want this, not just weekend drives to the distant mountains, excursions to the highest peaks on the sunniest days, but the daily walk, the grass decked out with pearls after the rain, the leaves turning day by day, the birds I know almost by name.

I walk, climb on. This place, in its silence and solitude, lets me hear my own thoughts. I think about what we give up: happiness, adventure, community; success, safety, solitude.

My partner and I became nomadic just as the days were getting too short and too cold for gathering outside. (We’re in New Hampshire now, but who knows what’s next? Not knowing is part of the thrill.) The pandemic has removed some of the tradeoffs; the dream of community is slumbering, adventure and solitude can take its place. But afterwards? Once, I would have moved to mountainous seclusion in the blink of an eye, but I have grown to love people, almost despite myself.

Image for post
Image for post

Walking through birdsong, I remember the first time I visited New York. Screech! Rush! Honk! No end to agitation; agitation to no end. So that’s what people meant by “energy”? The one place I could never live, I thought. I visited once, twice, thrice, and started to understand, the way you understand a second language, the attraction of cities: the beauty of crowds, faces, people, everyone with a different story, everyone a miracle.

When I lived in the suburbs of Boston, I had those glorious strangers, plus friends I’d known for years. What do I give up when I choose solitude? There is a tension in me: even these hills of gold are empty without the hearth, the heart.

Another vista emerges, horizontal strips in complementary colors: grey-blue and russet grasses, orange trees, blue hills, long thin clouds. Vertical birches frame the view and complete the picture, forming a box, a home for my vision.

I inhale; the air smells like being alive. I see my inner tensions as complementary colors, sources of vibrance.

I grew up between places. Our house in Poland was an anchor, a base, a home — but travel was always my second home. I want to have it all. I dream of a cottage in the mountains; I dream of never settling down; I dream of city friends.

Image for post
Image for post

I dream of a single place that is travel and home, community and solitude, mountains and city. Maybe this is what our ancestors had, hunting and gathering through the forests in a band of friends. I had this in high school, for a moment, when my scout troop backpacked through mountains of stillness, sang full-throated at the bonfire at night. I carry a nomad inside me, who doesn’t understand this world of screens and only wants to walk, and walk, and sing.

The mountains are calling and I must go. I heard what John Muir heard, but I stopped my ears. “I must go” — what sort of a reason is that? When you live in society, you do what you can explain.

Our mountain is a ski slope. Near the peak, a narrow, vertiginous ladder goes up to the chairlift. I look up. Folly to climb and folly not to climb.

I choose a place halfway up the ladder, just where delight meets fear, climb there, no further, then descend. My dreams butt heads with dreams; the tensions are what defines me.

What scares me more than a life of inner conflict is a life without it.

Originally published at http://evebigaj.com on October 29, 2020. All photos mine.

Curious

Find out what others have already figured out. Follow our publication to join our community.

Eve Bigaj

Written by

Eve Bigaj

Staff writer at Rabbit Hole Magazine. Harvard PhD. Want to video chat about one of my articles? Pick a slot at calendly.com/evebigaj

Curious

Curious

A community of people who are curious to find out what others have already figured out // Curious is a new personal growth publication by The Startup (https://medium.com/swlh).

Eve Bigaj

Written by

Eve Bigaj

Staff writer at Rabbit Hole Magazine. Harvard PhD. Want to video chat about one of my articles? Pick a slot at calendly.com/evebigaj

Curious

Curious

A community of people who are curious to find out what others have already figured out // Curious is a new personal growth publication by The Startup (https://medium.com/swlh).

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store