In Orbit for Life By Vanessa Schatz
Melting snow is soaking my hiking boots. With a steady stride, I traverse the rugged open spaces of the Indian Peaks Wilderness. The distance is marked by jagged, windswept peaks and pine trees are gently swaying in the afternoon breeze as small creeks gurgle eagerly with the anticipation of spring.
Joanna, a recent New York City transplant, is keeping me company. Originally from Colombia, Joanna is transitioning into life in the Colorado Front Range.
“Where is home for you?” I ask her. “With Ari,” she answers assured. “And for you?” I reflect for a moment, and answer: “In orbit.”
I have been the Other for most of my life. I have not found belonging in nationality or places of origin. Having visited and lived in many different countries in Europe, Africa, Asia, the Southern Pacific, and North America, I have been uprooted for so long that the places I grew up in are no longer familiar. My story has been etched on an orbit of observing life from the margins of belonging anywhere, and nowhere.
Orbits are elliptical, following the soothing motion of circular, oval patterns while traveling. According to Newton’s first law of motion, an object stays in orbit, in motion, unless something pushes or pulls on it. But an object, like satellites, also needs a tug of gravity - to be pulled toward Earth, a center, to prevent drifting off into space along a straight line.
We all live in orbit, in relation to spaces, others, and their stories. And we all live with something at the center of our story, our home.
To me, home is my global nomad orbit with the gravitational pull of people and moments:
Home is my best friend in High School clinging on to my waist with one arm, the other casually holding her cigarette, while I speed through empty intersections on shaky second-hand bikes.
Home is in-between the lines of my favorite books and songs that provide comfort no matter where I am.
Home is the reassuring nod and smile of a young flight attendant during a teary-eyed take off, leaving homelands to map new territories.
Home is tracing the stars of my favorite constellations that remind me of the regularity, and comfort of patterns.
Home is the kindness of a stranger.
Home is the smell of grandmother’s tiny house, a place untouched by time, made of an old stove, covered in broken green tiles, that is always warm and facilitator of the stories that keep my family alive.
Home is on the many trails that capture adventures of my past and are the compass to my future.
Home is in the words of my native tongue – Fernweh – and in the words of other languages that nourish many fond memories of getting lost and found in translation – felicity, buscando, מְגַמָּה, je suis, モンキー, vän.
Home is in the eyes of my daughter, and her story, that is redefining the horizon of my world.
Whatever is at the center of our lives, whatever is urging us to return home, or continue to seek out new places to feel belonging, the orbit’s gifts are ours: In an increasingly global world, with all its potential for unification and separation, and all its stories that bring us together and force us apart, we can always discover the beauty of new and old landings - that tug of gravity that pulses with life and human connection, raising new possibilities for untold tales and wonders.
And as I continue to feel that distinctive, yet curious sensation of being rooted in one place with an achy heart that constantly yearns for the world, I carry on exploring - in orbit - to find solace in the breathtaking views of the familiar competing with the inviting call of the unknown, whispering welcome home.
About Vanessa Schatz
Vanessa is an award-winning storyteller, a.k.a. Communications Manager, with 10+ years of international experience in the private and public sector. She grew up in Munich, Germany, and discovered her passion for life-and-matter-in-motion while taking down the Berlin Wall with a sledgehammer as a young child. After many years of traveling and working in different nations around the globe, Boulder, Colorado, became her home base. When not busy climbing mountains with her Alaskan Malamute, Scone, Vanessa enjoys exploring with her family, long walks with friends, and teaching at CU Boulder’s College of Media, Communication, and Information. If granted one wish, she would love to be face-to-face with a Triceratops to admire its epic head adornments.