Returning Over and Over Again
On Jackson Street in Jackson, Wyoming — just a block down from the Jackson Hole Twin Cinema and on the opposite side of the block from the post office — sits a shop called Yellow House Collective.
- “Static & the Beat” — Samuel S.C.
- “Little Babies” — The Linda Lindas
- “Never Give Up” — Son Little
- “Octagon Octagon” — Dr. Octagon
- “Can You Rock It Like This” — Run-D.M.C.
- “Game of Pricks” — Touché Amoré (w/ Barry Johnson)
- “Weekend in the Dust” — David Byrne & St. Vincent
- “Me In Honey” — R.E.M.
- “Abilene” — Plains
- ”This is Why” — Paramore
- “Invisible” — Baby Charles
- “Good Kid” — Kendrick Lamar
- “Flip Flop Rock” — Outkast (w/ Killer Mike & JAY-Z)
- “White Sands” — Tommy Guerrero
- “Ben Franklin” — Snail Mail
- “Magpie” — The Unthanks
- “A Rose for Emily” — The Zombies
Yellow House Collective, as far as I can tell from social media, is one of those art consignment stores — they sell local and regional art, made by (we presume) local and regional artists: pottery, paintings, etc. They host watercolor painting classes, and they sometimes set up a pop-up shop a few blocks away at a burrito restaurant. The shop has been there for years, and as far as I can tell, it’s not going anywhere.
I’ve never been inside. At least, I haven’t been inside for over 25 years.
Back then, the building was different — the entire valley was different, just as everything and everyone save The Simpsons was different. Back then, it was a small engine repair shop. More specifically, it was my grandfather’s small engine repair shop and, during my summers in Jackson, I’d spend several days a week hanging out there. Wandering around downtown. Trying to keep myself busy as my grandfather fixed trimmers and mowers and the occasional Winnebago motor.
I talk about this like it’s the past — which it is! — but it’s also the present. Roughly every year or two we pack the family up and head to Victor, Idaho, where my grandmother now lives, under the shadow of the backside of the Teton mountain range. Roughly every year or two we spend a week exploring the valley. We hike and we bike, and we go grocery shopping more often than we probably need to. We also visit places of yore, like we’re creating our own haunted tour of family history.
It’s all changed, and we’ve seen it all before. But I can’t help it. I do it every time.
I’d say this was another surefire case of nostalgia, but it’s not quite. Nostalgia suggests we want to return to the way things were, or we miss something from the old days. Over the past few years I’ve revisited both of my college towns — shout out to my fellow “transferred schools halfway through a degree” friends — and wandered my old haunts. I walked the same paths, searching for that nostalgia, looking for some kind of formative spark, and realized it wasn’t there. Nostalgia rarely survives an encounter with reality.
Now, those college towns — those places — are just that: places. They don’t care if we leave, and they don’t care what we did. The emotional weight we pile on places has very little to do with the cities and towns themselves — it’s all part of a complicated web of emotion and experience, of which those cities and towns simply served as the medium.
Maybe that’s it: for my family — and especially for those who still live there — Jackson isn’t just a place. It’s a home. It’s rare to find a place that not only keeps the feelings of nostalgia alive while combining routine and comfort. You can always find excitement in new places. It’s hard to still find that excitement for the old well-trodden ones.
Anyway, this is one of my creative flaws. I come home from a trip to the mountains and find myself wistful and basic, writing another post about nostalgia and valleys and pine trees, like an Instagram influencer obsessed with national parks. I write this only to talk about the beauty of finding a routine. To find a place that still feels comfortable. There are thousands of people who get to call it home, and they have every right to be indignant of someone like me, who gets to roll in and be a tourist, who gets to live life without worrying about the cost of living and the harsh winters and the hyper-gentrification.
The crux of this story is: when we leave a place, that place changes independently of us. Some places change enough that they can be forgotten. My college towns mean as little to me as they did before I arrived. Other places hold a bit of familiarity, in the way that a simple routine is enough to keep it strong. In these places, change has happened independently, but is still somehow parallel. They’ve changed, and so have we.
There’s nothing for me in Jackson anymore, except a few former landmarks and a sense of nostalgia. Yet the feeling still remains — I still feel the electricity on both sides of the valley, no matter how mundane our days are, and I still get a rush when I park along Jackson and see Yellow House Collective. Just as I did when it was a small engine shop. Just as I will when it becomes something else, and then something else again. You’ll never recapture the past, but you’ll always know it is there.