About ten miles from town and up some logging roads is a mountain meadow called Euphoria Ridge. I have been hiking and botanizing it for 12 years. Today the larkspur, death camas, and fawn lilies were blooming. As much as I value new experiences and seeing new places, I have delighted in knowing Euphoria Ridge intimately. I still discover new wildflowers, butterflies, and mushrooms. I’m not done there.
“Been there, done that” is an expression I distrust and dislike. I am sure it can be used innocently, or even used to express solidarity with someone else’s experience. But too often the words rob another’s experience of its uniqueness. Sometimes “been there, done that” is interjected even before a person is done telling their story, revealing that the person wasn’t really listening.
I may just be cranky, but I object to the very idea of “doing” that. Too much of life is treated like a checklist already. Competitive bird watching, for instance, is an absurd exercise in missing the point. People race to locations to spot as many birds as possible—checking them off as fast as possible.
Bucket lists may have much to commend them for those nearing death, but as a lifestyle they can easily empty our lives of depth. As we move on to sky-diving, we are stalked by the suspicion that our Rome-in-a-day tour wasn’t all it should have been. When our eyes are on our checklist, we easily fail to actually see the world around us.
The “been there, done that” attitude may be the result of a loss of wonder or a habit of mind that robs us of wonder. Either way, it blinds us to the complexity, beauty, and majesty of places. Even more dangerous is the extension of this attitude toward people. It easy to think we have people “pegged” or “pigeon-holed”. But every place is an unexplored continent, every person a mystery.
I want to start identifying some of the native grasses growing on Euphoria Ridge. I have been there—but still haven’t done that.