It seems I always hear the wild geese in April.

Twenty-five years ago this month, I bade farewell to the sandy beaches of Naples, Florida. I’d arrived eight years prior, just before rampant development ripped away the last vestiges of the town’s “old-Florida” charm. My two previous employers in the Midwest had gone bankrupt, and a lucrative job offer on the southern Gulf seemed a dandy escape.

That gig lasted about a week. I received a quick education in corporate backstabbing and having zero tolerance for nonsense, promptly resigned. There were good times and bad in the following years—fine friends and a plethora of extraordinarily weird adventures. Still, by 1992, I was more than ready to go.

I’ve never returned to Naples.

I doubt I ever will.

I departed Pony, a Montana ghost town high in the Tobacco Root Mountain range, thirteen years ago this month. The locale was awesome in the truest sense, surrounded by granite sentinels, primeval forests, and all manner of creatures great, small, and eccentric. My view was the bowl of Hollowtop Mountain, eleven thousand feet high and thick year-round with spectral fingers of blowing snow.

When the mercury hit forty below—as it did every winter—a cow moose leaned against my house and soaked up heat. I knew this moose fairly well—she‘d had twin calves in my backyard—and we enjoyed countless conversations. In late spring, I would sit on my porch and expound on all matter of things. The moose was good company; I keep a picture of her in my office.

I’ve never returned to Pony.

I doubt I ever will.

I left Falcon, an Ozarkian paradise, six years ago this month. It was my most beloved home, a ramshackle, wood-fired, 1940s cabin in the Mark Twain Forest. The Gasconade River was my playground, and I lived outdoors far more than in. Neither copperheads, cottonmouths, twisters, floods, nor ice storms ever dulled the glee I found in my nine acres of beauty and seclusion. I awoke with a smile every day, and suspect I’d have stayed forever had I not been pulled away by a family health crisis.

I’ve never returned to Falcon.

I doubt I ever will.

Of all the well-worn maxims, I think “you can’t go home again,” is the most guileless and unadorned. Memories of places, people, and emotions remain static only in our minds, and what we recall is not necessarily what actually was. It’s human nature to add splashes of color to dark corners, to round off sharp edges with the file of pleasant nostalgia

On several occasions, I made the mistake of revisiting youthful haunts, and each sojourn resulted in a sense of melancholy. The tone, tempo, and tenor were inevitably altered. Everything was different from the faded picture in my mind’s eye, a shadow of a shadow of a shadow. I was different, too, and forced to face the reality that while history may repeat itself, time marches on.

I’ve come to believe that the past is a meal best enjoyed in moderation. Bygone days can serve as a teacher and a comfort only so long as you don’t try and recapture them in their original form. Trust me, the very attempt will tarnish their sentimental luster. It’s good to warm cold fingers over the fires of yore, but only if you continue to move forward.

I hope that someday the wild geese again call my name.

I’m pretty sure I’ve at least one more April within me.