Last week was Thanksgiving break, a much needed release from coursework to relax, eat great food, and catch up on some sleep. It was my second of four college Thanksgivings, but only the second time I headed home to Colorado. Freshman year I went to Portland with a new Whitman friend, and last year I was deep in the Ecuadorian forest on the hunt for a rare bird. To celebrate the day, the one other girl I was living with and I made mashed potatoes and lentils and watched an anime film. Pretty nontraditional, but still fun.

It was an absolute treat to spend a little time back at home this year. For one, my parents had moved since I was last home in June (I spent the summer in Walla Walla interning for an NGO focused on water quality). And, of course, Thanksgiving is a holiday meant to be spent in the company of those you are most thankful for and, for me, those people are certainly my family. But I was also really happy to be home in order to take part in my favorite family tradition: heading up to mountains the day after Thanksgiving to cut the Christmas tree. This year the weather was glorious—65 and sunny, an amazing break from the wet chill of Walla Walla—and I got the chance to do a little groundwork for the thesis I will be writing this spring on forest management by stopping my dad so that I could snap photos of singular homes isolated in a sea of densely packed trees. We found our tree in record time and spent some time lounging on the rocks with a feast of leftovers. I couldn’t have asked for a better last day of break.

It’s always hard to come back to Whitman after Thanksgiving, as I can’t help but anticipate the mountain of work I have ahead of me to finish up the semester. But I know that I am lucky that I have a home that I am reluctant to leave. And I am always glad that I am headed back to my home away from home, here in Walla Walla with my second family.