Today I took a walk. It was the same walk that I took about six months ago. I retraced my steps – something I've been avoiding doing often. I saw the same rocks. I saw the same creek. I saw the same path. I saw the same mountains. And yet everything was so different. The grass is now dormant. The ruddy trail has a different landscape. There are no prairie dogs. There are different stacks of cairns along the way. Everything is the same and yet so different.
As Kira and I walked the path six months back, I had noted the damage from the floods. This time as we walked the path, I again noticed the damage from the floods – but I also noticed the damage from my own flood. I walked along the creek and I came to the place where six months ago I saw the tracks of a mountain lion. I texted you about it right then, because it was just a day or two after you'd seen three mountain lions trotting across the road just meters away. Through our texts, we questioned if it was one of the same lions. Now a run in with a mountain lion seems very minor. Death trumps animal encounter.
I remember how complete I felt that day on that walk. Taking some time for myself, getting some exercise, making Kira happy, giving you some alone time. Now it's all alone time. Or is it? No matter how many bodies I surround myself with – I always feel alone. But when I'm alone, I can more connected. Why does that connection frighten me?
I have not gotten outside very much lately. I have stayed on the couch, under a blanket, in bed, hiding in the arms of a loved one, inebriated by music or drink or circumstance, behind the guise of social media or a screen – I have been numbing the pain. And that's okay. It's okay because I recognize what it is that I'm doing. The path that I'm choosing. I'm understanding that I have a need to hurt in a different way, disguise the pain, mistake it as something else. But I still feel it always. Even when I dam up the path, the grief breaks through powerfully and floods my spirit with sorrow. So when I stepped outdoors today and into solitude – as I walked on that path, traveling through time to that place six months ago and then back again – I felt the weight of my grief. I sat with the reality of my grief. Grief comes in many forms: It feels. It stings. It burns. It loiters. It numbs. If you experienced the symptoms of grief without being aware of your issue, you would certainly call your doctor to find out what's wrong.
As I walked, I realized I felt angry at the beauty of nature. I wondered if the dead grass along the way would feel the same way, if it could feel. I felt angry at the sun for warming my skin – for allowing me to be in a t-shirt in 70° weather in February. Something that would usually make me so happy, except today it made me sad. I felt angry at the brook for allowing water to run so peacefully from here to there. Here to where? I listen to the sound of it gently babbling over rocks around sticks and warming under the heat of the warm sun. I felt angry at Kira for each excited step, moving swiftly like a champion. I felt envious of what I can only imagine is her ability to forget, even just for a bit.
A couple years ago my friend Leah told me that when things got hard she often reminded herself to 'look up'. So as I walked along the path today, instead of looking down at my next rocky step, I looked up. I saw the splendor of the mountains, the grace of the horizon, the rays of the sun, the swing of the trees. I saw life. And when I saw life around me, it infused the life within me. I was forced to sip it in with each breath. My insides warmed just a bit. But maybe a bit is all I can handle.
There are so many ways to numb pain. Hiding under a blanket. Oversleeping. Overworking. Staying too busy. A screen. A drink. A pill. A puff. A line. A dip. And yet what do those quick fixes do except create a bottleneck in the brook which needs to flow? Create a bottleneck in the tears that need to fall? My teacher Baron says, "In order to heal, you must feel". Getting on that path today showed me a bit of light. It took me away from the buzz of distraction and numbing agents, and back into the space of remembering. Remembering my grief in its heaviness. Remembering the non-linear nature of this beast. Remembering the memories of the last time I walked there, when it seemed much smoother. It reminded me that I can be with the stillness – that the stillness breaks up the clutter in my mind. It gives me space for thoughts, memories, breath, and grief: the loiterer that it is. Sometimes life in the shadows is ok, but we need to step into the sun to feel the warmth.