Screaming for the sheer beauty of it all.
Yesterday was (today is as well) another unseasonably warm and mild day. Something within was scratching at the door like a cat, with a trajectory towards tall trees and seclusion. The live wires of my being were unplugged from the city scape, waving frenetically in the desire to connect back in, but to the Something Else, only found under the canopy of forest and in the safety of wilderness.
Fern and I headed north over the Golden Gate Bridge. I intended to drive us through the Headlands, to Rodeo Beach, which didn’t feel quite right, but seemed a good compromise for the distance that little short legs can handle. But mid-bridge, I knew just exactly where it was we should go.
I hadn’t been to Kirby Cove in years, not since Leo started to really age. Dogs aren’t allowed and the walk back up is steep. I used to risk it, hiding in the bushes with him when a ranger went by, but it eventually became too stressful…for both of us. I briefly checked in with my heart…was I ready? Could I handle the contrast of his memory and current reality? Yes. Today was the day.
I’ve been wondering about redemption a lot lately. I’ve also been reflecting on how I’ve been in crisis mode since 2007, a realization that can only come in quieter moments when emotional survival isn’t at stake and I’m at the border, hoping to cross into neutral territory. There have been a lot of thoughts around the need for healing, healing from the immediate and a sense of wanting to heal from history, from trauma that sometimes feels eternal in its scope…and can it ever be done, or is it the case as Freud said, “You can never drain the swamp”.
I walked carrying Fern, who alternated between telling me that she wanted, “To go in Sea. Want nummy nums at Sea. Want go in.” and, “I want go back home”…which was resolved over and over by the question, “But do you still want to go to the water?”. “Yes. I do.”. So we took the decline in this way, stopping every so often to listen to birds, to take in a view of the beckoning ocean. All the while, going at the same pace as we would have, if Leo had been with us. Slow. Open heart. Unclenched belly.
Can someone help me identify this? It is similar to Pearly Everlasting, with papery flowers, thin shiny green leaves. But the flowers are pointy, rather than pearly, and the scent is citrus-y as compared to the maple syrup flavor of the everlasting. It’s all over the Bay Area, but we have yet to be properly introduced.
The road ends in forest, where there are campsites. I am dreaming of camping here with the whole fam during the coming year, cozying up to the campfire, gazing out at where international waters meets the nursery of the Bay, the SFO of the sea.
A few wooden steps lead down to the friendly cove. Sheltered on both sides, I have never been here on a day where I wasn’t hot. The sand is a rich reddish brown and the view, breathtaking, over and over and over. In 2005 or so I did a self-marriage ceremony here. I spoke my vows into the waves, promising to uphold my relationship with myself as first and foremost, to never abandon my own heart for the sake of staying in relationship ever again. As I offered my commitment to the waters, a sea lion popped up, so close to shore, just where the waves were lapping in. The two of us strolled up and down the beach together, playing, talking, witnessing. Yesterday I sent a greeting to the blue, and far off shore, a sea lion surfaced once, twice.
So much anymore, I never see just natural flotsam and jetsam. Always, the garbage of our haste. The white bits are styrafoam.
Fern and I dared the cold with our toes, sat in the sun and had nummie nums, explored mysterious tunnels, attempted swings.
When my feet hit the sand, I recognized a feeling that has become less familiar these past few years. That of deep relaxation and ok-ness. An inner freedom I associate with really luxurious Augusts, with summers spent in Maine. No imminent danger, no need for hypervigilance, permission to unwind, fully.
Again I thought of redemption, if I deserved to feel ok, if I could start to forgive myself. My heart beats faster as I think about telling you this, and something tells me its time. It was my fault that Leo died. We all say and feel such things in times of guilt or despair. But Leos’s demise was a direct result of my impatience, of my temper. His spine around his neck was injured from being yanked around on a leash. I never thought I was pulling that hard, and so often it was the only thing I could do to get him to move his stubborn, fuzzy ass up the street, as I stood there with a wailing daughter, my own back killing me. So in his last years he was dragged by the yoke. Cord and nerve damage that caused neurological problems. I often feel as if I will be sorry my whole life, that each day will begin with asking for forgiveness and a pledge to reprioritize every moment, taking care of self, taking care of other, responding in Love. This is what deep relationship does for us when it is committed and true…provides the opportunity to release all our demons into the light of transformation. It happens in partnership, it happens in motherhood and it happened for me in guardianship too.
Lately I’ve been aware that the shock is wearing off, and I find myself grieving in a softer and more immediate way. The bit of dog treat found in a purse long unused, the memory of the vet tech who kissed him goodbye, the found bit of fur…all produce honest tears that don’t damage, but are healing waters, washing clean.
The other night I watched a wonderful Doctor Who episode (for fans, the one with Vincent Van Gogh) that subtextually was all about transforming pain, and how being with one’s darkness gives one penetrating sight into both directions of the wonder of the human experience. There was a quote that stuck with me, “He transformed the pain of his tormented life into ecstatic beauty. Pain is easy to portray but to use your passion and pain to portray the ecstasy and joy and magnificence of our world…no one had ever done it before.”
For the past few months I’ve found it near impossible to write about the whole story with Leo, because I didn’t want to just talk about the pain. This early visit from spring has let in enough light to rekindle my hope that returns eternal. Unseasonable or no, new living is beginning and in my minds eye I keep seeing pink blossoms, soft petals, gold light and a soundtrack of birdsong, weaving a vision for egg and nest.
Chickweed, miners lettuce, dock and dandelion are available for nourishment in the Bay Area right now, to chase away the winter blahs.
I carried Fern all the back up to the top of the Golden Gate. There is no agenda. The only timing is now. My back is killing me. What does that really feel like? She’s driving me nuts with chatter and screeching. What is she really needing right now? Stop. Feel my heart. Here it is for you. Here we are together. I love you. Ah, there it is. And keep going.
One foot in front of another.