Whew. What a day.
Today started on a really sad note. My beautiful Colorado morning was spent honoring the life of my best friend’s mom, Michelle, who, tragically, passed away from cancer this week. Since this is someone I’ve known since I was 5 years old, I experienced that familiar shock of grief as I sat on the pew with my parents, my sister, and my own little special guest, my 4 year old daughter.
My daughter was so good. She sat there and colored and every once in awhile took my hand and gave it a squeeze. She would glance at me with that old familiar gleam of trouble in her eye. And her presence reminded me that I was just a little older than her when I first met Michelle.
So hard to believe.
Ugh. Death. It makes me feel so small. Like I’ve been swallowed by something so much bigger than I am. It leaves me searching for answers and hope. And asking the old familiar question…why?
As I watched the new widower today, there were so many things that looked familiar. The hard swallowing and the look fear that once you start you just won’t be able to stop. The restless pacing. Standing at the cemetery wanting to be anywhere else than where you are.
After sticking around for awhile, sharing stories and tears, I had to leave. I had signed up for a writers retreat up in the mountains near Vail. Earlier this morning, it seemed kind of overwhelming to get myself packed, get the kids to school and ready for a fun weekend with the grandparents, and get myself downtown for the funeral.
I wasn’t sure I wanted to go.
But as I left the reception and started to make my way up the mountain, I found myself really grateful for the opportunity to just get away, be in a quiet room for a little while, and…well…write.
After all…that’s what I’m here for.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been this far into the mountains. And it’s been even longer since I’ve been up here during the fall when the Aspens are at their peak. If you’ve never seen it before…it’s truly amazing. You can be driving along, minding your own business when suddenly you round a corner and the mountainside is so ablaze with color it makes your eyes hurt. The grasses are dry and changing for the upcoming season and are every color of yellow and burnt orange you can imagine.
I headed up the mountain, tissue box beside me and the Indigo Girls blaring away on the radio. At one point, about an hour into my drive, the mountains were so high on either side of me, I couldn’t even see the tops out of my side windows. There were no trees…the rock went straight up and looked hard and ominous. For a second, it made me feel a little claustrophobic. Kind of like I was being swallowed.
Kind of the way I’d been feeling all day.
And then suddenly, I rounded a corner and the valley opened before me and took my breath away. The sky was so beautiful and the clouds were perfect…straight lines of white streaked through the perfect blue. I thought that if I could lie on my back and just look straight up, I’d feel like I was under water. Like I was floating.
Beneath that perfect sky, the groves of Aspens were bright yellow and so vivid in contrast to the dark green pine. And as I kept driving I thought, “I wish I could take this moment, put it in my pocket, and whenever I felt like I needed to know the answer to ‘why’...I could experience this feeling all over again.”
But since I can’t do that, I’ll just have to remind myself that when I’m on the road and I’m so far down that I can’t see the peaks…the next breath-taking moment could be just around the next corner.
Indigo Girls: Watershed
Thought I knew my mind like the back of my hand,
The gold and the rainbow, but nothing panned out as I planned.
And they say only milk and honey's gonna make your soul satisfied
Well I better learn how to swim cause the crossing is chilly and wide.
Twisted guardrail on the highway, broken glass on the cement
A ghost of someone's tragedy how recklessly my time has been spent.
And they say that it's never too late, but you don't get any younger
Well I better learn how to starve the emptiness and feed the hunger
Up on the watershed, standing at the fork in the road
You can stand there and agonize
Till your agony's your heaviest load.
You'll never fly as the crow flies, get used to a country mile.
When you're learning to face the path at your pace
Every choice is worth your while.
Well there's always retrospect to light a clearer path
Every five years or so I look back on my life and I have a good laugh.
You start at the top, go full circle round, catch a breeze, take a spill
But ending up where I started again makes me wanna stand still.
Stepping on a crack, breaking up and looking back
Every tree limb overhead just seems to sit and wait.
Until every step you take becomes a twist of fate.