Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday, I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Life is a River: Sitting on the Shore or Riding the Waves

I do not like dying. I don’t think any of us do. Every time someone or something we love dies, part of us dies, too.
When I return to Yosemite, I want to see the places that I’ve come to love, but invariably they have changed in some way, and I can’t stop them from doing this. Happy Isles used to be a beautiful, wooded glen with cascading rivers running through, until the blast of air and tumbling boulders from a massive rockslide knocked most of the trees down and opened the glen up to sunlight. Over the span of a couple of years, I watched Mirror Lake become a meadow as sediment washed down by the river filled it in. A huge winter flood shifted the Merced River from one side of the valley to the other. Trails up the valley wall that I like to hike are occasionally buried by rockslides, and sometimes they are permanently closed.

In nature, change is constant as life flows into death and flows back, raising up new life.

Nature reminds me that I continue to change, as well, although this isn’t as obvious to me. Yet I change as I learn new things, interact with new people, and explore new hobbies while setting the old ones aside.

And yet, because of grief, I’ve stopped moving. Every day has become a struggle. I’m torn between wanting to continue to learn and change in order to keep up with the movement of life, and wanting to properly mourn Evelyn’s death.

I want to preserve every aspect of my life with Evelyn, but if I’m focused on my increasingly dusty past, I miss seeing what life is doing now. Trying to stop life from changing is like trying to hold back the flow of the river with my hands. Every day that I get lost in my memories takes me further away from the river.

I do not like it when leaves fall off the trees in autumn, the woods go bare, and green bushes turn brown. Because of the colorful glories of summer, I am not a fan of muted shades. When the air turns cold, I turn away from the windows thinking that life has ended outside and there is nothing more to see. 
And yet, with the leaves gone, I can see farther into the distance and I notice a barred owl sitting on a branch, deer moving down by the creek, and the sunset lighting up the bare trees in the woods. The brown colors are actually warm and inviting, and the scent of the autumn woods makes me think of deeper and eternal matters.
Soon snow will fall and change the woods into a stunning landscape of white and black with a quietness that will astound me. I will fall in love with winter, and then I will not want it to change into spring, which I will also fall in love with.

I’ve come to love the new Happy Isles because of its openness to the sky and the view of the mountains around me. Walking into the middle of Mirror Meadow, I can look up at Half Dome rising 5000 feet above me and not have trees blocking my view, which was the case before, and I can watch climbers making their way to the top. Trails that are gone force me to hike new trails, and I discover views of the valley that I never knew existed.

My challenge, our challenge, is to find a way that we can grieve and yet dance when the music begins.