Monday, April 20, 2020


Saturday was the fifth anniversary of my fourth husband's stroke. Each time I've written that sentence I've had to make conscious effort not to replace the last word with "death."

I believe in the power of ritual, whether ancient or created in the moment. That's how I observed. Rather than write it all out again, I'm going to copy and past from the Facebook post I wrote that evening once I'd returned home. Most surprising, the efficacy in going through these motions. The closure. What I didn't describe was how the pandemic influenced the experience. The Slate Canyon trail is an uphill dirge, and not frequented in times of health. Irony. In short, I had company, which meant greater focus to remain mindful and undistracted. It also meant that rather than private performance, this ritual played out as sacred observance with curious onlookers. I felt that contributed to the intimacy. I was required to cloister my actions and thoughts.

And so, this is grief released.

At the base of the canyon, one step in front of the other. The place on which I built the altar revealed its self after a mile. I didn't know where I was going and then I realized I was there. I carried the elements of ceremony to this point and laid them down. The notebook. The singing bowl. The dried roses from the bouquet Trish left for me to find that first night I came home from the hospital without Mark. One by one, I set each brittle bloom ablaze and allowed the phrases to come:


tension is the gravity 
of togetherness, existence 
is change.

what it was was
it was

the what-can-I-take from you?
and the what-do-I-possibly-have-to-give ?

the purity of it
the desire

so much that demanded release
or loss

one the nexus of the other
young love ascends the trail above us

four more lines

we all ascend on our singular paths.
we all ascend

and leave the bowl empty.

I read the words aloud. 

I rang the bell five times.

From here I walked with purpose, another uphill mile to my sanctuary, to the Mother Rock whose face is all expressions at once. I took the three stones that fit together as one and offered the memory as sacrifice. I hefted each stone in my hand and dashed it against the Mother Rock. From one story, three. From three, a multitude of fragmented tales scattered in every direction. From these I pocketed one small shale shard to carry back down the mountain, to contain the molecules of beginning whatever is yet to come.

I rang the bell five more times, and lit a final cigarette as the credits for the past five years rolled away on the smoke. I finally understood.

Closure and reclamation.  Acknowledgement and release. The things I have learned should have made me a better person. Instead, the lessons I took away were how much kinder I must strive to be to myself and to others, that every moment is the central link to a beginning-middle-end, that all is impermanence, that change is all there is. I understand that I brought with me all that was required to  accomplish the task of bringing myself to the present. The lesson breathed in the forest trees. It passed through my nostrils and my lungs. The ritual created and concluded itself, and the result was peace.

I walked back down the mountain again, two miles of eager steps hungrily accepting the road ahead that begins in the middle of where I last left off in K—'s arms.

No comments:

Post a Comment