Sunday, July 21, 2013

circuitous routes

Steering through the small streets, squinting to remember the color and shape of houses I had seen just a week before, I used the Force to find my way back to the little white bungalow, perched in tree-lined shade on streets ordinal in number and alphabetical in line.

Ten days earlier I had arrived in Portland, skinny as an abandoned cat, grief-stricken, bereft and sad, newly repatriated after a dismal end of a romance over 9,500 miles away. I had come to take shelter in the warm home and friendship of my best friend and her husband, to stay a few days and renew, be with people that knew me best. Now with as much as I could cram into my car, I was heading back to start a new life.

I could fill up a page with words describe my friend: hilarious, brilliant, daring, feisty, creative, sharp as a whip, mischievous, unpredicatable, predictable. Equal parts beguiler and revolutionary, she had a personality that drew you in and held you fascinated. And, damn, was she funny.

We had a history of weaving in and out of each other's lives, taking long pauses after angry words, always reconnecting to be thick as thieves once again. Our friendship spanned decades, growing from the tumult of high school, through moves and loves and heartache and distance to new marriages, children and the fine crackling of expectations that accompanies a newly minted life. The many things that have shaped my life since that fateful decision to move to Portland (my husband, my career, Seattle) all hold her mark.

In short, I loved this friend. She was my constant, a phone call twice a day habit that I had grown both to depend on and to appreciate. Ours was one of the most important relationships of my life, not a girl crush but a deep and connected friendship. She was a taproot that held me fast in who I knew myself to be. I can hardly think back across my life without the best stories coming from our time together.

Five years have passed since this friendship ended abruptly and without obvious (to me) reason. For a time, I figured that we'd just run aground of something, that we would circle back into our relationship once again whenever what ever it was worked itself out. A year passed, then two, then my mother got sick and died, then I got cancer, and now I am here on another shore of living, the phantom feeling of someone missing popping up at moments when I feel most unguarded.

Because losing this friendship has been unmooring, disorienting, anxiety-provoking in ways that I'm just staring to unpack, I have decided to reach out to her, just to say hello and tell her that I am sorry if I did something wrong. I've decided to put up or to be prepared to just let it go. Thinking about this gives me a tightness in my chest that reminds of my six year old self trying to swim the length of the pool in a single, long-held, under-water breath. I feel my lungs burning and know that this is a surfacing that has to happen even though I want to continue to kick against it. But it's time to tidy things up, know where they stand, let things come full circle once and for all.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


For the Dead

I dreamed I called you on the telephone
to say: Be kinder to yourself
but you were sick and would not answer

The waste of my love goes on this way
trying to save you from yourself

I have often wondered about the leftover
energy, water rushing down a hill
long after the rains have stopped

or the fire you want to go to bed from
but cannot leave, burning-down but not burnt-down
the red coals more extreme, more curious
in their flashing and dying
than you wish they were
sitting there long after midnight

–Adrienne Rich

Monday, July 1, 2013

Tracking Back

I've been given the gift of time this summer. Time and space and a small place to work through some things that have been nestled under my brain like the eversoslight pea that makes the princess' slumber impossible. This is the first time I've had this kind of space in over 10 years, the constancy of an infant or two and the well-worn path of life tying me close to home.

In this time, I've been tracking back over snow-glazed expanses of land looking for landmarks, broken branches, bootmarks in the snow to figure out how I've gotten to this place blank with light, somewhat foreign, white earth and cloud-embanked sky turned upside down. My inner compass has become shoddy to shot, so I stop and hunker down, try to devise a plan to lead myself out of this snowblind space. It's not all bad. It requires me to trust myself, to get back to my native skills, to remember what those I trust have taught me. It's good here, because against this blank palette my gut is returning. I am requiring myself to begin anew. The woman who was emerging from the salt and sea but a year ago now is bathed in snow, a mikvah of frost, the cold breath against warm lungs leaving me panting. I can keen and mourn here. I have to just be with myself here. I have to sit and take things as they come.

It's good. It's good. It's neither lonely nor scary nor inhospitable. It's space. And for as sterile and remote as it feels, it's beautiful. I am thankful, so thankful, just for the opportunity to breathe, to see, to wonder. I am thankful for the chance to appreciate, to reconcile, to dig back in, to shake things loose in my brain that I have stuffed away for so long. I don't fear the blankness, I revel in it. It's a reset, renewal, starting anew.

Over the next rise is that small, warm shed.