Death fluttered beside me.
After heavily wading through waves, I climbed up onto the rocks. Routine walking was encumbered by annoyance. Smiles couldn’t penetrate me; no, I deflected them by turning away and retreating into my sullenness. The little, supposedly cheery banalities echoed around the cliffs like bullets. I backed into a cave and barricaded the entrance. Death cast its shadow. It was only right to sit within it.
After her death, the days stretched out long and grey. I wanted to return to Ohio again and again and again. I had been there to see her, and I had been there to bury her. It felt wrong to be separated from this place. And from the people! We had held each other, reaching, grasping, someone to hold on to, someone who knows, who feels the reverberations of loss ricocheting off of bones. In another home, I worked, I sat on the bus, I sat at home. I faced beige walls. All was dull, dull, dull, void of meaning, void of force.
She carried all of the force. It was a warm force. It was all of the care in the world, bundled into a soul. It shone through her wry smile. I could only grasp it by holding onto others, her others, but we were physically separated now. Five young women, in a row on a couch. “My beautiful girls.” Five young women, five different states. A man sitting beside me. Jokes leveled in our direction. Us, thousands of miles apart.
Sitting in that cave, everything was too quiet. Death had visited and I couldn’t fight anymore. She was taken and I placed a carnation over the dirt, over her ashes. Now, what could I do?
From the cave of my office, my apartment, to the mountain. Get out, feel something, something that’s not blunted. Unrelated emotions were all muted, and as right as that felt, it was also wrong.
It snowed overnight. At the base of the mountain, I spied a dusting, but at the top of Rainier there was a new, smooth blanket. I strapped on snowshoes for the first time. I crunched forward with the help of these implements, following in tracks, breaking them down further. Trees stood darkly around, marching over the landscape until it became too harsh and only sharp rock faces remained. I sat down in the snow. It surrounded me: a harsh and beautiful thing. Grey clouds spun overheard, replaced by blue skies, which were then usurped by clouds again, sprinkling down fat flakes.
The mountain just is. Severe, striking. It can hold you gently, and it can murder you. It doesn’t live, but it’s like life in that. It’s reality. It’s what you live in. I look at it, and I try to see it honestly, see it sharply, fight the good fight – but still be warm, still hold a power through a scoff, a laugh, a smile. Like she did.
I felt comfortable in the snow. I felt an openness I hadn’t felt in weeks. I felt an acceptance of two truths: rightfully never ending sadness and a benevolent strength.
Last night, I dreamt I was wearing something of hers. It was a warm, encompassing coat.
Tagged: death, life, mount rainier, mountains, Ohio, snow, washington
This is amazing. Your writing, your photos — so beautiful. Thank you for sharing!
Thank you for reading.
Beautiful, heartfelt piece, Leah.
Yes, absolutely beautiful, Leah. I hope you have shared these feelings with Ben, who knows only too well, but maybe not in words.
Thanks, Donna. And yeah, have been sharing over the past year during her aggressive illness and after.
Very powerful story! I had tears after reading it.
Thanks, Natalia. It is very meaningful to know I was able to communicate my feelings in a way that had such an impact!
Very nice, such a powerful story
Beautiful thoughts, beautiful words, beautiful photos. The wilderness can be very consoling, it gives and it takes, as you know. Hugs and thanks!
Thanks for the kind words, and for reading.
I absolutely loved this post. A joy from beginning to end.