Friday, September 12, 2014

Letting Go Part 2: for Barbara


Dear Barbara,

The anniversary of your death snuck up on me quietly this year. I didn’t feel it as consciously as I did last September, but when I suddenly remembered two days ago what was looming ahead of me, I had an aha moment. Although I can pinpoint many of the reasons this week has felt tough, there was something else that I couldn’t pinpoint, and it was you: it was remembering you – what little time I knew you – at some sort of cellular level.

Eighty dollars. Five whole pies from the Stehekin bakery, plus tax. Two round trip tickets to Stehekin. A tank and a half of gas.

Eighty dollars was all that it took to throw away the rest of my cookbook stock this week. I loaded it into the back of a friend’s truck, took it to a transfer station, and hurled the boxes from my knees from the back of the truck into a huge pile of refuse.

Eighty dollars was not enough. It did not accurately portray the massive amounts of time and energy that I poured into creating those cookbooks, nor the subsequent hours of trying to sell them, nor the muscle it took to move them from place to place as I myself moved locations. It was not enough to encompass all the work of creating my first published books, even if they weren’t what I had first set out to publish. It was not enough to give credence to the hours, days and months of researching to get them made. It was not enough to show both the victory and the defeat in a writer’s first venture into publishing.

Eighty dollars is much less than the storage fees I paid on them; much less than the cost to insure them. Eighty dollars is less than I’ve paid to have Amazon keep them in their warehouse so they’d be an item that qualified for free shipping. 

Eighty dollars brought me to tears over chicken strips and French fries after I had made it out of the transfer station without a backward glance, as if what I had done had not felt like it nearly ripped my heart in two.

Even before you died, Barbara, I wanted those fucking cookbooks to disappear. I wanted them to sell on their own. I did not want to have to push them into the faces of tourists for them to fly off the shelves.  I did what I have been dreaming about since before I left Panama, but it still hurts, and it represents a death of another sort this week, besides the anniversary of your passing. They were certainly not the same sort of death, but their loss is still important. Getting rid of the weight of those books meant the death of old me that holds on even when everything in me is screaming to let go – and the growth of a new me that knows that that in letting go, I will find more freedom than in holding on.

I told someone what I had done later that day. I tried to name all the reasons why it was a good thing as my voice cracked and my hands shook. She nodded and smiled and said, “All that can be true Morgan, but it’s also ok to just admit that it was a really shitty moment.”

I’ve given up over and over again, Barbara, and each time I give up it becomes easier. I give up worrying about what people think on a daily basis. I gave up on trying to fulfill every role that someone put in front of me because I very simply could not handle them all, and very few of them are actually me. And I gave up on my cookbooks because it was time, because I hated them more than I loved them, because it is much harder to hold on than it is to let go, even if the process of letting go is painful.

It reminds me of my last minutes with you, actually. Anyone I spoke to who had any sort of spiritual awareness after you died told me that they could feel how ecstatic you were having left your body behind. All I could see, though, was your last struggle for breath – your attempt to stay in your body, how you didn’t want to let go. Even right after it happened I marveled at the soul’s connection to this life, which is where my thoughts always turn when I’m faced with death. Why do we hold on so hard if so many traditions teach us that what’s on the other side is so much better?

Perhaps it’s just human nature – perhaps it is just the human side of me that wants to hold on for dear life when the rest of me is begging me to let go. Perhaps in those moments the fear overtakes the peace. Perhaps it is just one more piece we’re supposed to learn. 

Or perhaps, as you most likely know by now, the struggle is just a small one in comparison to the rewards reaped on the other side. 

Perhaps letting go includes releasing the tears that have to be shed to complete the process.

Love and released kisses

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Ache: Stehekin

--> I felt it on the way uplake. I felt it as we laid out the tent on the dry dirt, smelled the cottonwood and pine mixed together, when I felt my breath whoosh out of me when I plunged into the icy water, and, especially, when I saw the sunburned, muscled bodies bearing up under backpacks on the shuttle up to dinner.

Hikers of the Pacific Crest Trail often make a detour into Stehekin, a community of 75 year-round residents and a lot of seasonal tourists strung along a single 12-mile paved road at the far end of Lake Chelan. I’ve been told that the cinnamon rolls at the Stehekin Pastry Company (usually referred to as The Bakery) are well worth the extra mileage to a calorie-starved hiker…or anyone else, for that matter. Walking in over mountains and valleys is one of only three ways to arrive – the other two are float plane, and boat.

There is no road to Stehekin from the outside world. Wifi is limited; cell service does not exist. Instead you are at the foot of blue craggy mountains, the foot of the glacier-fed Stehekin River, and the foot of the deep, clear crystal blue Lake Chelan, at its coldest here near its source, where the stars glitter like diamonds above the lightless road. In Stehekin, it’s not surprising to see rusted out cars with tabs that haven’t been updated since 1980…because, you see, there’s no law here, and no need.

Stehekin is my childhood condensed. I did not grow up here, but the things I liked most about growing up on Lake Chelan are here: a small-town feel, little that has changed, friendly waving people driving slowly by, an orchard to wander through, a garden to stop in, and the smells of water and pine and cotton wood and earth: dry, dusty, summer-baked earth.

 I went to Stehekin because it seemed like the thing to do after two years away, and it was all that I needed, but it also gave me an ache that would not dissipate for the three days I was there. I ached because it felt like going home, but also because it was not a home I could sustain. I ached because I want very much to carry the peaceful warmth of an endless Stehekin day with me wherever I go, but in the few weeks since I’ve been back in the States, I’ve found it harder and harder to be able to find that endless summer day space in my everyday. Even if it wasn’t Stehekin, I had found that peace in Panama, and I want it again. I want it always, just a shut laptop away, just a bike ride from the front door.

I ached because I looked at the Pacific Crest Trail hikers and I wanted what they have: endless nights in a tangible world, where their feet take them the distance they need to go, their backs carry what they need to live, and their smiles shine out past their courage and connect with anyone who carries the same badges: the same willingness to leave life as it is to go seek life how it could to be: closer to the source and further away from the fear and powerlessness that can cause paralysis and stagnation.

It is a slower existence, and one I feel often: on hiking trails, next to monstrous roaring waterfalls, and last night, by myself. I shucked off my clothes on a still-warm rock in the darkness and swam out into where the moonlight was illuminating the water. I looked down and saw own legs below me under the surface, as clearly as if they were illuminated by daylight. The moon shone straight onto my skin through glowing liquid, as if to say, “You see? You are here, too – I see you. You are as much part of this water as I am part of this sky.”

And it is in that water that I will always live, regardless of where I am. Chelan – deep water – nourishes me, reminds me that my roots need not hold me stagnant, and that I can float out past the shore and into the moonlight, where I belong.

I ached there because it was home, but not because it is a home that I have to stay in to live in. I ached because it reminded me of how far I have come since my first time swimming up into Rainbow Falls. I ache because my highest self sees herself in the surroundings here – she sees the courage she writes with, the strength she walks through her days with, and an inner beauty reflected outward in these tall craggy mountains and a lake so deep it’s hard to find the bottom. She is at home here, but then again, she is at home everywhere. The only the thing I need to know I’m home is the feeling I found here: a familiar, deep, soul-touching ache. 

Love and aching kisses