I didn’t sleep well last night—for the second night in a row—and got up “late,” just as daylight was beginning to arrive. Instead of heading to my desk to work, I sat in the corner chair with Dani Shapiro’s Signal Fires and coffee, after remaking the coffee because when I put it on the timer last night I failed to close the lid and just had ecru hot water when I got up. Maybe it was the fatigue that made me emotional, but the morning sky that looked like it was going to be a great grey nothingness, and a morning that was “supposed” to be rainy, left me tight-chested and damp-eyed.
I’ve had moments lately of feeling ready to leave here, feeling the beckoning of adventure. Which leads my heart to my mother who didn’t leave here. She stayed for more than twenty years after my father died. Sometimes she was alone, and sometimes a family member, transitioning to the Pacific Northwest from the accidental generational migration to the east coast decades ago, stopped by for a time. First my sister, then my daughter, then my nephew, and finally me. (My older sister is returning soon, but she won’t live here.) And during the height of the pandemic, the fourth generation sheltered here. We were all glad for a landing place; we were all grateful for this sanctuary. My mother didn’t have a landing place to leave here for, so she stayed in the sanctuary. Because of me, she stayed longer than she might have, maybe lived longer than she might have. I don’t know if that was a good thing or not.
I don’t know what I want. But I know what I need. I need to not grow old here. I need to go while I still have the resilience to begin again and can embrace the adventure. I have thought I would go at 75. That’s less than four and a half years. It will slip by in a blink. I can’t leave it to chance. I need a plan; at least an inkling of a plan. And the thought of leaving already breaks my heart. Especially on mornings like this one.
I’ve been getting the outdoor adventure itch lately. I want to drive out to the Olympic Peninsula and go for a river hike in the national forest. Or out my favorite highway to the coast. But free days and good weather (or at least a good forecast) have not lined up. I might have jumped in the car this morning when I saw that the forecast was wrong again, but I knew I was too sleep deprived. So I headed into the fog shrouded, mossy woods out my front door instead.
The sun-brightened fog, raindrops clinging to snowberries and sparkling like jewels on bare shoots, and the silence (if one blocks the faint roar of distant traffic) brought the emotions again.
I played in these woods as a child, then left them for other horizons. My mother spent her empty nest then her empty bed years in its holy refuge. I don’t come here often. Always an excuse. Maybe I’m protecting my future. If I don’t get too attached, it won’t be so hard to leave. Stupid. The only moment I have for sure is this one. And today it was an unexpected, unpredicted one.
I climbed the steps to Staebler Point, and decorated the plaque that honors my parents’ legacy of saving these woods. The fog over town lifted while I communed with them. Someday I will leave the house they built, but because of them and others, I can return to this place as long as my legs can get me here.
Ducking under the mossy vine maples, I came back to our barn, our meadow, my garden that will one day become one with the earth again, as did my father’s garden here, as we all will.
I finally refilled the bird feeders yesterday and this morning the black-capped chickadees and red-breasted nuthatches have already found them. Where did they go in the interim? Did they find a new food source? Was it less desirable? (I dread the “less desirable” for myself.) Do they rotate here and there regardless of supply? Maybe we all return to our places of sanctuary, sooner or later, be they external or internal. The woods are full of pieces of lives shed, feathers and fir. As we all leave bits ourselves behind when we move on. What will be left here? Just the ghosts, just the ghosts.
I have many desk and computer projects, both time sensitive and not. Or maybe they all are . . . that “things could change in a flash” thing. Maybe none of them are. My laptop incessantly tells me my disk is almost full and I want to jettison it, clear my focus, start again, or not start again. I’m spending too many hours in a chair. What would be the harm in the end if the projects didn’t get done, if I spent too much time outside or engrossed in a book instead? Or writing. I don’t know. For a fractional second, as I returned from time in the forest primeval, I felt ready to return to the Great House Clean-out, or to tackle painting the only untouched room: the laundry room. It didn’t last long.
Well, that’s where my head is at today. The rain should return tomorrow (or this afternoon), and I won’t be so melancholy—by which I do not mean depressed. Sometimes winter sun sends me more inside myself than rainy days do. Not a bad thing.
P.S. It’s raining.
P.P.S Now it’s not.