Sunday, January 19, 2014

Not Even the Trees


Standing in waist deep fresh powder trudging through the great white depths with my buried snowshoes, which may seem like they’re not quite doing the job, but without their large foot print and metal teeth I would never be able to scale the sugar snow covered hill that leads up toward heaven, up to my spot.  I grip my poles tightly as I work my way up the steep hillside in hot pursuit of the perfect shot of my sitting spot.  Taking a moment to pause I look up at the blue sky, deepening in color as the sun dips down below the cloud covered Mt. Sandford and Mt. Drum.  The natural beauty is increasing by the second as the slow descent of the sun strokes the landscape reaching new depths of color and experience as night slowly begins to take over the day.  
Photo by: Parke Ruesch
Unseasonably warm temperatures have found us outside as much as possible, it was 34 F at 7 PM when we finally dragged ourselves inside from our day of work and play. Earlier in the day the four of us and our fur-legged children Honey and Petzl joined us as we trudged our way through the deep snow working our way along the river’s edge as we cut back wayward branches and attempted to resurrect the lost trail to reach new destinations in this microcosm of experience that is The Moose Lodge.  

Photo by: H.M. Wild
Our trail clearing adventure took 90 minutes and resulted in 3/4 of a mile of distance, but a “5” on a 1-5 scale of “rate of perceived exertion” or RPE, for short.  Then we came back to The Lodge for a short lunch break, which the kids extended into a Milo and Otis movie marathon.  We ventured outside while they cozied up on the couch together for afternoon quiet time.  While they snuggled and rested me and Parke worked over the woodpile that we’ve been building up from our firewood cutting of late December.  I run short loops between the log pile to the splitter, where I hand over the chunk of wood and Parke works it over until it is cut into perfect firewood chunks.  Depending on the size of the round we can get 2-8 pieces from one piece.  I stockpile some logs close to the splitter for Parke to work through, then I move over to the split wood pile and make quick short trips with my arms loaded with sentimentally scented split spruce.  

“Making firewood” is the most satisfying activity I can possibly do, other than tri-sport training, the rate of enjoyment and fulfillment I get from working through the woods, limbing trees with my Honey Mama sized ax, sledding chunks of wood out through the dense forest, loading the snowmachine trailer full of wood.  Back at the wood shed we stack the rounds and depending on the moisture content of the wood (we are cutting dead trees) we fire up the splitter and get to work.  I queue up my iPod and hustle wood, singing out loud the caterwauling drowned out by the sound of the splitter chugging along, snapping the wood into pieces through strategic force.  

Yesterday while stacking split pieces a song came on my iPod:  

“I see you in my dreams
And I wonder if you're looking down at me
And smiling right now
I wanna know if it's true

When he looks at me
Won't you tell me
Does he realize he came down here
And he took you too soon” 

- Hootie and the Blowfish; Not Even the Trees 

A familiar song, I started signing it to myself, then the tears began to fall.  Just a few. An armload full of wood and a few steps later I had to drop the wood on top of the pile and started to sob.  

I checked my watch, 2:50 PM, January 18, 2014.  Nine months ago (to the exact moment) I sat in the darkened room of the doctor's office looking at x-ray films.  Studying the films, searching for something that looked amiss, a clue, a sign, something to make sense of the situation.  While our whole family waited for the doctor we sat in silence, afraid to speak, afraid to move. Just breathe. 

The doctor came in and explained the films. He began by pointing to a tiny speck on one of the two films, then another. In a few moments the picture became clearer.  I had been studying the films for something unusual, out of place, but the reason I saw nothing was because it was everywhere. Everywhere.

Photo by: H.M. Wild
Sitting there, trying to hold my own, biting my lower lip, quivering in my very soul I looked at the doctor and knew what it all meant. My baby, my sister, my best friend -- her strong and beautiful body was ravaged with cancer.  She was in pain and at risk of terrifyingly painful complications that would make her last moments with me excruciating.  
Photo by: H.M. Wild
Parke said “it’s time” and I instantly held my hand up and cut him off. Whatever piece of advice, words of comfort, or reassurance he was trying to offer was not welcome, because hearing the words before I could wrap my mind around them made it real, made it here and now and if there was any place I did not want to be, it was in that moment, that place.

Photo by: H.M. Wild
Back at the firewood pile I attempted to regain composure as the song rang in my ears, feeling the words and the feeling of my heart splitting into pieces. Parke noticed something was wrong and he shut off the log splitter. We watched the long slow sunset and listened to music on my iPod, tears fell at random from my eyes and tried to calm my soul with the one thing that has always soothed me: fur-legged friends.  Honey in my lap and Petzl at my side, we watched the sun go down and I thought of all the sunsets I watched with my dog, "Sneeker".  

Photo by: H.M. Wild
The truth is I haven’t been the same since Unique died. I accepted that yesterday when the grief hit me like a freight train, out of the blue, sucker punching me and making me feel weak all over -- in pieces.  Unique was more than a dog, and her death was about more than losing my dog.  When she died I lost part of myself. A big part of myself. Basically my entire adult life was built up with Unique by my side.  A difficult break-up, the ups and downs of dating, keeping my heart from being broken again, working on my degree, building up my career, getting married, having children, moving, moving, moving. Unique was there. We grew up together and became these wild seeking souls, undeterred by the clear obstacles that lie in our path.  If there were ever a dog that could live to be 100, I really believed Unique had what it took to be that dog.  When she died just shy of eleven it seemed impossibly hard to comprehend.  

A few hours later I hauled firewood in for the night and decided to make an outside fire. I rummaged through the wood shed and found scraps and bits of wood to get me started. Once it got going I hauled down our Christmas tree and limbed it with my axe, shaking the snow off the boughs (it had been on our porch for a couple weeks), then piling them up next to the heat of the fire.  I sat quietly and watched the final reaches of daylight fall below the horizon as the night sky began to reveal its quiet unassuming magic to my salty eyes.  Alone.  Content. Okay.  Breathing. 

October 2013 Post: Unique 


Photo by: H.M. Wild

Hootie & The Blowfish – Not Even The Trees (selected lyrics)

Alone as I sit and watch the trees
Won't you tell me if I scream will they bend down and listen to me?
And it makes me wonder, if I'll know the words when you come
Or will you laugh at me
Or will I run

And it makes me wonder
If the stars shine when my eyes close
Or does my brothers heart cry
I don't know

And I know I'll never see you again
Lying down in Charleston under the Carolina sky

And it makes me wonder
When I see you in my dreams
Does it mean anything
Are you trying to talk to me?

I see you in my dreams
And I wonder if you're looking down at me
And smiling right now
I wanna know if it's true

When he looks at me
Won't you tell me
Does he realize he came down here
And he took you too soon

And now my days are short an my nights are long
I lay down with memories of you that keep me going on, going on
And it makes me wonder as I sit and stare
Will I see your face again?
Photo by: H.M. Wild
 Unique Roo
July 23, 2002 - April 18, 2013