Emily

The sun casts a river of amber glitter atop the slow-moving waves lapping the side of my kayak, nudging me gradually out from shore. A large white sea lion eyes me from atop the rectangular dock a handful of yards away. I glance to my left and see your mother grinning while your son paddles their kayak from between her legs. To my right, near a leaning madrone on the water’s edge, I sense your presence. Not more than a dozen feet away is your daughter, the one I held just days after she was born, the same days during which you passed to the other side. She is accompanied by your best friend and her daughters, and they are wading into the sound, shrieking and laughing as the cold water shocks their bare calves.

Earlier that day we visited a bridge tucked into the woods beneath old growth doug firs, a place I understand you held dear and your children truly love. I watched them explore their surroundings, finding rocks, tossing sticks into the creek and gathering fern fronds to build with. I remember doing the same things with my sisters when I was a little girl.

It’s been five years since I saw your family, and since you left us. As I drove up the 101 North toward your yellow beach house by the sound, I had an overwhelming feeling that you were near. It was strange and magical, and I cried my way to the driveway before gathering myself to knock on the door. The weekend that followed was filled with stories and laughter and porch sitting; I even taught the kids how to hula hoop on the lawn. Your children carry your features on their faces, and the glimpses I caught of you made my heart ache and soar all at once. I miss you all over again and yet, I am comforted by spending time with your loved ones and learning about the corners of earth you treasured most.

At dusk, I sat in a white lounge chair gazing out at the two islands on the horizon, and as I scanned the water, drawing my eyes closer to the shoreline, I had to close and open them again, disbelieving what I saw. It was you – a faint outline of a woman’s profile with her hair down, the cool saltwater cupping her shoulders as she gazed out to sea. And then minutes later, a flicker of light danced across the water beneath the sinking sun, and it was an orange buoy bobbing on the waves. But I’ll never forget that image of you skinny dipping at sunset in the place where I’ve been told you felt free and comforted all your life by nature, family, friends and traditions.

I want to think of you now like this poem reads – resting ashore where you are surrounded by the salt, soil, air and trees of your childhood; safe, at peace, having arrived at last.

On this wondrous sea
Sailing silently,
Ho! Pilot, ho!
Knowest thou the shore
Where no breakers roar—
Where the storm is o’er?

In the peaceful west
Many the sails at rest—
The anchors fast—
Thither I pilot thee—
Land Ho! Eternity!
Ashore at last!

-Emily Dickensen

 

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What Dinosaurs and Love Have to Do With One Another

I lie on the cool ground and cover myself in a blanket of leaves, soil and moss. My childhood friend and I lie still, holding our breaths at first, but eventually relaxing into the arms of the earth. Minutes later, the ferocious dinosaur that’s been hunting us for miles passes us by. Just before I wake up from the dream, I watch him lumber off through the forest and dissolve into the horizon, and I feel a deep sense of peace.

What does this dream have to do with anything? you might be thinking. Well as silly as a dream about a dinosaur sounds, this tiny scene is actually full of wisdom, which I hope you might gain something from.

Here’s my interpretation…

In the dream, the earth, a manifestation and symbol of the feminine (love) energy, is a safe haven, salve and protector against the dinosaur, which represents antiquated, primordial fear. This fear is what our ancestors once felt, and what we, on a cosmic level, were initially born from. This is simply part of what makes us human. We all feel primal fear at times during our lives.

What are these fears? Although they vary, many of us experience the fear of truly entering life and “risking it all” to fulfill our purpose, while also equally fearing failure, death, separation, loss, vulnerability and intimacy.

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Fear is so powerful that it can alter our understanding of who we truly are. That’s why we need an antidote, and the antidote is love. Love is not conditional and it knows no boundaries. It can be felt as an openness and a receptivity to life, regardless of mood or circumstance. This life-giving feminine energy lives inside all of us, and is most fully embodied in mother earth, as we would not exist without the generosity of our planet to sustain us. Therefore, it is not a coincidence that in the dream, my friend and I find refuge in the earth (love), and that this is what causes the dinosaur (fear) to dissolve into the horizon, leaving us unscathed.

If I haven’t lost you yet, here’s what I see as the takeaway: you are love. Beneath all negative emotions, patterns of behavior, and external circumstances, you can access this powerful truth by breathing and opening you heart over and over again. It will take practice, and believe me, I am someone who needs lots of practice, but I do believe we are truly all capable of defeating fear by embracing love.

What’s that? You’re afraid of love? So what, as my boyfriend would say. Love anyways. Love through the fear; love past the fear. Love yourself, love your partner, love your friends, love your family, love your enemies, and love life! Keep in mind that love is not bothered by imperfections, so it isn’t about being flawless or void of darkness. Rather, when you realize there is a greater purpose love serves, to help you grow into your whole, most joyful, empowered and free self, you can embrace the places where you’re broken with compassion.

Love is who you are, even, and especially when, the dinosaur of your deepest fears comes gnashing his teeth, threatening to swallow you whole. When this happens — and if you’re human, it will happen often — return to openness, and let the feminine element of your soul remind you how to be vulnerable.

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I’m Still Alive

Seattle was wet like it usually is. Despite the rain, we were smiling. It was Valentine’s Day after all, and we were together.

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We’d wandered into a cozy bar and took turns feeding the jukebox. Sipping on drinks, we sang along to Van Morrison and Al Green, nodding and humming. The jukebox shuffled – a pause – and then my song, Pearl Jam’s “Alive” clicked on.

Eddie Vedder belted out his infamous line “Oh, I, Oh I’m Still Alive,” and the man at the bar began swaying side to side. He looked as if he was made of stiff limbs rather than muscles that bend and flex. We watched him with sideways glances from our tiny red vinyl booth. A guttural yell escaped from his mouth and filled the tiny tavern, pushing against the walls. It occurred to me that he was trying to sing along. The word “Alive” was momentarily audible but the syllables were drawn out and muffled as if he had a cotton ball under his tongue. 

The bartender kindly told him it was time to leave. His behavior was beginning to interfere with the other patrons. One too many drinks; and perhaps, one too many heartbreaks.

Although it was a painful sight to watch – a grown man in his late 50’s three sheets to the wind, mumbling and stumbling, unaware of the impact he was making on those around him – there was something about it that stuck with me weeks later.

It’s the brokenness that was so clear, and the humanity I saw beneath this man’s moment of rawness. Although his actions were jarring, they were also somehow comforting. As two friends guided him to the sidewalk to take a cab ride home, I saw a man who was lost. And I also saw a man fighting something – or maybe for something. For what, I don’t know, and I’ll never know. But I imagine it to be love. The love we all crave so deeply. Not just from others, but from ourselves. And with that comes acceptance – knowing that you are okay just the way you are.

I recently turned 28, and birthdays have a way of making me take stock of things. I’ve had a lot of gains, and also a lot of losses in my time here thus far. And in the depth of my grief, I’ve even felt as if I’m at risk of losing myself. But tonight, as I feel the sharp edges of wounded places in me, I remember this man and Eddie Vedder and the words, and even though I feel swallowed whole by emotion sometimes – I’m still alive. You could even say they’re proof of it.

Inch by inch, I get a little closer to something that resembles love; maybe even acceptance.

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