Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Cloud Lift

Monday was Sarah's birthday. I wrote about it on her last birthday here and then, because there was still more to say, here. Sarah has been gone now for over three years.

Last spring, I lived in North Carolina. I woke up that morning knowing it was Sarah's birthday- it was important to me that I remembered not just the day she died, but the better anniversary as well. It was a sunny, beautiful, neon green Southern spring day. My girl friends and I went to Merlefest and watched the Avett Brothers sing Head Full of Doubt. It was about 90 degrees, we burnt through our sundresses and our snowcones melted into electric colored puddles on the grass. It should have been the perfect way to honor and remember Sarah, but I couldn't do it. I couldn't make that connection between she's dead and I need to celebrate being alive. I felt very sad. I felt like there was a horrendous hole inside of me.

Now that I'm back in Seattle, things are different. This is the city where I knew Sarah, where she was born, where she never left. I still see our mutual friends every day. I keep thinking I see her on the street, especially when I'm in Ballard, and I then I have to remind myself that it's not her and it never will be. But it doesn't feel so much like burning anymore. This is the way it is. She died of a terrible disease and the rest of us carry on. And each one of us lives with that much more appreciation for and fascination with being alive. There's something connecting all of us, and it's her.

Sarah's birthday came this year with terrible weather. It was pouring rain in the city. I was standing in the  living room at Greg's house, looking out across Lake Washington. He was washing his car in the  garage. We had plans to take the dogs to the dog park, but the rain was coming down too hard. It was late in the afternoon and I had nearly resigned myself to a day of watching animal videos on the computer reading. Then Greg came up the stairs and saw me there. I hadn't mentioned Sarah to him but I had said something about being homesick,  missing the country, craving small towns, wanting wilderness. "Wanna go hike rattlesnake?" He asked.

Driving from South Seattle to the foothills, Eastbound on 1-90 towards the looming, snow-spitting Cascade mountain range takes surprisingly little time. At least it does at 2:30 in the afternoon. Before long, the city and suburbs had eased away and the highway was surrounded on each side with darkly forested hills. The curtain of rain gave way to a gray swirls of mist as we cut through downtown North Bend. 

Seattle to Rattlesnake Ledge by way of Dairy Freeze: 

The mountain was green and wet and lit up with new moss. Greg's two dogs, Dante and Lucia, free from the leash and the car, were the happiest hounds in the world. We didn't see another soul as we switch-backed our way up the trail through the living watercolor. The world inside the forest was gem-colored, dripping, lush- each hue so exquisitely deep you could sink right down into it.

 At the top, we were out of breath and above the clouds. It looked as if you would walk right off the planet.

I think Sarah would have really loved the new song The Dog Days are Over. She would love Taco Tuesday and probably have put down 20 tacos long before we invented the 20 Taco Challenge. Remember, this is a girl who shaved her head for a pitcher of free beer. She would have loved that I sent a letter to a stranger at the climbing gym and failed miserably in that pursuit. She would have liked that I gave the shitty boyfriend I had back then the heave-ho. She would like that I'm writing this blog.
We thought we were running out light on the way back down, but it turned out to be just the trees and their filtering branches. When we burst out of the trail and onto the shores of the lake, we were met with the smooth, pearly light of evening and little patches of blue in the far corners of the sky. Blue sky is worth its weight in gold to a Seattle-dweller after a long winter. I think I've said it before: blue is gold.

In no hurry, we let the wild things play in the water until they'd exhausted themselves.

  There was one more stop on the way home. Fireplace, warmth, beers, dinner. Then a quiet drive home in the small, safe orb of the car. 

Sarah, I vow to honor you in my life by constantly doing cool shit with people that I love that way I love you.


Katie said...

Sarah would have totally beasted the 20 taco challenge. I think it was an appropriate week to do it :)

Adriana Iris said...

well you made me cry...then the images they are so are so awesome. Sarah was lucky to have you.

Bridget K said...

I never knew Sarah, but I feel like I did after reading about her. I am sorry for your loss.

About four years ago, we lost my aunt. She died very suddenly and unexpectedly. I understand, then, that it is hard to just 'celebrate their life' and your own when you are still cringing and mourning.

I agree, the photos are very soft and warm. Lovely.

Melina said...

Adriana- thank you.

Sebby said...

"You can't let the bastards get you down."

SJJ said...

A beautiful post. Story and pictures and duality of life and death. Thanks for sharing!

Chris said...

Nice. There is now a DNR trail over the whole length of Rattlesnake, though it might be July before you can hike the whole thing snow-free. Scott's DF is awesome; I recommend the Snoqualmie Brewery for apres-hike food and beverage.

Chris said...

That was a really great post. Just thought I would tell you know that.

Bryan McLellan said...

Dates are interesting; why we remember them, why we think it is important that we do, and what meaning they represent. I knew the day my parents got married and the day they got divorced for years before I knew their birthdays because my father used them for various pin codes that he shared with me. One might seem like longing or the other spite, but together they tell quite the story.

My father didn't talk a whole lot. You might think his choices were spontaneous, but he was usually thinking and working up to a decision. When I was young, he was interested in Alaska. He had a strong attachment to the North Maine woods, where his parents were from and where we often spent time when I was young. Alaska seemed like the great extension of that land; not wild, nor natural per se, but perhaps still naturally wild. A land unbroken, not for being tamed but for whatever the forests were.

My the time I was I in my late teens he wasn't traveling much. His emphysema had gotten the better part of his energy reserves and he tended to not stray too far from home. Every year he went to camp once fewer until he didn't have the energy for the excursion any longer.

I moved for Seattle for many reasons, but it wasn't until I had already been here for a couple years that I realized how close Alaska now was to me. I bought a small dual-sport motorcycle, intent on picking up motorcycle camping or "adventure motorcycling" as the sport is called. I had a bit of anxiety about telling my father, expecting a lecture about the safety of motorcycles but I only got an understanding "yup" when I finally told him.

A couple years later I had a major accident which hospitalized me for a couple weeks. I had no fears of getting back on a motorcycle afterward, but I was sure my family would and told myself I'd set the hobby aside until the long lawsuit process was finally over.

Years later when the lawsuit was settled dusted off the wrecked bike, pulled it apart and rebuilt it. Immediately the spark was reignited and I was still tuning the carburetor on the rebuilt dual-sport when I bought my dream motorcycle, a BMW F800GS adventure bike.

This time was not only worried about my fathers feelings about me riding again, but also about spending so much money on a motorcycle. Once again I was surprised by his response, which amounted to a sentence or two about how we all need to have a toy or two.

I had hoped to make the journey to Alaska this year on the motorcycle. I bought it nearly specifically for that trip, or at least the concept of it. When my father died this spring I put off any thoughts of vacation as I was suddenly taking weeks off of work for the funeral, burial and dealing with his estate.

As I've settled into distracting rhythms henceforth, I've been drawn toward the loud silence of the wilderness and I've been in the shop, tinkering on the bikes; keeping busy. Finally, I requested a long unpaid vacation this summer for the trip.

It is the right time to go and a memorializing destination. Sometimes we have to run away to find something.

Anonymous said...

be happy and love. kiss

Dr. Unk said...

A great post and some awesome pics! That was a great hike!

Dr. Unk said...

A great post, great pics and that hike was awesome! We must go again...

Melina said...

let's go again, Unk.

Baby By The Sea said...

Blue is gold. True. There was a small tint of it today as I ran around San Juan Island, but the grey is blanketing the tulips. I think your friend would have loved the way your dog smiled in the pic. And, she would love you sense of carrying on, adventuring on, blogging on.

Niki said...

Hey Lina,

I started reading your blog consistently, it's wonderful.

This post inspired me to write a post on my blog for Sarah. It's definitely not as poetic as yours, but it helped me work out my sadness after reading your Sarah post's (I read them all, and I bawled. A lot.) You can check it out here:

Miss you and Seattle,