Monday, November 28, 2011

South America

On June 29th I found out that Stephen was dead. I was in Maine. I sat down at the end of a logging road and wrote his name in the dirt with a stick. It made me feel a little better, so I wrote it again. His name would have stretched on for miles, carved in cursive on the side of the road, until the road became pavement, and the pavement became state highway, all the way down the length of the Black River until I was etching his name into the granite hills in New Hampshire. But I had to be back at camp in the evening to make dinner for girls, so I had to stop.
Whenever I miss him now, I go down to the beach and write his name in the sand. Today there was sun in the city after two weeks of steady rain and I couldn't get him out of my mind. I gave up on work and took the dog to Discovery. We wandered around until night. I collected sea glass. I keep a pile of it next to Stephen's photo on my desk.

By now, my character is probably coming into focus. I have a strange schedule. I'm oddly employed, with long patches of days where I'm not required to be anywhere. I do my best work around the time that I should be getting ready for sleep, which leaves the days open for other things. I live inside my thoughts a lot and I refuse to go on dates. And although I have great cause to float around all the time and gape at all my excessive luck, certain things still cause me anguish. Like Stephen drowning. It wakes me up in the middle of the night sometimes. Those dreams! We'll be sitting together on a rock in the river and I'll ask, "Was it a great relief?" And he'll be just about to answer and I'll wake up.

I had the dream last night so I had to go to the beach today. It was a steely cold, harsh but gorgeous, a good day to be alive, to be by yourself.

I thought about the Achibueno river in Chile and the thanksgiving we spent on its banks. The school was living  at this big wooden lodge, so deep into the Andes that to get there, you had to abandon your truck in a meadow and walk the rest of the way, or ride a horse. The only other people we saw out there were cowboys. These days I find it hard to believe I ever ran a river so big and so remote as the Achibueno.

On thanksgiving we took the whole day off from school. Tino went to town and brought back soda, wine, and piles of cakes. We had way more cake than we knew what to do with, even with all those boys we barely made a dent. It was the happiest thanksgiving I can remember.

Over dinner we read Pablo Neruda poems and some of the stories the kids had written in my class. One of the boys, most likely Clay, tried to coax the tarantula out from where it crouched in the shadows. We weren't supposed to touch the tarantula because it was severely poisonous. But Clay, a handsome kid from Chatanooga who I liked a lot, was always breaking the rules and causing trouble. He gave us some headaches. He also gave CPR to David when he got stuck under a waterfall for too long. He saved Dave's life and I think that redeemed him for all the trouble he caused.

After we ate, we spent the evening as we spent every evening in the Andes, spread out around the fire place, reading, grading homework, playing hours of Uno. Talking. Tino took his guitar out each night, and Andy his fiddle, and the three of us sang a lot of Avett Brothers songs.

I do not have the talent to put that time into words. How it felt to be there, so removed from the world and so enveloped inside our own. I remember the river was very cold, it rained each day, and one time we all had to rescue swimming goats by pulling them onto our kayaks and paddling them to shore.

I wish I could crawl backwards in time and spend a few more weeks there. We were so lucky. I miss them very much. More than anything I miss Stephen. Our boy who went underwater. 


Katie said...

Beautiful post, Lina.

Anonymous said...

I had to go back and reread some posts about Stephen because I am a new reader. What a tragedy. Beautifully written, like Katie said. Love and light.

Kara Ware said...

Wow Melina. It doesn't get any more heartfelt then this. To feel this much is a gift. To appreciate so much is a blessing!

Kara Ware said...

Wow Melina. It doesn't get any more heartfelt then this. To feel this much is a gift. To appreciate so much is a blessing!

Kara Ware said...

Wow Melina. It doesn't get any more heartfelt then this. To feel this much is a gift. To appreciate so much is a blessing!

Melina said...

Thanks Kara. Sometimes I wonder if it would be a gift to be able to leave things behind in the past so cleanly that I feel nothing at all....but it's never going to be that way. And yes, it is a gift, isn't it, to live this way.

Baby By The Sea said...

Wow. Right from the lead with cursive driftwood pencils I was *in it.* That Thanksgiving sounds surreal, especially the part about the swimming goats. It really creates the most intense mental picture. I've never been in a kayak, and I sure as hell haven't rescued a goat.
Sounds like a great loss and you write so beautifully about him, I feel like I knew him, or at the very least knew of the sort of person he was. How lucky you are to have had him in your life.

Melina said...

BBS, thank you for another beautiful comment.

lorri said...

Melina, I didn't know Stephan, but I know many who did. I know the folks that were with him when he drowned and who searched for his body immediately after his accident. More intimately, I know the river that took his life. I lived for months on its banks at the exact eddy where Stephan's life jacket was recovered. I often say my heart is on the Payette. My beloved river has taken others, and yet in these tragedies I find a new facet of forgiveness. How is it with such ease that we absolve our rivers, so comfortably embracing both their magic and their horror?

Melina said...

Hi Lorri, thank you so much for leaving a comment. It's really important to me to hear the stories of the people who know about the Payette and the people who looked for Stephen. Did you paddle the Payette? We must know a lot of the same people. Thank you so much for your comment, for reading, and for understanding.

Cassandra said...

Really touching, Lina. A nice pause. :) xo