There is a quiet place, a secret place, that is yours for restoration. There is a realness in the stillness. Go there, when you can; when you need to. It's safe. For me, it is the Other Side of the Trees.
People talk, you know. We learn over time that you cannot believe everything you hear. “The moon, part of it, is made of green cheese.” “Elvis Presley is a hermit living in Utopia.” “Humpty Dumpty was pushed” (actually, this might be legitimate!).
So, when they said that we had a total of (about) 16 inches of snow, here … yesterday / through the evening … I just didn’t see it. But, it’s close to being accurate. The snow, usually, jolts me out of any fog that I’m in the midst of. The radiant sun shining through the windows, always finding my eyes, lights up the snow, presenting the white precipitation in a glorious way. While I grabbed some rest last night, the snow was happening, and then it stopped … My body, and more importantly the two dogs, made it clear that the rest was over. My mind wanted more, but my body said, basically, “that’s enough, time to get up … and make some coffee.” For years, my coffee was with cream, and two sugars. About 2015, I decided that because I was so tired when I surrendered my sleep, I would start drinking my Joe black, but still with two sugars. Things have been better, since that difficult decision. So, that is a little of what is happening. A little snow, a little rest, a little coffee. Black coffee.
I stumbled out of slumber; resistance, prolific (an exaggeration). No turning back. Onward. Life moves toward the finish line, while some still live in the past, keeping a strong focus on memories, life in the rear-view mirror. I struggle at times, embracing present and future, vigilantly keeping the past at bay. I grieve for the loss of my dad, who honorably crossed that profound finish line in June of 2016; ten months have passed. I remember so much about my dad, the adventures; the pain of what I missed out on, important words unsaid. I shake my head with frustration: the grieving has gone on for just shy of a year. I want to wrap this up, move onward from my dad, let him enjoy the great festival of freedom and joy, released from this jaded world.
Even with my intent to be present, in the “here-and-now”, images, people, memories, drift in from the past. Intrigue. Curiosity. Recently, I stumbled across a picture of an Inupiat family in Noatak, Alaska. A good-looking family, from 1929. The Inupiat are in northern / northwestern Alaska, and part of the Northwest Territories. Inupiat traditional territory spanned Norton Sound on the Bering Sea to the Canada-United States border.
Noatak sits on the west bank of the Noatak River, 55 miles north of Kotzebue, 70 miles north of the Arctic Circle. This is the only settlement on the 396 mile-long Noatak River, just west of the 66-million acre Noatak National Preserve. Noatak was a fishing and hunting camp in the 19th century, evolving into a permanent settlement. In 1880, the census listed the site as Noatagamut: “inland river people.” A post office was established in 1940. So, you could probably send a letter there if you felt so inclined.
A beautiful woman, a radiant mother, exuding a quiet, authentic, joy. The man, with an enigmatic mix of confidence, strength, and peace. The little one, surrounded by fur and love. Below, a photograph, an Inupiat group heading out to fish in their kayaks, the same year, 1929, by the same photographer, also in Noatak. I wonder if the Inupiat man (above), is one of the Noatak kayak-fishermen ( below)?
I revisit stories and individuals in the past. I draw strength from them. Going back “there” empowers me to move forward, onward. C.S. Lewis’s words resonate:
Some parts of the stories, I do not know. I visit the lives of sojourners who have gone before us, highlighting mystery. Mystery is very much alive, all over: the mystery of how love works, how love looks; how to find meaning and joy in our circumstances and our stories; gazing into a ravishing sunset; seeing a harvest moon arise, especially when one is not expecting it; and the Northern Lights. Within this tension between reflections on the past and returning to the present and the future, I am there. The grieving process … mysteriously … continues, longer than what I would like. The grieving process continues beyond my timetable; I want to know more about the mystery of the man, my father; and the memories. My cell phone still shows me the current time. My heart continues to beat. My breathing continues. The future is around the bend, and I cannot hold it back. I live in the present, and I ride it like a wild bull. I hold on for the ride of my life.