And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
I’m back from Oregon now, and reflecting a lot over everything that happened there, physically and emotionally. When I’m at home and at work, I am too busy to let things really affect me. I work no less than 85 hours a week with AllWriters’, I write, I’m a mom and a wife, and I’m involved in community activity, and so typically, I glance at what’s happening to me, but then sink into work.
In Oregon, all that busy-ness came to a stop, and I found myself walloped with everything that happened in 2020 and in thus-far 2021.
These all caused an abundance of sadness and fear and anger to wash over me, much as Ms. Pacific’s waves would, if I walked into her. On my walks by the ocean, who I talk to non-stop, I found myself alternately crying, ranting, and shaking.
And then there was Carla. Carla was my student and friend who passed away on May 11th. She was only 34 years old. I wrote about her in my 5/13/21 blog, as well as in other blogs. She was born with Cystic Fibrosis. And she died after a number of illnesses pecked away at her vulnerability and did her in.
In Carla’s final months, and before we knew these were her final months, Carla and I talked about my trip to Oregon. She embroidered an artpiece for me, of the cover of my poetry book, No Matter Which Way You Look, There Is More To See. That cover features 8-year old Olivia, with me in my favorite spot in Oregon, dancing with Ms. Pacific. Carla spoke about wishing she could go with me.
My birthday is July 29. Carla’s is July 30.
We were close, despite our different perspectives. I was grieving getting older. She was celebrating getting older.
And yet, she could listen and hear me, just as I could listen and hear her.
We made a plan. We would meet, via Zoom or Skype, at the time that my birthday was ending and hers was beginning. I would stand outside, so she could hear the sound of the ocean, encouraging us both to keep breathing with her steady in and out waves. Carla wouldn’t be able to see the ocean, as its pitch black out there at night, but we could see each other, and we could listen, and we could hear.
And then she died, before her birthday.
Her celebration of life was on her birthday, and I was invited to attend. I so wanted to be there. I thought about changing my travel plans, coming home early. But I knew I had a date with an ocean. And I had a promise to keep with Carla.
Because Carla wasn’t there to confer, I made the decision to do our date on Pacific time. And so, at 11:55 p.m. on July 29th, I stepped outside onto the deck of the Wavecatcher, the little house I love so much.
I didn’t carry my computer, because I couldn’t reach Carla by Skype or by Zoom. So I just tried with my voice. Carla could listen and hear me. She always could.
I told her about my trip. I described the ocean on sunny days, on foggy days, and the incredible sunsets I’d been gifted. I told her about the evening of the whales, spout after spout coming up through the waves, and the great curves of backs following right after. One foggy evening, as I took my walk, a flock of pelicans flew by me, close enough that I could hear their wings whistling. I told her about the posterboard, taped to a defunct phone booth on the main street of the town, from a mother begging her son to call her. I told her about finding Ray Bradbury’s signed book of poems.
And I told her about my talks with the ocean. About how I didn’t ask to see a sand dollar this year, and I thanked the ocean for teaching me about faith and loyalty, about always being there and ready to welcome me back when I came home. And I told her about how one morning, the day before my birthday, I found myself weeping as I walked, and the discussion I had with the ocean on a feeling of hopelessness, and the great ask I made. And how, by the end of that walk, my tears were gone, a realization had appeared in my mind, along with an idea I immediately put into action.
I said thank you to Ms. Pacific, who also always listens and always hears.
(I won’t say right now what the ask was – I need to keep it tucked inside and see how things turn out.)
When I finished talking, it was Carla’s birthday. I wished her happy birthday and then I asked her how she was. Was she okay? Was she there?
I heard the sound of waves, encouraging me to keep breathing, even if my breaths are older now. And I felt washed over with peace. I also heard the sound of, I believe, an owl. A single note. Not mournful. But resonant. And at rest.
I listened. I heard.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.
The embroidery art Carla made of my book cover.