When we arrived yesterday the sky was crisp and blue.
The trees out here on the Oregon coast are tall and strong. They grow fast in the rain and rich soil, but their roots go deep. Some are strangely shaped, with missing branches and limbs bent by the wind, but they are steady. There is one tree growing sideways on the side of the rock wall that stretches into the ocean. I can’t stop staring at it.
There’s another fresh loss in my life this year, but here we are in June, so I shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve felt the storm building for weeks, like a slow hurricane that I see coming in, but cannot avoid.
June is my cruelest month.
Do you have days or months that are marked like this? Seasons weighted with grief or unease that show up each year?
I’ve tried all sorts of things to fight it. I’ve partied my way through Junes, slept through them, and hid away with my good friends Rational Detachment, Over-exercise, Over-eating and Alcohol.
But I’m learning that there are no ways around grief, so this June I am trying to reach down my roots.
This year I planned a retreat at the coast with three other writers. I found a house large enough for four creative introverts, where we could spread out to work in our own corners.
The house is tall and skinny and stands halfway up a hill overlooking the Pacific.
It was light until 10:30 last night. I ran down to the beach and stood on a rock as thousands of birds circled over the Three Arches. They joined in waves, the flock gathering together before settling down for the night. They swirled around and around against a pink sky, and I was reminded that even funnel clouds are beautiful.
The fade lasted for hours, gliding through countless colors while the gray chased it up from the east. It is almost the longest day of the year. We gathered on the porch and laughed and toasted the might of words with whiskey.
When I finally went up to bed, I could hear the ocean through the black out curtains as I stretched out on my hard mattress. I felt the rush of grief rising up in my bones; my joints telling me that the storm is very near.
This morning, the grief arrives along with the roofers working on the house next door. They show up at 9 a.m. and the banging beings. The sounds of shovel scraping off old shingles matches the sense of loss on my skin. I want to be out, to be away, to claw it all off and just be through with this already. They are tossing slabs of roofing down to the driveway below.
Today I have to face the reality that I had something good that I don’t anymore.
I ignore the pounding and crashing, and write out a careful list of all my present emotions, trying to identify and accept them in turn. I stare at the list.
I curl up and cry on the couch.
When the roofers stop for lunch, I grab two towels from the bathroom and spread a long white mat on the upstairs deck. I am angled towards the sea and the breeze blows wisps of my hair across my lips, but does not move the branches on the trees. I breathe through a short yoga routine, stretching into spaces my body does not want to be. Sitting at a desk all day does nothing for your hamstrings.
This is a way through grief: the willingness to stretch into a place you do not want to be, and to be fully there.
My hands press into the towel and it leaves a little collection of indentations in my palms. I notice them as I reach my arms up to the sky and then hold them together in front of me, balancing on one leg. The weight of our pain marks us, but we are not overcome. I stand in tree pose and focus on the rocks. I breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth, and I pray for peace.
At the end, I am sitting cross-legged at the front of my makeshift mat with my palms facing up, my back as straight as I can make it. I am panting, because breathing through downward dog is harder than it looks. That always surprises me.
The Three Arch Rocks stand out in the waves, slowly being obscured by a cloud that settles down on them.
The ruckus resumes next door, with the pow pow pow of a nail gun echoing across the street as the roofers apply fresh shingles.