Sunday Morning ~ New Shoots
Bango likauma, libber linzace. ~ When one reed becomes dry, another one shoots out.
~ Chewa proverb
September 20, 2020
I’m sitting on a small cliff overlooking Cobscook Bay. The sun just came over the horizon, the tide is going out, the campfire is blazing, and the water is boiling. I’ve got my tea and that makes my morning about perfect. It’s the last day of summer, though you’d never know that by the temperature. My tent is just behind me and on this cold morning it was an effort to get out of my toasty sleeping bag. But I could sense the sun about to break over the distant trees and needed to be out here to feel it’s first light.
I was lucky to get this spot. I arrived at the ranger station an hour before they opened hoping to nab a spot on the water. A ranger pulled up in a truck and asked if I needed help. I told him I wanted a campsite which, I know are first-come-first-serve. He told me I could drive around and see which are free, “But” he said, “ I know number thirty is open and it’s a nice one for tent only.” I drove through the quiet park to number thirty. I had to walk through a bit of woods from the car, up over an outcropping of rocks, onto a peninsula that jutted out into the bay. I caught my breath and ran back to the car to save my spot as first in line. What a sweet birthday gift it would be to get that spot. When other cars started pulling in I decided to go stand by the window, masked and cold in the drizzling rain, but determined there would be no question about who was first.
I got the site, gleefully set up my tent in the rain, covered all my other gear with plastic, and went back to the car to explore the area. There are plenty of coastal trails to hike and the forecast was for clearing. I walked for miles in the grey, windy drizzle but the coast is always gorgeous no matter what weather. I was back at camp well before sunset and as I cooked my supper the clouds started breaking up. I ate amid the most glorious light performance. It was a great start to the next year of my life. I thought of my mother, who hated camping but would have been happy if I was happy. I looked around for a sign she was with me but didn’t find one, so thanked her knowing she’s out there somewhere.
When it was dark and I saw the first few stars, I crawled into my tent to read until the book got bleary, listening to the calm water and loons calling, and slept like a baby. I hadn’t angled the tent flap appropriately to watch the sun rise from my sleeping bag, so got up early and lit a fire. Sunrise with tea. I sat for awhile, taking in how quickly those rays could warm me, happy, and thought I’d check my cell phone and see if there were any birthday messages to make my morning even better. The first one I saw was a cryptic group thread saying how bad this year was going, and on Rosh Hashanah no less. I panicked. What? What happened now? I scrolled and found voicemails and other texts with the news. My heart fell, sinking into the rocks I was sitting on.
I’ve always been as fascinated with the passage from this life as with the passage into it. I worked as a hospice nurse before going to midwifery school and find the experiences similar. I’ve thought about how death gives meaning to life and how cognizant I was of minute details every time I was with a person who had just passed. I remember standing on the doorstep of a family’s home to direct the coroner to the house. It was after midnight in a rough neighborhood and I remember watching how the streetlights reflected on the cars as if it were magic. I looked at the scroll of peeling paint on the railing. I watched the doctor get out of his car and thought how big his eyebrows were as he looked at house numbers. I wondered if he kept his clothes laid out next to his bed for times like this. I wondered at myself for wondering all this as a young woman riddled with cancer lay stiff in her bed, her mother wailing in the living room. I’d had to tell her she was gone.
I recollected while absorbing the magnitude of the loss for our country now. I watched the dry wood catch fire and thought about how amazing it is to strike a match and have it burn. I put the matchbook back in my pocket with the toilet paper. I put milk from a nearby farm in my tea and wondered why it hadn’t separated. I noticed the water boiled almost as fast as it does in my electric kettle at home and wondered why some fires are hotter than others. I looked at how huge the tides are here. I thought about how the tide doesn’t care who died. I thought about the power she had. Was it like the tide? Could I somehow relate the two? I thought about the collective gasp of horror that rose when the news broke. I thought how strange it is that one person should carry that kind of weight and wondered what it felt like to her. I thought of her like an ant, so tiny, so strong.
I admit I have been frustrated with all the handwringing the past few years with every new illness. I’d cringe at what was at stake. Why not be calculated in handing it over to a protege with fewer health problems? There was a tiny window, but nothing was guaranteed and who could have known what would happen. It’s no use thinking about that now. Face it. We’re here, left to pick up and carry her torch on the path she paved for us. We have the power and she knew that. She is an angel on our shoulders now. Face it.
I drove to Reversing Falls and walked along the coast, in and out of denial. Reversing Falls is formed by a narrows separating two bays where the water current reverses with the tides. The Passamaquoddy called this “Place of boiling water”. When the tides are changing the outcropping of rocks beneath the water and the change of directional flow make it look like the water is boiling. I sat and painted on a rock in the sun, the water boiling all around me, and thought, yes, things can be so different from how they appear. I thought of how my perception of this country has been shrouded by unrealistic notions of goodness and reality is now sinking in. I felt the same way as my marriage ended. This can’t be happening as it most certainly was. Then I thought of how everything got better when I accepted reality and worked with what I’d got. I wondered how we let so many women’s lives rest on the shoulders of this one woman, now gone at the worst possible time.
I watched the boiling, roiling water and wondered how many brilliant women like her had been exterminated in the camps? That thought led me to think of what a strange species we are for all the reasons that make no sense to survival.
I thought I’m happy I believe in angels. It’s comfort now.
Rest In Peace and thank you. We’ll take it from here. We’ve got this.
Love to all,