After 89 days without a good rain it was definitive it would come back Sunday. We were gearing up for the first fire of the season, a stew, some red wine, music. We’d move the patio furniture to the garage, take down the hammock…and the milky skies would return, the uncertainty of sun, the forceps that lift us from one comfortable spot to another.
I took the last hike up Cougar Mountain for the summer at daybreak, past the overturned trees by the trailhead, the undersides exposed, the smell of the earth damp with dew.
And it was 21 years ago I moved here with my girlfriend, and 21 years ago we broke up in the car outside the Puyallup fair, then went inside for funnel cake. I wasn’t good about thinking things through or acting on them; my decisions were often rash and confusing, hurtful.
We were staying at a bed and breakfast in Oregon, a former one-room schoolhouse decked out with antiques and rocking chairs, and on the porch in the morning when it was time to go something turned in me, I knew it had to end.
And today I drove into Seattle for a memoir-writing class and had time to kill, walked back to the apartment where Shana and I lived, where we broke up, stood on the street there looking up. Realized I looked strange staring like that and moved on. Forgot the name of the place even (“The Dublin”), the street it was on. You don’t get to keep everything in this life, can’t take it with you. We empty our pockets at the door.
I did that yoga pose on the trail where you cross your arms and lock them to open your back, remembered myself in that studio at work where I was often the only guy in class and enjoyed that, immodest in my wife beater and Vietnamese fisherman pants, of thin material and revealing, seldom laundered. There was a pose the teacher would ask me to demonstrate I was always proud to oblige. I learned nothing about ego but for a teacher named Charley who was English, and worked hard to undo a proper upbringing by smoking, wearing tats, street fighting—brought yoga books in for sale that were hard to find, crude photos in black and white, typos.
Charley taught me the art of failure, made it feel safe. He’d do poses he obviously couldn’t do, flounder, fail, look foolish. And he didn’t say it, but it was about overcoming fear to open ourselves up. He got me away from the wall into the middle of the room to do head stand, unsupported. Fear can feel like a cloud over time, so we forget what it’s like without it.
I dropped down to the quarry off the Shy Bear trail, the crinkle of leaves underfoot, in the air. The sometimes sense in the forest that’s ominous, the feeling you’re being watched. Sounds in the leaves that could be a squirrel or a bear: here, just a beetle. The tragic romance of goodbyes, I thought. The reminder to love fully what we have today and not assume it will be there tomorrow. The fact we make only so much space in our hearts for others and the more we make, the more we receive in return.
Now that I’ve done the trail so many times it’s starting to feel smaller, no matter how far I spool out, it’s not as expansive. And that becomes a metaphor for life, the times you start imagining it closing in, narrowing. Soon the scarcity of our season will be warmth.
I sat in the same part of the yard I always do by the fire pit, like a pool table that’s off-kilter and all the balls gather in one corner.
Soon the quality of light in the morning would come on soft in pale blue and gray, the tint, then stay that way but not really get light until it was time to go back down to dark.
The irony is it’s ourselves: our petty, unique, beautiful selves that’s our greatest asset and obstacle. It limits us, but we forget it’s limitless.
Blog post title from the unapologetically sentimental “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” by Sandy Denny, 1967.