For your Friday personal post, a glimpse into the ways the more-than-this presses into ordinary life.
At least, my ordinary life.
Just over a year ago now, I packed up the place where we’d lived, said goodbye to all the familiar places, touched the ground, and hit the road.
As I crossed the county without him, along the same path we’d traveled several years before, an unexpected memorial:
Day number 5 on the road. I’d hoped to be there by now. But the road has what the road will have.
This land is beautiful. So clear, the geologic record: I always feel like I am in a submarine, a submersible, not an over-land car. I am driving in the ocean, driving under the ocean. Saw my first herd of pronghorn antelope just outside of Elk Mountain, Wyoming. I stopped at the same rest-stop we did back in 2006. I’ve followed the exact same route we traveled back then.
It hasn’t been a hard day.
And then. And then, the soil began to change. From yellow and brown to streaks of red. The land changed from ocean bottom to sand cliffs. The mesas rose in the distance.
We camped in this area, many years ago. Drove these winding roads, stopped at a Mexican restaurant, counted coyote trails. Looking for a campsite, we (I mean, he) drove the car over landscapes it really wasn’t designed for.
I switched the stereo from dance music (to keep me awake) to Robbie Robertson, because it seemed appropriate. I am singing Ghost Dance, thinking of our trip, of how we talked about the history of this land, what it’s seen, what happened out here.
And then, before I realize I am this close, I am on top of Flaming Gorge. I am here, where we were, exactly where we were, and Robbie Robertson’s “Golden Feather” comes on the stereo. Our life slams into me. I am crying.
As I slow to round a curve, I hear. I hear the stones he picked up, all those years ago in the Gorge, the ones beside his box of ashes here on the passenger seat. I hear those stones begin to sing. They do. They sing to be so close to home. They want to go back.
I do not want to stop. I do not want to stop. But they are singing. I have to give them back. They want to go home, and I have to let them go.
I pull off the exit, crying, resisting. I do not want to go. This is wrong. Wrong to be here. But I drive.
Past the place where we got gas. Past the place where we ate Mexican food, grouchy from too long on the road. I pull over as I hear (yes, I hear) your ashes beside me begin to speak. Ask to be released here.
The stones have kept on singing. Your ashes, what is left of you, an excited impulse.
I open the passenger side door. The pot of my one houseplant falls out, cracks on the pavement. I remove the stones. I remove the small bag of your ashes, and shake you out into the palm of my hand. Shaking. Shaking. There are big pieces here, not dust.
The stones are singing. We have been here. This is where we turned off. Where we drove off down into the winding gorge, where we cried over slaughtered skinned coyotes, where you drove the car over too-steep embankments, looking for a place to camp. Where you spent hours the next morning finding just the right stones, the two heavy, white stones we took home, another 4000 miles back, to sit on the bookshelf, holding words.
And now – they want to go back.
I scatter you. A small handful, here on the grass between road and sidewalk. I scatter. And then I place a stone. Oh.
Oh, I see now. This is a gravestone. A headstone, a marker you yourself picked out, painstakingly searched for, the last time we were here. It is right. It is right. To scatter you here beneath a stone you chose yourself.
The other stone – offers to stay. To stay with me. One with you, one for me. A pair of matched stones, broken, but connected.
As soon as the ashes are sent, the stone placed, I am fine again. Calm. I feel you. For the first time this trip, my love, I feel you.
I know you here with me.
And I drive down through the mountains, as rain begins again, down a road we did not drive. A path we did not take. The path on from here is not ours.
You are buried here, my love.
And I continue on.
* this post originally appeared on Widows’ Voice. You can read it here.