Friday, December 5, 2014

Fire & Ice

When faced with death, especially that of a 2-year-old, my message was clear, live. Live all I can, while I can. Before car met bodies, I was under the impression of time. In one impactful moment, I realize, I couldn't have been more wrong. 

Instead of all going black and bleak, the colors shift. They change. The clouds become more billowy. The sky more blue. On the drives back and forth to the hospital, the trees are vibrant in their varying shades.

As I float through this alternate universe, I wonder how this could be when my parallel is smashed? Our daughter hanging by a thread.

"Welcome, you have just entered a world of wide range dichotomous emotion. It's nice to meet you. Sit, stay for a while, have a cookie."

I decide quick. Take all the positive. There's already enough chaos, sad, and lonely. 

This new world has one giant magnifying glass dropped on top. With it, I'm able to examine every aspect of life, and loss. I always had a great love of nature, people, music, etc., but now, it's different. Now, they can be taken away. I can be too. This casts a new light. With these new eyes, I can truly see what surrounds, positive and negative energy, the people who suck that energy, the love, trust, compassion, and so much more.

I follow. I like where this is taking me. It holds purpose, meaning, weight. Overnight, and in a snakelike fashion, I shed the skin of who I was and become another. I gain lots of good, and lose some too. Most times, I'm at peace with the trade off. This new person must see, taste, do, and be part of everything. Our daughter has shown me what's important, but in conjunction, given me an even shorter stick for b.s. and drama. A whisper gains momentum - avoid the negative, turn towards the positive. Especially in those who surround and love us. In those who feed, instead of deplete.  

Sometimes it's a challenge to intermingle this newfound influx of adrenalin with grief. Life becomes free and full, but at the same time, draining and discouraging due to brain injury. These feelings mix together and cause me to feel like many in one. I go with it. I have to. This is the way it will be. On especially tough days, like a mantra, I repeat "there will always be something that's not going our way, something that's difficult. There has been in the past, maybe not to this level, and maybe there never will be to this extent again, but there will always be something to work through."

Aviana shows me to grab hold of moments. To live in them while we can. So, we take our little mentor's hand, and with every chance - we do. But as things intensify, so do the moments. In the beginning of tumultuous - they are clear, deep, cutting, and difficult. We are trying desperately to follow her lead, but she's taking us on a road less traveled. A road unfamiliar to the life of a parent. Parents want nothing more than to care, feed, and sustain, not the alternative. To wrap ones mind around feels foreign, but in the name of our child and her cues, we push through. I'm run down. The full extent, I can't even see for myself. Others are worried, deep down, I am not. It's simple, I'm not what matters most right now. She is.

Once the three of us are on the same page, peace is made. I can once again look to her, even in death, and see life. She's taught me to value, seize and continue. We must. I know in her absence we will live. All of us.

Sometimes it comes easy. At times, it's hard as hell. All the time, I am open to every reason our lives touched, our paths crossed. Dave and I both consciously and subconsciously use these reasons. Through her, we seek meaning throughout our days. We are cognizant of our connection to her. And because of how fiery she was in life and all she endured for those years, she pushes us in ours too. She propels us to do things we may not have, to sit through and still, and to push harder. She also encourages us to enjoy the big and small moments of our everyday. Aviana is one shining spirit.

Like bookends, here are a few of my favorites from this year -


This place was put in our path years ago. At the time, I couldn't have known its significance. Our adoption process was taking more time than expected, so it was suggested that we take one last vacation just the two of us. Our choice - Cabo.

I saw the dome. "What's that?" I questioned. I heard some words, "Hot. Meditation. Sit. Still." That was it. That was enough for me to head pool-ward.

Our next time back was a pick up and run hooky trip from our therapy program. That time, I wished to be in the mind space for the dome, but with the intensity of all that was going on back home, there was no way. Flat out and cool was all I could muster.

After Aviana died, we made the decision to once again return to our place of letting all go. As excited as I was to ride !camels! the dome was first and foremost. I looked it up -

Temazcal - a steam bath of pre-Hispanic origin that is utilized for therapeutic, detoxifying and ritual purposes, as well as a ceremony of purification and cleanliness. It signifies a return to the womb of Mother Earth for healing and rebirth as a new person.

At a time like this, I couldn't think of anything better for the two of us.

We just walked from the pool to the dome prior to signing up. 

My writing will never capture the true beauty of our Temazcal experience.

A smoke signal from hot coals guides us down. As we arrive, we're greeted by Alberto, who's dressed in white linen. Every sense awakens. Our eyes dance upon the varying shades of green. There are giant aloe vera and palm leaves surrounding the entire entrance. Tiny assortments of fresh, fragrant herbs add beautifully to this natural landscape of color and texture. Red, pink, and white rose petals mix together and rest on a backdrop of green vines. They are everywhere; lined inside and out the dome. My breath escapes me. I turn to Dave. Our eyes meet in a knowing disbelief. Next to a pitcher of fresh mint tea, three teracota cups sit in wait. We soon toast, drink, and then watch as Alberto slices those huge pieces of aloe with a Crocodile Dundee sized knife! All I can think is, "That's not a knife. That's a knife!" And it was. We are asked to rub the oozy, slime over every square inch of our bodies. So we do. I think I'm done, but Alberto gives me a half you're not finished smile. "Our face too?" I ask. Alberto laughs, "Yes, your face too."

While standing in our shell of dried aloe, we sip our tea. So taken by the dome and our nearby transformed surround, we forget to extend our near sighted eyes. On the horizon, a seaside sundae. Layered one atop the other - green grass, a sandy beach, the ocean, and in place of the cherry - a big blue sky. For a second, I wonder. What would I take my spoon to first? I can't decide, so to reality my thoughts return, and they are beautiful too. In the shadow of death, all we can think and feel is life!

"How hot?" Our vision broke. "As hot as you want. We can handle it. My words surprise, but at the same time - not at all. If she can, so can I. Coal after coal, we watch as he labor intensively transfers them from one pit to the other.

After brushing ourselves with bunches of herbs and a few other rituals, we enter the dome.

With our tea, we gather around the fire. Soon Alberto picks up a piece of the stone. He asks that we each set an intention for our practice. We think for a small amount of time. Out loud, Alberto speaks then scratches the stone across the fire, as if to burn it. He passes the stone to me.

Internally, I state what I hope to accomplish in the Temazcal that day. I scrape the stone and attempt to pass it on to Dave. Alberto stops me short and says I need to state my intention out loud. I stammer. I feel uneasy. We've seen him all over, beforehand, at the spa, he will be our Yoga on the beach instructor. He doesn't know our story. I want to stay under the radar with this. He'll now know. I question, he reassures. I look at Dave with tears. They mix with sweat from the blazing heat. Drying just as fast as they fall. I feel nauseous, salty. I love salt. Weird thoughts are causing me to procrastinate. I'm suddenly claustrophobic. I'm never squirmy in small spaces. Something is squeezing me. I turn back to the fire. The words won't come. In my throat - they're trapped. Not because of him, but because of me. I can't say them. I try again. Nothing. But tears. We sit. Time passes. Finally, through a broken voice I say, I'm hoping to heal from losing our daughter. To hold onto her memory and release the pain. I scrape the rock hard, and pass it on. Through that tiny bit of stone, I feel an immediate release. Dave cries too as he states a somewhat similar intention. I understand the importance of symbolic rituals.

Hours of meditating, chanting, healing and alternating extreme hot with some freezing cold too pass in the dome. Alberto says it's one of his longest sessions. We feel some sort of pride in staying until he called it. Like we had done right by our girl. Once we emerge, we're soaking wet, and covered in herb debris. We look at each other and laugh! Under the outdoor showers, all physicality of what occurred falls away, but internally, those hours will remain safely.

We're freezing. Alberto has big, fluffy towels and robes waiting for us. He walks us out to the grass where he has perfectly placed crisp white sheets. "Lay inside, join hands, close your eyes." he says in a hushed and gentle tone. He places one hand on each of our heads. Alberto says some of the sweetest and most important words my ears will ever hear. We later open our eyes to pure blue sky. We are one. We are new. As for Alberto - he's nowhere to be found.


To feel alive. 

There are spaces of time I have to push myself to get up and go on without her. Sometimes it's easy. Sometimes I need to remind myself. To wrangle up and grab hold of, to get going. Sometimes it takes everything I've got. Much of the time I manage, but sometimes I'm taken over. Always though, I'm seeking. Trying to find the thrill, the chill, whether in thought, person, vision, lyric, or ingredient. It doesn't matter - anything which sparks! My goal is to feel. And there's so much around, which helps. While I'm still wandering this earth, I want to do all the things she can't or didn't have the opportunity to. 

On the last night of Write the co-founder said something along these lines, "just to let you know, we may be closing the workshop by jumping into Doe Bay. So... you may or may not want to wear your swim suit under your clothes."

It had been cold all weekend and the water was much the same, if not colder. I grew up with one brother in particular who thought it funny to throw me over the side of the boat and into Lake Tahoe. If you've never been in Tahoe, it's freezing - year round. As much as I love Tahoe, that scarred me for life. So I'm a creeper. My first thought was, "Pass. I'll leave jumping in to the others."

I show up the next day in warm clothes, and definitely no swim suit in sight. At the close of the workshop, one of my very favorite people throughout the weekend spoke. She explains how she and the co-founder Jenn, start each month by jumping in. She calls it a brain stop. In that moment, you stop all that's going on, all thought, worry, anxiety, and stress. When you come out it's like starting over. After the cold, it's strange, but all you feel is warm. Her every word is like poetry. I'm not much into poetry, but that day, and in that moment - I was. And because of Kerry, I was all in.

As I said, sometimes I must be reminded. I suddenly flash to all I read in The Power of Now. It sounded much like a letting go. I am suddenly back in Alaska and all I was explaining to Gary as he was contemplating whether to join Dave and I on the ziplines through the rainforest. "You don't have to, but I think we especially need these kinds of things now more than ever. Moments that make us feel! Ones that bring us towards life alive. Ones that excite!" And he bit. We three had the best day together in Ketchikan!

Doe Bay never sounded so good.

I walk down to the bay with the group. I run back up to our room, my bags all packed by the door and ready for our taxi. Like a yard sale, I throw my clothes around trying to find my suit. Off, on, pushing my stuff back in the bag. Flips on my feet, I run back.


Hand in hand...

We run.

I guess it comes down to a simple choice really, 
get busy living,
 or get busy dying.

~ Shawshank Redemption


  1. Love your writings! Hope things are still going well in Tahoe. My thoughts are with You, Dave & Family as you approach the holiday season!

    Hugs to you...from Georgia!

  2. Thank you Denise! Tahoe is surreal to us. We still cannot believe we live in such a beautiful place, full of all the things we love.

    I am wishing you a holiday season of love, peace, and happiness.

    Thank you for being such a support : )


  3. Oh friend. I felt like I was there with you in that hut. It sounds like a very freeing experience. I am so glad you & Dave were able to do it this time. I think it is so neat how God puts people in our life's path where and when we need them. It sounds like Alberto was one of those people.

    You are very much braver than me to jump in that cold water!! I can't even make myself get in a cool swimming pool, aahhh. Ya'll have the right attitude. Keep on living!