Further Out Than You Thought

I was much further out than you thought /
 And not waving but drowning.” 

Stevie Smith
Sunbeams, March 2019

(They say that when a person is drowning, it is silent. That every bit of air is reserved for keeping the head above water. There is no calling out. There are no pleas for help.)

I used to read The Sun religiously. I subscribed for many years and bought single copies at the Pike Street Newsstand before that. I used to catch a bus at First and Pike to my West Seattle home. I could tell you stories about those days, but that’s for another time. 

My favorite section was Sunbeams in the back. Beautiful quotes. If you know anything about me at all you know of my love for these tidbits. Sometimes, an entire book can be boiled down to a handful of quotes. Sometimes, just a single quote can hold the whole story. 

The quote I lead with here is from a poem. (You can hear it here if you like )

I don’t know what it is about those lines that stopped me in my tracks years ago. Maybe I knew that someday they would slap me in the face and take on a meaning even deeper than ever intended by the poet. I scribbled it on a piece of scratch paper and tucked it away. 

Sometimes when you read about the sudden loss of life there’s an inclination to blame someone; an instinct that is always focused outward and says that any kind of harm must bear an explanation. There must be a reason. And not just any reason, but one that we can make sense of. One that can be defined. You know, something acceptable and maybe obvious, so we can move swiftly through our grief. We don’t want to linger in that sadness. I don’t know that we ever give our grieving the time that it deserves. The time that it needs. The time we need. I need.

46 days ago I lost a friend. I don’t know the story of my blog readers here, but I’ll share that for me, finding new friends is hard. Truth is, I’m kinda shitty at it. Not for lack of trying, but maybe the opposite. I suppose it comes naturally for some. I don’t have that gift. 

Di and I met through her boyfriend (whom I’ve known for ages). We texted, messaged and shared our love of hiking through words and photos for a couple years before we ever hit the trail together. I admired her courage and moxie when hiking solo. I learned about trails and gear and backpacking. She used to tell me there was absolutely nothing that compared with sleeping under the stars. And I believed her. 

I didn’t know her well, but we had started sharing more since I retired and had more available time. This was going to be an epic summer. The last photo I took of her was the one that will always stay in my mind. She was in her hammock … her happy place. 

On the way home on that blue-sky hammock day, the last day I’d ever see her, we chased eagles across Bow and Edison. I remember trying to focus on the driving, but my eyes were scanning the leafless trees for that bold silhoutte in the branches. We watched and talked and drove. I’ve tried to replay that conversation in my mind a hundred times. 

I try brushing it off. We didn’t know each other that well and we were just beginning to learn new things. How could I have known something was not right ? Would I have known it even if I’d heard it ? 

I have spent 46 days wondering. 46 days waiting for an answer that may never come. It occurs to me that maybe we really don’t ever know the heart of another. Maybe there are always secrets. I have them. I do it. I have secrets tucked away in my own heart that will probably go to my grave with me. 

“I was much further out than you thought /
 And not waving but drowning.” 

Here is what I do know. As I’ve shared about before, we humans need our closure. I need my closure. The “why and how” will not change anything.  Of the things I know for sure, I know I miss my friend. I miss the text message before the weekend and the one that would always come right after. I miss what I never even had … a night in a tent under the stars. Will I ever go now ?

I miss the way every time we tried to take a selfie, even a pic of our more “badass selves” she couldn’t stop smiling. I miss hearing about why owls and harriers are often confused ( it’s in their faces). And the difference between a hawk and a juvenile bald eagle  I miss the way she packed enough for an unexpected overnight on every day trip. Always prepared.

I loved her enthusiasm and curiosity. I loved her sense of humor and passion for LNT. I loved that she could read a map and that she always had good snacks. I loved that she loved Patrick and that she never had an unkind word to say about anyone. Well, mostly. 

It meant the world to me that she reached out to my awkward self and gave me encouragement at every turn. I will forever miss the stories we won’t share, the trails we won’t travel and every other thing I had to learn. 

I’m seeing her now in every eagle. In every crow. Twice, since she’s been gone, I’ve seen a red-tail hawk fan out it’s feathers as it glided by right in front of me. I’ve seen red-winged blackbirds, great blue herons and listened for owls at night and songbirds at dawn.

This world continues to be a confounding and mysterious place.

I don’t know where the line is between safe and endangered. Between hopeless and restless. It is all a blur  A map or a compass are only helpful if you know how to use them. Sometimes the needle is hard to read. It takes a second look to know where the tip of that needle is pointing. 

I’m sorry.

You were further out than I ever knew.

Goodnight, my friend.
I hope I didn’t fail you. 

11 Comments on “Further Out Than You Thought

  1. Pingback: Reflections: What a Difference a Year Makes – In Search of the Very

  2. I’m trying to write this with tears in my eyes. Bless YOU Bonnie Rae, you have such a way of honoring those who have come and gone in your life. I love you, my Friend.

    • I’m so glad to share this journey. Had you not stepped in to help me save myself all those years ago I might have a much different story. Love you, friend 💚

  3. The words in the poem are so haunting – thank you for sharing your friend and your love for her.

  4. Bonnie, you have so much love in your words. I feel the pain too, but the love, Bonnie, is perfect!

  5. Chilling. Are you at risk, Bonnie Rae. Are you waving? Or do you need support?

    Mary Anne em Radmacher

    On Mon, Apr 20, 2020 at 10:53 AM In Search of the Very wrote:

    > Bonnie Rae posted: “”I was much further out than you thought / And not > waving but drowning.” Stevie SmithSunbeams, March 2019(They say that when > a person is drowning, it is silent. That every bit of air is reserved for > keeping the head above water. There is no calling out.” >

    • I am good. I am wondering if maybe I missed something ? And also wondering if there are ever signs ? Life is a mystery. Or maybe a series of them …

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