It Goes On

I fully expected to wake to a pouring rain but it hasn’t yet materialized. This whole region is due for a really good soaking. Seattle went 51 days without measurable rain before a half inch or so arrived in early August. The fire danger remains high and the trails around both prominent mountains here are dusty and dry. 

Yesterday I drove under a blanket of stars to Reflection Lake at Mount Rainier for sunrise. I slid open the moon roof to expose the familiar constellations above me. So often as I’m driving in these hours of solitude there is just a smattering of stars among cloudy skies. But this night sky was different. Clear, with stars twinkling in the blackness. 

In my two hours on the road I pass through astronomical, nautical and civil twilight. I’m witnessing day breaking in slow motion. There was a fog that settled on the lake yesterday as I arrived that gave it some drama in an otherwise cloudless sky.  

I came to this lake, this solo bench, for a visit to one of Sassy’s memorial places. Kelly and I came here after losing Sassy and found an accessible spot we could sit and reflect. You can see the sunrise from here and Her Majesty reflecting in the lake at dawn. A whisper of comfort. Today, she and Gus were together again. Such a love story, these two. 

Sigh. 

The trail up to the saddle is no joke. It’s a short hike with a huge reward, but it’s UP all the way. You gain over 1000 feet of elevation in just 1.3 miles. It’s the kind of trail that starts off moderately through dirt and forest and opens up to rock and full exposure. Beautiful, but definitely tough on the knees. 

And speaking of knees … my good knee is quickly becoming my bad knee. Although my partial replacement in the right knee is nearly 8 years old, I’ve done well with the left side doing most of the work. I may need to brace both in the future. I feel a bit tentative some days and I will probably pass on a few of the more difficult trails I’d hoped to do this year. My RA seems pretty well controlled but I have been fighting fatigue. Usually I can count on adrenalin but I’ll tell you, I am tired by the end of the day. Bone tired. Drop dead on the couch tired. 

Not a single marmot all day but lots of pikas in the boulder fields. These critters are fascinating to me. They don’t hibernate, per se, but they actively gather supplies in summer and autumn to stock up their burrows for winter. They will often identify humans as predators and sound the alarm to alert others within earshot. This guy was on guard !

The lifespan of a pika is between 3 and 7 years. Oddly enough, the best way to get a sense of age is by measuring the number of adhesion lines on the periosteal bone on the lower jaw. Not something I understand by sight, but I’m guessing this one is quite young. 

At the saddle, you walk into an “other-wordly” view with Plummer Peak to your right, Pinnacle and Unicorn Peaks to your left and Mt Adams straight ahead. The whole world looks as if it’s nestled out in those layers of blue mountain peaks. 

I walk straight out as far as I am comfortable. If I had company I might have gone further, but on my own I need to be the one making good decisions. I climb over rocks and dirt until I lose track of what should be the trail ahead. Haze from the Schneider fire is beginning to settle in so I enjoy the view and turn around. 

Walking back toward the saddle in this stunning Tatoosh range, my eye falls to a cluster of trees just a short spur from one of many make-shift trails in this sprawling meadow. I stop, strip off my pack and jacket and take it all in. This will be Gus’s place. The place I can go to deepen the connection I have with this spirit world. I’ll make it an annual trek. 

Breathe. I need to breathe. 

In the mailbox Tuesday sat a gift from our friend Donna. I carefully opened the box and burst into tears. Grief is such a fragile thing. This stone marker is beautiful and I have no words for the flood of emotion that followed. Thank you Donna. You touched all of our hearts. 

The cards and notes have rolled in like a charm of angels. Your words and kindness  have meant the world to us. This grief is a shared one with so many who so intimately know the same feelings. The same tug of the heart. The same absence …

Wednesday afternoon I drove to West Seattle to bring Gus home. If you’ve never heard of Resting Waters, I would encourage you to read a bit about what they do for our community. On the day we let Gus go, they came to our home, and with kindness and grace, cared with such tenderness for our departed little kitty boy.

Wednesday he came home. 

Yesterday, I set part of his beautiful spirit into the wind in this most heavenly place. 

There’s a natural cycle to things and I’m working on some measure of joyful acceptance. He had such a good life and he gave so much in return. How lucky was I to have been so loved by this beautiful animal. To know what it is to be chosen and blessed to learn the lessons of unconditional love in every waking moment. I’m better for having shared these years with such an extraordinary teacher. 

I just returned from a very rainy (and welcome) walk with Yoda. I guess that forecast might be right after all. As I’m walking with him, the words of Robert Frost come to me and plant a little seed. When asked about life, he offered this reply: 

In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life : it goes on. 

And so it does. 

Enjoy some of my favorites.