Driving up north on Route 3 is a slow rewind through spring.
Back to buds and near bare branches
back to just the gentlest haze of color on the hillsides
snow in the shadows
last week I drove up, 4 hours each way through fog that broke open into ragged-bottomed clouds, the bluest sky, then the hardest rain.
I was looking for a cemetery that I did not find.
Instead I found myself pulling off the road without choosing to, into a gravel parking lot, taking a right turn at the bottom down a dirt road. Into a smaller space, where my fingers turned the key, opened the door and then I was walking thorugh the woods on a path from my memory
through it, I guess
drawn by it
to turn down a path obscured by a fallen log
through the scent of lemony evergreens (hemlock?)
the first time I ever walked those paths without a fishing pole, without Jeff.
down to the river, down the bank,
hands into the cold water by the falls.
A large water bird flew down the river, fast and low. Black and white and silent.
The day pulled me apart in ways and places I did not expect, and had me laughing, and swearing, as I went down each of a hundred roads, over a bridge (YES), up a hill that turned just so and opened up (YES, said my body, HERE) only to find that no, it was not the right place. the lump in my throat gathering so much unexpressed and inexpressible
loss, and lostness
I drove and drove and drove. I drove for two and a half hours, down roads, up roads, across bridges.
Rain so hard I could barely see.
Rain so hard it turned the dirt roads to muddy slides
I felt my tires slip a million times and each time felt a very different depth of alone-- I was not anywhere that anyone would find me and my signal had been lost 2 hours south.
Then I simply ran out of time.
Could not have been more exhausted.
Yesterday, I drove up again. Armed, this time, with different information. My first trip triggered memories, memories of a specific stone, one that was insanely easy to search for on google.
I went with a map, with a plan.
Back through the craggy mountains at franconia notch
back by the old man in the mountain, who fell the year Jeff died.
back up and through and beyond into the strange wide open that is the great northern woods.
I drove to the cemetery on the map.
Found the stone of memory.
Left the twig of hemlock taken from the fishing spot. Left the pinecone. The stone is of Mettalak, the last of a tribe.
But it was not the cemetery. It is not the one, all those many winters ago, where I stood by the side of the road and threw snowballs laced with ashes over a snowbank too high to climb.
So said my body that felt no sign of him, did not feel him in the way the road had been worn down below the grade of the stones.
So said the sign that noted the road is closed December-May 10th.
I could not have driven that road.
It was february and the road would have been impassable.
There has been no simplicity in this journey. And that moment, there was an opening back into curiosity.
The wind was howling and the amazingly bright clouds were moving so fast their shadows felt almost tangible.
I got back in my car, and decided to drive back in a different direction, taking different roads, wondering if I would trigger more body memories that could help me navigate.
Eventually I turned back onto pavement, and I immediately realized I'd turned the wrong way, and I heard, no it isn't. So I drove a mile at most, back to a cemetery I had found last week. One that said yes in every way except the lack of the stone that I had remembered.
But this time, I knew it was the right one.
I got out and walked.
I looked on the ground, for what, fragments of bone? my wedding ring? I put a stone in my pocket.
I got back in my car, and turned toward home.
It is high there, and the mountains fall away in all directions, and the light and shadows were moving so quickly with that wild wind, there was more than I could see.
Dark pines are nearly black against the spring green of new buds,
and the hillsides, that amount of open,
I pulled off to let a truck pass, and to my complete surprise, cried a different way than I usually do about this. It was about the beauty, I guess, and my luck at the gift of just being able to witness.
Witnessing the shadows moving so fast, the light, on that hillside, that one. The one with the bright spring buds, the ones with the dark pines.