I’m sure there have been sunny, cloudless days here late in the month of November, but I can’t remember the last one. We left Chico yesterday morning, in clear 13 degree temperatures, and drove from the east side of the divide back over to our western valleys, with nary a cloud in the sky and temperatures above freezing. We could see some stratus clouds up north, left from the morning fog over our lake, but even they had dissipated by the time I sat by the water with Chatpeau, to watch the sun drop over the western mountains. At blue eventide, I sat by the fire in our cozy living room and watched Venus and Jupiter appear in the sky. A splendid homecoming.
Chico Hot Springs was as warm and soothing as it always is during these cold months. There is, perhaps, no better way to catch up with old friends than sitting in the hot pool, looking up the hillside to bluebird skies in front of the Crazy Mountains. We catch up on our families, friends, and tell our stories. Because we are getting old, we know how important this is, and our bones love the hot water. In those two days, I was steeped in warm memories I have of Chico, over 30 some years, and thought of the times I played with our Billings grandkids in the water, when they were little, now so many years ago. They were very much on my mind–not only because of our history together at Chico–but because I knew the family was moving out of their childhood home. Joy posted photos on Facebook of their house, saying goodbye to the place where they had raised their babies. Fletcher has already left for new adventures in college, but there was a photo of Duncan in his now-bare bedroom, and one of Anna in hers. And, a photo of the emoji dormer room, where Duncan and Anna, and their friend, Sydney, found solace together, after their carbon monoxide poisoning in that one cold, dark winter, on the precipice of New Years. The family healed, and moved forward into the future, and is about to set sail on an adventure to Finland for six months, on the eve of yet another New Year.
We are nearing the time to close down this year. For those of us with good fortune, it has been filled with love and happiness, but, also–especially as we get older– inevitable aches and pains, sorrows and losses, and the acknowledgement of our vulnerability. A friend recently told me that she had lost seven friends to death this last year, and there are those in our midst who must brave the future with unbearable losses. In the darkness of November and December, I think it would be helpful to have an emoji dormer room, where we could sit and look at the icons pasted on the wall, which reflect the crying, laughing, fear, anger, confusion, despair, and love, which we’ve experienced through the year. Just to review it all, sit with it, sort it out, and then, at the New Year–with enough hope and courage–we could gently sweep up the pieces of broken glass, and move on to our next adventure, or, perhaps, just another bluebird day, a sunset over the water, or twinkling planets in a clear night sky.
…”The only choice we have as we mature is how we inhabit our vulnerability, how we become larger and more courageous and more compassionate through our intimacy with disappearance, our choice is to inhabit vulnerability as generous citizens of loss, robustly and fully, or conversely, as misers and complainers, reluctant and fearful, always at the gates of existence, but never bravely and completely attempting to enter, never wanting to risk ourselves, never walking fully through the door.” David Whyte, Consolations