Thursday, July 22, 2010

The "Romantische Strasse" Awaits

I was going to write about how surprisingly difficult, emotionally, this move out of Portland has been. I was going to explain how for someone who is a free-spirited gypsy like me, who moves on average every 8 months, this time it feels harder than usual to uproot myself from my nest. I was going to elaborate (for the umpteenth time) on how symbolic it is to leave the place where I lived with Marcus, and how it feels like I'm leaving him, even though he left me, left us all, when he departed the planet almost one year ago. But then, thankfully, I received a few emails that snapped me out of my self-indulgent, time-wasting, energy-draining funk. The first was from my neighbor Elizabeth, who replied to my request to borrow her strapping college-age son and his friends to help me move my furniture on Saturday.

Elizabeth, who was widowed at the age of 35 when her husband died of a heart attack, wrote, "I'm sorry you are moving, but I am not too surprised. It will be good for you to be in a place that doesn't remind you of Marcus. It is so hard to stay in the same place because they are just right there. Moving on sucks, staying still sucks. Let's face it: it all sucks."

I thought this was very well stated. "It all sucks" -- yes, so simple and to the point.

She added, "HOWEVER, don't forget the little gifts you have received through all of this. They stay with you!"

She's right. I have made many new friends in these past months, and deepened my relationships with existing friends I made when I lived here before. I have gotten my health and fitness back by hiking, biking and running on the trails behind my house. I have had the luxury of living in a beautiful, quiet little (very little!) house with a fireplace and views of Mount Hood and Mount St. Helens, a place that provided me with safe, warm and dry shelter, a place that nurtured me back to life during the darkest months I have ever known.And then, saving me from further melancholy, I got another email, an update from Team Switzerland who is making their way down the West coast in my RV.

Eve wrote, "I'm sorry I have no pie news!" I had to laugh at this because my friends are all very well trained now to be on the look out for pie.

She continued, "We're near Yosemite National Park. We are enjoying our trip very much. We found a TJ Maxx today, and everybody got nice things! We had a great time in San Francisco, but it was very cold and windy! Love, Eve and the girls"

It's so funny to think about the RV -- "The Beast" -- having its own adventures without me, as if it's my kid I sent off to summer camp. What's ironic is that the RV is following the same route (only in reverse) that led to Marcus and me meeting in 2001, awe-inspiring scenic, as if an American version of Germany's Romantische Strasse, a route that led to great love.

The "Romantic Road" Route taken by Team Switzerland is this: Start in Portland, drive through the waterfall-lined Columbia River Gorge, pass through the adventure town of Bend and go canoeing on your way to Crater Lake National Park (pictured below), follow the wild and winding Rogue River all the way to the rugged Oregon Coast, then head south through the Redwood Forest, drive across the Golden Gate Bridge to San Francisco where you ride a cable car, and finally end up in Los Angeles where you may spot a celebrity or two.That's more or less the route I will be taking when I leave Portland next week -- in my MINI Cooper. Which, with all that promise of taking in the world's most stunning and inspiring landscape, makes leaving Portland sound pretty exciting. What am I so sad about when I have such a great adventure to look forward to?! And that doesn't even take into account the pie I will find along the way -- about which, I guarantee, unlike Eve, I will have news.

But first, I have to finish packing.

Monday, July 19, 2010

11 Months After Marcus: Life in Full Bloom?

You've seen it in fall, winter, and spring. Here is the tree in summer, the tall maple on Floral Street that has come to symbolize my cycle of grief. The cycle that started 11 months ago today, the day Marcus died.But does this new crop of robust green leaves truly represent my life? Do I have the ability, like photosynthesis, to use the sun to create energy in my leaves and release oxygen? As I look around my sweet little apartment (otherwise referred to as my "grief sanctuary" and yet feels like a tree house), the task of packing up my boxes and moving -- couches, desk, bed, dishes and all -- into storage feels daunting, almost paralyzing.

Beginning a new chapter is like staring at a blank page on my computer monitor, sitting there in my desk chair wondering where and how to begin the story. Where will I land? What will become of me? Will my TV show sell? Will I finish writing my book? Will I ever find love again?

My reverie of anxiety is interrupted by an email from my friend Alison. "Stop those tears! Once you hit the road you will feel better. Ahem, pie anyone? Iowa pie! Delish!"

Alison knows me very well. And she's right. I feel better when I'm in motion. (And when I'm eating pie.) Which makes me realize that the tree has been the wrong symbol all along. I am nothing like a tree. I am and always have been "a rolling stone that gathers no moss."

As for the tree and its life cycle of leaves symbolizing my grief, it's going to take a lot more than four seasons to end my grief. Even so, I'll keep the maple leaves I've gathered tucked in between the pages of my journal as a souvenir of its symbolism -- of grounded, rooted strength and grace. Because even a rolling stone needs an occasional place to rest.