Happy. Thank you. More Please.

It is spring in Seattle.

Sometimes this means the rain lingers until mid-July. Grey hangs heavy on the city, clinging to building corners, closing in on the streets, swirling down on pedestrians and dogs until both escape into Starbucks, Tullys, [insert independently owned coffee shop name here] to forget the sky in alternative milk lattes and scones. In these years, the temperature slowly creeps from 40 to 60 degrees. This gradual change goes unnoticed by most as it is hidden by clouds, marine winds, and predictably constant precipitation. Sometimes it stays this way until July, when residents collectively plan a mass exodus south to California. Seattle is not for the weak at heart. 

Fortunately, Seattle has sprung into an off year. Last week was mid-May. Last week hit 80 degrees over the weekend. Pedestrians and dogs stumbled into Eden like parks, high on sunshine and Vitamin D, claiming that here - Seattle in the Spring - is paradise on Earth. How quickly we are to forget. How quickly to forgive a weather system that would have us all strung out on caffeine, vitamin supplements, and anti-depressants just to get through an eight-to-five work day. Being native to Washington, I pull on my shorts and tank tops with the rest. However, I remain distant from the hope that summer has finally arrived. I emotionally prepare for the heartbreak of the inevitable returned rain. Seattle Spring is a fickle lover. 


I took my lunch break at 9:30 this morning. I had been at work for 20 minutes and was struggling to pull my thoughts into an order that resembled something more organized that a bowl of tangled spaghetti noodles. If my thoughts stopped making sense to me, how was I going to convincingly portray their meaning to co-workers? Rather than serve out a bland mess of gibberish at my upcoming meetings, I took immediate intervention and left my work for coffee and a morning stroll through the park, justified by my promise of productivity once I returned. 

At one point during my walk (eyes finally opened by coffee consumption), I passed underneath a tree making an impressive display of spring, covered in purple blossoms that looked like snap dragons. I picked up one of the blossoms from the ground, convinced that something so beautiful and abundant must smell like a weed. But it didn't. It smelled sweet, delicious, fresh. Floral, but not overwhelmingly strong. Sweet, but not sickeningly so. How can it be that on a beautifully sunny day in Seattle, a large tree is covered with purple blossoms and smelling like nectar? Is it right to have so much good in one place? Is the existence of this tree, on this spring day, withdrawing too much from the invisible bank of goodness? Will the universe turn against this display of indulgence? 

With my hands cupped around the blossom, I breathed in the scent to see if I could use it up. Could this scent grow sour or bitter after being smelled. It didn't, but I was so lost in the moment and my thoughts that I didn't notice a car backing up toward me, only three feet away. I noticed the car and the driver noticed me and we both agreed to stop our current trajectory and avoid catastrophe for another day. However, being an odd person tilted toward eccentric behavior and thoughts (and now an odd person struggling with the meaning of death in life after my uncle's passing), I continued the scenario out in my head and visualized my own death. The car backed into me (in my head) and I was left broken and dying on the pavement. Blossom still in my hand, I bring it to my nose to smell it's perfume while life leaves my body. In this scenario, would the scent grow sour or bitter? Would the experience change if I knew that this was the scent of death? It didn't; it remained the same: sweet, fresh, fragrant, light. The universe doesn't seem to care about made up death scenarios when parceling out scent. The blossom still smelled beautiful, even to the not yet existent dying me (in my head). Stubborn and stoic, this blossom with it's beauty and scent. Stoic in it's indifference to the happenings of the world around it; stubborn in its unwillingness to compromise a good existence with something more accommodating. 

The whole experience of the blossom, the tree, the sun and spring reminded me of a little quip my friend mentioned while we were hiking last weekend: "Happy. Thank you. More please." When you are given something that is good, you acknowledge the fact that you are happy. Thank the universe for sending you such a wonderful something your way. Meanwhile, let it know that if more of the same should find its way into your life, you would be ecstatic to accept it. Previously, I would view this acceptance and acknowledgement of something good as opening myself up to unnecessary pain when it decides to leave. There is vulnerability in happiness, if you are always preparing for the misery. I couldn't get to the point of contentment and thankfulness, I was too scared at the fleeting nature of the moment. And so it would leave, just like I knew it always would, and I would be back wallowing in misery even though I never left that misery when things were good. I was holding the spring blossom to my nose, searching for the bitter scent of death. Could I just let it be a blossom, on a sunny day? 

The pull of death in the fall usually spurs me on toward crazy. The trees are so beautiful that my eyes tear up and hurt when I look at them. The world is dying, giving itself up to some place where I cannot follow. Thrown into the grey of winter, I would despair that this now, this is the last moment of beauty I will every see. I died along with the world, or at least wished that I could die with the world.  Sadly, it took me 29 years to fully understand spring; to fully believe the fact (obvious to most) that ultimately, life not only follows the death of winter, but follows it abundantly. I can look at a tree, thick and fragrant with purple and rejoice in the existence of the tree, abundantly good. I can say yes I am happy, thank you for this beautiful gift during my stolen morning walk, and please don't hesitate to send me more. If it is sun that follows, I'll repeat the mantra again. If it is rain, well... I'll enjoy the sound of the water on the roof and windows.

I now have facts of which I believe with full and unabashedly assured faith: Spring follows winter. When the night is tired of the dark, dawn will break over the mountains. Rebirth can, if we are looking for it, come out of death. 

Happy. Thank you. More Please. 

I'm in love with my life right now. It is abundantly good. 


Recovery - Step One: Nurture Something Good

I feel it mostly in my chest.

It builds and pushes against my ribs and upper back, threatening to burst open in flames and ash with each passing day. A deep inhalation releases the tension and shoots through my body with pokes and needles. My breath is the blood flowing to a limb that has been far too distant and deeply asleep; that limb is my voice pushed dormant by tragedy, depression and disappointment.

How many experiences does it take to lose your voice, to have it catch in your throat and burrow down in your heart like a dense and tiny mustard seed? How much time does it take before that same mustard seed cracks open, springing to life at even the smallest rays of hope? Like a whisper in my head, I hear an echo of someone saying that faith the size of a seed can rearrange landscapes. In faith I take that cracked seed in my hands and begin to nurture it toward germination, finding warmth - hope - in the belief that a mustard seed is enough. I am enough.

I take another breath in and with it the pokes and needles. Nothing brings me more into the present than my own breath. I close my eyes. My chest expands with a rush of air into the empty cavity around my heart. I feel the slight vibration in my throat and slight stretch of my ribs. The chair beneath me pushes against my body. My body centers and pushes back against the chair. Breath like blood flows into my body, an awakening, a baptism of my seed in tears, sweat and blood when water flees and dries up.

I read once that our breath forms Ham-Sa, Sanskrit for "I am." The inhale whispers Ham, the release vibrates Sa. Ham -pause- sa -pause- A primordial teeter-totter giving us strength as our lungs mingle the external atmosphere with our body and blood. I -pause- am -pause- ... I -pause- am -pause- ... I -pause- am -pause- enough, my mind fills in the pause between exhale and inhale. I -pause- am -pause- not damned. I -pause- am -pause- loved.

As Ham-Sa teeters up and down in my throat and my mind fills in the pauses, I feel something different well in my chest, close to my seed. It also teets and totters with my breath, bringing with it a refreshing rush like cool water, crisp mountain air, rain at the end of a long summer day. Lord Jesus Christ, it starts. Have mercy on me. Lord Jesus Christ inhale... Have mercy on me exhale...

Together the three part orchestra of my body, mind and heart builds a harmony, each part intricately woven into the other by the rhythm of expand and release. ...crescendo: Lord Jesus Christ, I ...diminuendo: am -enough-, have mercy on me. ...rest... Lord Jesus Christ, I ... am -loved-, have mercy on me. ...rest... Lord Jesus Christ, I ... am -not damned-, have mercy on me ...rest.

The music plays on. I see the first hint of growth pushing at the crack in my mustard seed: a very small lime-green fissure in the smooth yellow shell. My voice, timid, out-of-practice, and drowsy with the sleep of 11 months begins to emerge, pushing against my chest and back. Tragedy, disappointment and depression - I feel something stronger - recovery, forgiveness and grace. I am ready to start writing. I am ready to nurture something good.

That, for now, is enough.


Memory Eternal

Happy Birthday, my Uncle Tim.

Time doesn't heal yet. The shock of your death is gone and I know, with a sinking, heavy, trap-door feeling in the bottom of my heart that you are not coming back. I will never see you arguing with Todd at family holidays. We will never climb another mountain together, standing on top of the world and feeling alive. You will not be the reckless Sheriff of BANG! who blows himself up with dynamite in the second round. We will not go running, camping, boating. You will never approve or disapprove of the guys that may or may not choose to hang around.

No, time is making things worse, more real. I don't want to wake-up; I want to believe that our family gatherings will inexplicably pull you from your dark hiding like a moth to the light and you will suddenly be with us again. Instead, there is an underlying silence that was once filled with your laugh. A disjointed confusion sits in the room like a white elephant: elusive, blurry around the edges, and something that everyone feels but nobody wants to mention.

Staying asleep helps a little.

This week you have been in my dreams. Trembleys are on the family trip, trying to get on with life after your death. We do things, we cry, we fight with each other. Through it all, we know that you are dead. We board a boat and when I look back to check on my parents, you are there with your arm around aunt Kim. She is crying, looking at the ocean and thinking about you. You are holding her. Then you look at me. You turn and look at me and smile. You see me. and you smile.

I wake up thinking that regardless of what happens, if my dead uncle turns to me and smiles, perhaps I am not so worthless or despicable. This fight -through trauma, depression, rejection, and grief- could be worth the return of myself. I hear journeying from the afterlife is not done easily- much like the journeying through life. And yet you were there. Tangibly. Smiling.

I miss you. Happy Birthday.


Be Back Soon

It was my intention to provide a link to my new blog over a month ago, before leaving for Mexico. But life has a way of getting carried away and here I find myself a month into my travels and a link still lacking. Here it is, my delightful readership. If you were not already aware of the switch, my Mexican adventure can be followed here:


Be back soon.


Goodbyes and Good Riddance

It's an odd feeling to go through your already small room and get rid of everything you have stacked up and stored away for 27 years. First go the clothes and books that you don't find absolutely necessary. Then with a little more anxiety, the clothes and books that do seem necessary. Next go the toiletries you won't use, but still feel are wrongly labelled as trash because they could be used, someday. With "necessity" and "someday" now in ever growing garbage bags, you move to the furniture. Easier to part with beds and dressers emotionally, but by sheer volume they make themselves troublesome. Two stops at two different second-hand stores later and you are left with the unexpected layer, sentimentality.

You neither need nor want the raging letter correspondence of Summer 2006, the countless mixed tapes, or the ridiculous photos trapped in happily-ever-after. But there they seem to be, at the bottom of every drawer, box and folder. You put them off, instead going through and throwing out tax returns, pay stubs from 2005 and old term papers on Keats and gender. Soon your possessions, your life work of 27 years, fit hap-hazardly into five pregnant trash bags. They flank the walls of your room like an overweight audience, waiting to see if you have the strength to continue. You are at the center of your room, surrounded by a tornado of papers that should be meaningless. It is now that you decide the importance of life change.

Here is my advice to you: Start with the best relationship first. As you hold a book of poetry or a favorite letter in your hand, think about the long and messy break-up or ever approaching wedding. When you land on a particularly grand and happy picture, think of the late night fights and all the times you were made to cry. Then let them go with the memories into a trash bag that looks like all the others. With the best of the worse times out of the way, the rest of the relationships slip from your fingers. Before you know it, pictures and promises and every lie you believed as true is in that trash bag and ready to be gone forever. Grab the red ties, cinch the bag closed and rid yourself of the burden of a thousand heartbreaks. As you cry from exhaustion and emotion, feel the growing strength of a you crawling from the rubble, still in one piece in spite of this lonely journey. Be that strong and dust covered you and clear your throat with a Nalgene full of water.

Grab your backpack, start the car. With the steering wheel in one hand and your prayer rope in the other, let the yellow lines wash over you in three foot sections, increasing speed with your speed until they blur to something consistent, constant. As your direction veers south and you drive, perhaps for good and perhaps still crying, feel the cool wind finger your unfettered hair and drink down the freedom of the darkening night sky.