Do you see the tiny drop of water? Suspended in time, as if it’s paralyzed. So full of potential. It hasn’t hit the water yet, so it doesn’t know about ripples, how far they reach, how they extend to the most unexpected places. It has no idea what’s about to happen. It doesn’t know that it will become the ripple. I wonder how many of us think that way. I once dared to think that way. I wanted to write, take pictures and post lovely stories about being in the kitchen late at night. I was a dreamer. I gave birth to an idea. I needed to feel pretty, so I had my hair and make up done and took some fun pictures. I found a golden girl to help me sift through ten thousand words so I could tell you About Me. I invited you to come here, share your stories and tell me about your dreams. And then I just stopped. I became paralyzed. I haven’t been able to function for months. The blog sits silent, the pictures old and dusty, the words silenced. Until I went home.
For me home isn’t a place, it’s feeling, a calm that washes over me, reaching deep down inside, seeping into my soul. When my feet dig into the ground here, every single time…I just know. It’s the knowing of where you belong. Home is the knowing. But it didn’t look anything like my Montana. I had to dig through a lot to find my way home.
We came in the middle of a firestorm. The mountains were hidden behind a thick veil of smoke, tugging at our lungs. We came to see crystal clear lakes, snow capped peaks and pristine beauty. And it was all hidden. Hidden, but still there. It was late August, and I stood on the shores of Lake McDonald, in Glacier National Park. My daughter kept uttering the same words all week…”Mom, it’s so beautiful…it’s just so beautiful.” I would need more convincing. I would need to embrace “a different kind of beautiful.”
At first I felt lost. I felt cheated out of what was supposed to be a week of respite, fresh air, fresh dreams. I got sick the second day we were here, and I thought it was just the smoke. It wasn’t the smoke. By day three I was shivering under the covers at night, spiking fevers, coughing so hard the entire cabin shook. I wanted to leave. At night I would cough and thrash in bed, sweating, waking up over and over again. Each morning I would feel a tiny bit better, and my daughter would look at me with her pleading eyes and I’d get out of bed, and we’d set out exploring. And she kept telling me over and over…”it’s so beautiful.”
I wasn’t the best companion for a few days, but she was a fantastic nurse. She nursed my body, and she nursed my soul. She brought me coffee, tea and hope. She wrapped me in blankets and dragged my shivering body to the shower. The water cascaded over me, washing away the cough syrup stuck in my hair and the stubbornness stuck in my mind. I still wanted to leave. I tried to end the trip half way in, I wanted to go home. But she knew. She knew what I didn’t. I was already home. I had to pull through the fevers, coughing, smoky haze, jumbled thoughts in my mind and I had to look at things in a way I had never seen before.
I had to use new eyes to see what she kept telling me. I wrestled with doubt, and each day I got a little better, a little stronger. Each day I found renewal. We stopped along side the road to look at the freshly burned forest that we had hiked through only one short year ago. We talked about fire. I told her I was sad. She told me it was beautiful. She told me that to have a proper ecosystem, fire had to cleanse the forest. And she saw a tiny detail that I had missed. She had noticed a display at the visitor’s center at the top of Going to the Sun Highway. She explained to me that Bear grass starts to grow in three days after the first rain, when there’s been a fire. In just three days.
Fire had ravaged thousands of acres a few short weeks before and only three days after the first rain, the grass was pushing through. I was enamored with renewal. We found respite in the forest from the smoke. We inhaled fresher air inside the forest walls, savored a quiet walk, almost completely alone. Gone were the usual crowds, they had all left to find shelter from the smoky air. We stood in silence, rushing water our only companion.
She taught me a different kind of beautiful. It was the last morning of our trip and we had not visited the iconic shores of Lake McDonald since our first few minutes in the park, before the smoke really started pouring in. She wanted to take a kayak out onto the lake, and sit in smoky silence. I didn’t understand. I kept telling her “we can’t see anything.” We had a flight to catch in less than two hours and I was ready to go. But she convinced me. I don’t know if it was the pleading in her voice, or just not really wanting to leave, because it finally felt like home. I had finally embraced it as home. I sweet-talked the airline attendant into a later flight, and discovered I luckily had three more hours on the car rental. Yes. We would journey onto the lake, into solitude.
I stared into nothingness, and at the same time it felt like I was staring into everything. I knew how much beauty and potential was behind that wall of smoke. That’s when I saw the water drop. It felt like a drop of hope. I thought of this little place I created. in the kitchen late at night…A home for people who pace the halls long after midnight. People who love to hop up on counters, feet swinging, and tell stories. Laughing into the night. Crying on shoulders. I thought of the wonderful smells that emanate into the air when I bake a batch of killer brownies and how sooner or later everyone ends up in the kitchen. I watched that water droplet and I didn’t want to be paralyzed any more. I wanted to be the ripple. I wanted to be free. Free to write of things that inspire me, and the things that haunt me. Free to write what makes us laugh, what makes us come alive. I wanted your stories again. I’ve been suspended in time and paralyzed. Just like that drop. I sat in that kayak and I watched that water droplet hit the surface and ripple across the lake. I thought about the firestorm that had become my own life. The fire, the cleansing, the renewal. I’d like to be the ripple. I don’t know what will happen or how far it will reach. I just know I don’t feel paralyzed any more. I’m ready to be brave.