|From my art journal (2017)|
There are moments during the last few weeks when I experience Rob's death as if I was standing inside a too-deep box canyon with no apparent way out. At such times, it is not the beauty of the canyon walls I sense, but rather the impossibility of scaling or descending such steepness in order to arrive elsewhere. Arriving elsewhere is a destination I have trouble seeing, naming. What rests beyond the life I have known? Where is elsewhere?
And thinking once again about the canyon and its walls has me recalling Barry Lopez's opening description of a box canyon in his essay, "Gone Back into the Earth. " It is an essay I first read on a May afternoon, one year after my mother died, when Rob handed me the book, Crossing Open Ground, with the opening page of the essay (p. 41) marked and simply said, "You'll want to make time to read this."
And I did.
In this essay, Lopez chronicles a ten-day river trip he made with 41 others--many of whom were musicians, most notably--Paul Winter. He begins the essay with a description of himself and the canyon:
“I am up to my waist in a basin of cool, acid-clear water, at the head of a box canyon some 600 feet above the Colorado River. I place my outstretched hands flat against a terminal wall of dark limestone which rises more than a hundred feet above me, and down which a sheet of water falls—the thin creek whose pooled waters I now stand. The water splits at my fingertips into wild threads; higher up a warm canyon wind lifts water off the limestone in a fine spray; these droplets intercept and shatter sunlight. Down, down another four waterfalls and fern shrouded pools below, the water splits into an eddy of the Colorado River, in the shadow of a huge boulder. Our boat is tied there.”And it is the closing line that most catches my eye, most hitches my heart. "Our boat is tied there."
Since Rob's death, I've been bereft of both man and boat.
Moored, some days, by grief, and unmoored other days by possibility.
I wonder where there might be a boat for me. I recall that lovely advice Antoine de Saint-Exupéry gave: "If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea."
And isn't this a truth that grief reveals? It is not so much the vessel as it is the yearning that moves us, propels us.
Tonight I am wondering, how I might travel beyond the confines of the known canyon?