how did i get here?

my husband, my beautiful Dragon, died suddenly at 12:03 AM on 9 February 2009. there was a cold, lovely full moon and 3 feet of snow on the ground. i "slept" for the following 10 months and "woke" to the physical and emotional pain and torments of deep grief. i "woke" to find i had moved the day of his funeral and that i am lost. i am looking for me while i figure out the abstract, unanswerable questions that follow behind any death. my art has evolved. his death changed that as well because i am forever changed and will forever bear the mark of losing the only man i can ever love.
there is alive and there is dead and there is a place in between. i am here wholly in my heart for my children, but i feel empty inside at this time. i miss him. i have not gotten very far in my grief journey. i make no apologies for this.
this is my place, my blog, where i write to tell the universe that i am still here.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

our island

i’ve had a crazy day of emotional upheavals and i’ve worked for hours and hours. my back is tight and my hands stiff. i need to de-stress. i think i'd like to tell you a story. it has no hard core grief to it. only a hint of melancholia. when i need to quiet down, i meditate. i say my prayers, and then i take myself to our island. if you continue to read, then you’re along for the ride.

it was love at first sight. the first time i saw the island i was outside alone. we had just moved in to the house by the cove on the 22nd of December. my Dragon was inside with the cable guy for the television and computer. i had put on my boots and coat and gone outside to look at the cove. it was almost dusk and bitterly cold. the wind was blowing like stink and the waves below the house were crashing high up on the rocks. when the water retreated from the rocks it sounded like rattling bones. i felt such peace standing there and then i saw the lighthouse flashing it's green light every six seconds. i studied the island in the rapidly fading light, and i felt it. i felt called. the connection to that bit of wind scrubbed land was instant and something i've never felt so strongly for before, or since.

day after day i studied and watched the island, and took hundreds, thousands of pictures. everywhere we walked in Rockport, i would look for the island. the whole place seemed to look for me, too. it was a siren call. the lighthouse needed me. the abandoned keeper’s house never felt to me as if it had given up yet. it was only waiting to be taken care of again, to be lived in and loved. it wasn't my obsession alone. my Dragon felt it, too.

closed to the public, people had ceased to care about it. everyone spent the money on Thatcher Island and the twins. it has a history, but so does my island. my island is more austere and smaller than Thatcher. it is harsh and elemental. it is perfect for a wild heart that people have tried to crush over and over.

my Dragon knew i would love to walk it. he said he'd set us up with gear to swim over. i went crazy young with excitement. i felt like a rebel, a wild daredevil. he laughed. it was a simple swim to someone like him. i mean, he is the original daredevil. well, not the absolute first but definitely one of the best. i'd lay some of his deeds on the table to match up against any others. my wild man. why he chose me, well, he did and i am the better for it.

we planned carefully for weeks. we charted the tides, watched the weather, and worked up to the adventure with a lot of walking and swimming at an indoor pool in the house of a lobsterman that my Dragon had gotten to know. he was a widower and our company was welcome. he smiled enigmatically at our plans and lent us a couple of wetsuits, thruster fins, and BC vests. it had been years since i had done any diving and all of it had been done in Mexico where the water is a tad warmer. we practiced in the pool.

so i guess you can logically figure it out. we picked a warm, flat day and went during low neap tide.

there was really only one place to swim to. the island rises up out of the water very high and very treacherous in most places so that one low beach, in the photo below, was the only sensible place to go to.

we avoided the rocks off the point between our cove and the next. it meant a longer swim as the crow flies but we wanted to avoid the water between the mainland and the island because of the strong undertow and surface current.

we left the beach, below in the foreground, but on that, you know, flat day, and made straight for the island.

the rock around the island is carved by the violence of the ocean. the water surrounding the island is a veritable paradise, anemones and starfish, seaweed and barnacles. lobster pots abound. i saw my first lobster doing his lobster thing underwater. awe-inspiring. if i had owned an underwater camera, i think it would have given me too narrow a view of life for that day and what it has come to mean. no processing would have ever gotten the color right. it was better this way because still, to this day, all i have to do is close my eyes, and i am there.

we swam for the selected spot because, as you can see from my photo above, that beach was the best access. it was less than ¾ of a mile. the day was warm and the water was calm. we had the scuba gear and had built ourselves up for the swim. we went at a leisurely pace and my wild man restrained himself and stayed right with me. he paced me so i wouldn’t tire out.

then we were there. we took off the fins and put on reef slippers. we didn’t go too far up and around. the place is overgrown in summer and unknown to us. we did circle the house and the lighthouse. the rest of the island is rock with huge cracks and scrub, thorny beach rose, and old stonewalls from when the lighthouse was manned.

there are no words to describe how it feels to walk in a place that you have felt calling for you but you had only been able to see at a distance. the sun was shining. everything was green and lush for the summer. we felt like we were the only two people in the universe. we held hands. we whispered at times, as if it were a sacred place. for us it was. Heaven and Earth. for a brief moment in time we were in our own Garden of Eden.

we would have loved living out there. it would have required a vigilance that living on the mainland never requires, but imagine how much we could have lived, really lived every single day. everything we did would have been in sharper focus. every breath would have been fresh. every action well thought out. we would have lived deliberately out there and in doing so our lives would have been so rich with feelings and sights no one can buy or find anywhere else.

it was always our fantasy, and what are we if we deny ourselves our fantasies?

we swam back and returned the gear to the old lobsterman. he invited us to stay for hamburgers out on his grill. he never ate lobster, he said. he called them bugs. we talked until long after dark and the green flashes from the lighthouse could be seen from his porch. it was then that he started speaking about his long-dead wife, as if she had only recently died. he told us that he and she had gone out to the island in their younger years. “It seemed closer when we were younger.” he said he was glad we had gone. "I've lived here all my life and I know for fact that no one goes out there. Not ever. Not anymore."

his final words that night before he bid us good night were, “That place calls to people in love; to people who deserve to be left alone with their love. My wife and I always wanted to live out there, take care of the place, you know? We only went that once though. I wish I could have taken her out there again before she died. I’ll always see her out there.”

his words haunt me now sometimes. we only went that once, my Dragon and i. i guess that’s why i can’t let it go in my mind either. i will always see him standing on the island. i wonder if i had died first, if he would have always seen me out there, like the lobsterman and his wife.

i had heard the island referred to as Godforsaken. having been out there with my Dragon, i think i am going to have to disagree. i've heard the expression, "if you don't take Paris with you, you won't find it there." i think God knows about the island. i believe my Dragon helps me get there in my dreams so i can find some peace in this life, so that i can rest at night. i think we all need a place to go in our minds when it feels like everything is crashing down on us. it's not giving up. it's not a retreat. it's a sanctuary to sit in until we regain some strength.

i choose to remember my island. i choose to go there in my mind. i think of it as our island. my Dragon's and mine. i never would have gone without him beside me. i never would have touched it at all. it would have stayed an unfulfilled longing.

thank you, Love. i've miss you bad today. it's almost midnight. i'm going to go try to dream tonight. come get me. please.


Widow in the Middle said...

I loved going on this journey with you, back to your wonderful little scrubby Island. The story about the lobsterman was a story within your story too and beautifully connected. You are lucky to have such a special place to return to in your memories and where you can visualize your Dragon. I wonder if perhaps the lobsterman's wife and your husband have been to the Island together and while there, speak of their great love and devotion for the two of you.

Thank you for your lovely visions and words.

judemiller1 said...

A beautiful portrayal--I can see it and also feel my fear at your swim. I love the water, but cannot swim so I fear it too. That is my love of the sea--the peace it gives as I sit by the shore and the fear it instills with its awesomeness. You are so lucky to have been able to live by the sea for the time you did..I envy you that time. How wonderful that you and Dragon got to go to your island and now you can easily be transported back there with him. I know you miss the sea--how I wish you could find the way to get back to it.

twinmom said...

What a wonderful place to escape to in your memories and dreams - so very thankful that you took so many photos. I wanted to share with you another widow's blog, who just posted her thoughts on the ways of grieving - - she's in your face with her language sometimes, but another eloquent, and lonely, writer. I hope Dragon came to visit last night.

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