Tomorrow marks a new decade with the turn of the calendar. Sometimes I think remembering the past year and setting goals for the new year is silly and fruitless; time is just a man made construct so what is one more trip around the sun really? But deep down, I know that reflection is important for growth and gratitude. So I’m sitting here on a grey, drizzly December 31st thinking about the last 12 months of my life.
2019 flew by in the blink of an eye. I’m uncomfortable with the way life is speeding up the older I get and wish I could slow it down. The year started with me getting really sick. My physical health has been a challenge the last few years and the new year opened with me realizing there’s only so much doctors can do to help me. However I did learn a few ways to help myself this year. I finally learned how to help my digestive system when it isn’t feeling well. And in the fall, the lesson of balancing periods of rest and activity finally set in as a grief coach helped me realize my default settings. While I am certainly not the healthiest I’ve ever been, I am learning how to listen to my body and respond with what will make me feel better.
As winter warmed into spring, I finally was able to explore mason bee keeping with all the free time I had, being the first year since 2013 that I wasn’t in grad school. I fell in love with my bees and have had a successful first year. It was pure joy spending my spring and summer in my garden with mason, leafcutter, and bumble bees.
Adam and I traveled to the midwest and deep down I knew it would be the last trip “home” of its kind. We made it out to the tallgrass prairie and I remained shocked at the pull I feel for Kansas landscapes. Although I consider myself a temperate forest west coast girl now, there is something that calls to me from the rolling hills, prairies, and sandstone dotted world that is Eastern Kansas. My heart has roots planted in this place and it breaks just a little bit when I think I may never go back.
Early May was tough with James’ birthday and Mother’s Day in the same weekend. It was my first Mother’s Day without a rainbow. There are no words to describe the pain of that weekend. Hopefully it will get easier as the years pass, but I need to prepare myself for it being hard every time since the two dates are so close together.
Luckily mid-May saw us traveling to Eastern Oregon for the first time. I fell in love with that corner of the state, the Wallowas, and Eagle Cap Wilderness. It was the perfect place to celebrate our anniversary and heal a bit in nature. More on this special place in a bit.
The summer brought a new job role for me at the zoo since 2009. I loved it but it was challenging and I was not entirely prepared. Being a leader is hard, especially when those you are working with don’t always have the same vision. I was humbled by my staff and the work that we do. It’s important to keep things light and fun, but not a day passed that I didn’t think about how this fun experience we provide for today’s youth will hopefully shape the adults they will become to be stewards for our world. It’s such a dichotomy and I am so proud of the group of educators I work with in how they approach this challenge. I was also super stoked to not be sleeping at the zoo every Thursday night for the summer!
Summer gave way to fall and I decided to be part of a support/grief group for a month, exploring my loss and how to live with that in hope and light. It was a great experience and I met some amazing women. I learned the 5 second rule which has helped get me moving as I mentioned earlier. And I was able to create a vision for my future. As I was digesting these lessons, I was invited to be on an unrelated podcast to speak about James and life as a bereaved mom. It was something I never imagined I would do, but I am so proud of. Please give it a listen if you haven’t yet.
The rest of the year was pretty quiet while at the same time, our path for the future was being strategically cleared. Adam and I made 2 big decisions which will impact the rest of our lives. One is a work in progress, the other hopefully we can reveal in a couple of weeks. I am really excited for 2020 and all it will bring.
2019 taught me a lot. About how to listen to myself and challenge myself. That my story is far from over, and that I still have a lot to tell about chapters already lived. When I think about one memory that sticks out as my 2019 highlight, it’s seeing Sacajawea Peak in Eagle Cap Wilderness.
We traveled to Joseph, Oregon in May for our anniversary after the suggestion from our friend Lea. Always wanting to explore further east, I asked her for recommendations since she lives in La Grande. Keep going east she said, recommending Joseph. I knew little about the Wallowas and Eagle Cap Wilderness but a brief internet search showed it would be a nice trip for us. The Wilderness is pretty rugged and the easiest hike we could find was Hurricane Creek Trail. It seemed like a good one where we could turn around any time we wanted while exploring this new landscape. At the trailhead a sign was posted that a cougar was spotted the day before and didn’t seem to be afraid of humans. I was slightly nervous and picked up a nice sized rock and put it in my pocket. We headed down the trail and my nervousness faded. This was a peaceful forest. The uneasiness that I sometimes feel closer to Mt. Hood was no where to be found. The day was perfect and we didn’t know what to expect on the trail ahead, but luckily did not cross paths with a cougar. About 1/2 mile in, I look up across the creek and see this gorgeous mountain standing tall over the trees. It took my breath away. It was totally unexpected. We had seen other mountains the day before, and I knew the Wallowas were a sight to behold, but this one was special. I didn’t even know its name. As we hiked the trail, the mountain remained in view most of the time. I couldn’t take my eyes off it. I felt as though I had discovered a gem. We hiked several miles, picnicked in an open glade, marveled at the glaciers and watched the creek rush by. This was a special place.
Turns out the mountain was Sacajawea Peak, the tallest mountain in Oregon outside of the Cascade range. I was forever changed by that view, that place. It has stayed in my heart the rest of the year, after only a couple of hours there.
When I think of my year, that is what I think of. This wild place with an unexpected mountain and beauty that goes deeper than your eyes can see. Like the landscape of Eastern Kansas pulling at my roots, the landscape of Eastern Oregon pulls me forward. I want to go back, I need to go back. There is so much more to explore, even if it’s on the same path I was on before. And I know that my life mirrors this place. Wild and beautiful, with unexpected mountains. I will not tame this mountain (Sacajawea or loss) but I stand in awe of it’s majesty. I want to share this place with others, show them its beauty; but realize the wilderness is not for everyone.
In 2020 I hope to return to the Wallowas and gaze upon Sacajawea again. I also hope to continue to explore the mountain of my grief and continue working on a personal project that one day I might be able to share with you. As I say goodbye to 2019 I am so grateful for these unexpected chapters and moments in life. It’s not at all what I thought it would be like, but you gotta take the beauty where you find it.