Grandmothers of Washington Pass

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Experiencing sorrow in a different way

The hard, cold patch of my forehead, as it pressed against the car window, drew the pain away from my body. I sat slumped in the passenger seat. Outside, the land flew by like my life on fast forward. My only child had left for college; my marriage, too, had packed and gone away. Most of my beloved treasures had been reduced to some grassy tread marks of a mysterious eighteen-wheeler that mocked my wide eyes upon a recent evening’s return from work. My pain was visceral, inhabiting my body to remind me, unwavering, of my losses.

“I want to show you something,” my friend had said simply.

“What?” I had answered, skeptical as always.

“I just want to show you something. Come to the house early, and I’ll drive.” I noted that my curiosity remained, a small spark, perhaps, but still there. I took him up on his offer, giving no promise to him or myself that I would be a fun traveling companion.

The land flew past the car window. We climbed along Rte 20. Colors turned from dry orange of the Maples and Alders, to deep greens of the Hemlocks and Cedars. Rivulets of water had returned to the cutaways in the rock faces, dancing in their brief freedom before joining themselves again in a statelier journey to the sea. My companion held the car evenly as we drove. Drumming hauntingly filled the car as the amazing stones from the river below us winked at me from their wet nests in the sand.

“Where are we going? How long is this to be? Why is he doing this?” The questions floated in and out without energy, and lay unspoken in my mind.

My companion spoke little as he drove. I breathed in his calm. The car climbed high in the valley as mountains began to hug the boundaries of the road. I rolled my head against the window to find new places to shock with the cold. The car finally pulled to the left, and we went down a narrow road. Trees hugged our passage, ushering us into a parking lot surrounding what could have been a lodge. It was a restroom.

The rest room was a surprising structure of huge logs and metal, nestled in snow. I was glad for my walking shoes. “This way” my friend said, as we began to walk. The trail lay before us, a sad line of patchy, trampled snow and muddy footprints. “I can relate to that,” I said to myself, wrapping my blanket around me. We had entered a low cloud and our limited view helped me focus.

I walked heavily, aware of something I could not name. A sign peeked out of the snow saying, “Stay on the Path.” I veered off to my left. I followed this pull I felt, and could hear my companion making worried noises behind me. I think he hadn’t planned this outcome, but my feet kept walking up and to the left, the wrong way, the unmarked way, the way alone. The trees presented themselves and vanished again in the heavy fog. They stood for a moment, respectful and attentive, comforting in their quiet way. Stones rose from the ground to say, “Step here, this way. This way is sure and strong” I picked my way among them, aware of my companion’s cautious presence far behind me. I walked with more strength, more clarity. Though I had never been here, I knew this place, knew my way. The fog enveloped me, welcomed me, pressed into my blanket, and stroked my hair and my soul. I began to breathe again.

My companion gave no direction, no comments. I walked; he followed. Two silent forms in the fog on separate journeys together.

The cloud dissipated as I climbed the last stones of the ascent. A deep valley yawned before me. I sucked in my breath at the sudden long view. At the bottom, a tiny ribbon of a road held it in place. My eyes climbed the far side of the valley, up and up the bulky flanks topped by rough crags. They rested on the great stones there, and slid again with their boulders, fallen in rivers and pools, down to the trees and the road below.

Something called me back, and I looked again at the crags. These peaks became more than stones. They sat, hunkered together, three old women. They had let down their hair, which fell in gray boulder curls among the green of their blouses and skirts. These old women were content, there in the sun. I heard their earthy chuckle and saw my own large grandmother. I yearned for her gingham body to hold me, to reassure me. And somehow, there on the mountain, I was held. I was reassured. These old women chuckled again. I felt they knew something about me I had not yet learned. There was something more to come to me, to my life, and it would be good. It was with me now, but I hadn’t seen it. I looked down for a moment in thought. When I looked back up I saw only stones and crags.

Stunned, I turned again to the fog. My companion was barely visible. I wanted to stay, to become one of the stones here on this side of the valley, this mountain. Perhaps, if I held my body just so, and was very still, I could join the mountain, become a stone, content. I stopped, holding back in the fog, as my companion faded before me. I wrapped my blanket tightly around myself, hoping for something other, something more. I heard, “It’s time to go”—was this the mountain? Was it my companion? Sadly, so sadly, and yet deeply comforted, I walked again down the mountain and back into my life.

Years have passed since that day. They were right, you know, those old women. They were right.

Kate Bowditch, MA, is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who lives, writes and practices in Washington State. She is an Elder and Ceremonialist. She has recently published “20-20 Insight, Advanced Theory and Practice of Hypnosis,” a view of the working and function of the Subconscious Mind,  “The Mountain and the Shadow, A Pagan’s Journey Into Death,” and most recently, “The Ghosts of Newgrange, Ancient Ceremony Remembered,” an analysis of Past Life Experiences to reconstruct ancient Pagan wisdom and ceremony in Ireland. She writes for, among others, Circle Magazine. Visit her website at: www.katebowditch.com

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