Love: Baggage Worth Carrying

Sunday, March 30th, 2014
Richard and me (and our Great Dane, Isis) by the Arkansas River in earlier years. Richard and me (and our Great Dane, Isis) by the Arkansas River in 2003.

I never want to be a person who can't let go, who carries the tragedies and disappointments of her life as so much baggage. I also don't want to ignore the past and how it has shaped my life.

I try to walk a path between those two poles, staying mindful of the passage of time and the "anniversary dates" that mark significant personal events. I do my best to honor each, and my feelings.

Still, sometimes those dates blindside me.

Friday, March 27th, was one such. Richard died on the 27th of November; each 27th, I am reminded that another month has passed in this life alone. March marks 2- 1/4 years since his death.

Buffalo Peaks through the car windshield, on the approach to Trout Creek Pass, the first mountain pass on my commute to Denver. Buffalo Peaks through the car windshield, on the approach to Trout Creek Pass, the first on my commute to Denver.

I remembered earlier in the week and thought, Oh yeah. I'll be driving to Denver that afternoon to prepare for the next Wildscape 101 workshop. The route is familiar, one we took many times between home and the VA Medical Center.

I'd shed a few tears, I suspected, and think about how much we loved that drive, no matter the weather and the inconvenience of being three hours from the city, and how lucky we both felt to live in this spacious landscape.

A herd of about 200 elk gathered in South Park in winter, one of the benefits of the drive over the high country. A herd of about 200 elk in South Park in fall, one of the benefits of the sometimes difficult drive over the high country.

I'd remind myself of how our journey with his brain cancer was eased by the relative quiet and slow pace of our small town, its dark night skies and the river two blocks away, the peaks spearing up on the western horizon, and the community that surrounded us with such love.

I couldn't know that Friday would end up bringing nasty mountain weather and that I would need to leave early in order to make it safely over the three mountain passes, all above 10,000 feet elevation.

Driving straight into a snowstorm whipping in on howling winds on Friday while crossing South Park. Driving straight into a snowstorm whipping in on howling winds on Friday.

Or that the organization sponsoring the workshop would schedule a last-minute conference call during which logistical issues would arise, requiring me to be on the phone while navigating howling wind, icy roads and blowing snow.

Or that the stress would distract me from honoring the date as I had planned.

It wasn't until I was driving across Denver that evening and passed near the VA Medical Center that I realized why my shoulders and neck had set like concrete.

Richard and Molly on a bench outside the VA Medical Center after he first saw the birds that presaged his tumor. Richard and Molly outside the Medical Center after he saw the birds that presaged his tumor.

Right. It's the 27th and I'm in the neighborhood where Richard learned he had a cancerous brain tumor, where he survived four brain surgeries, radiation and a course of chemo infusions, and I don't remember how many brain MRIs and other procedures.

So before I went to bed that night, after I prepared for the next day's workshop, I had a little conversation with the man I will always love, just catching up.

And then I slept soundly.

Saturday morning's workshop was a success, with some 200 people in the audience, and knots of attendees surrounding Lauren Springer Ogden and me afterward to tell us how inspired they were by our talks and to ask eager questions.

By the time I drove back over the mountains that afternoon, the weather had turned balmy, but I was so exhausted I navigated on auto-pilot.

I was aimed for home. Not home to the house Richard and I shared. Home to the little house at the other end of the block I built for my solo self after his death.

Home to this harsh and glorious high desert landscape and the community where Richard's spirit lives on in his art and in everyone he touched in his brilliant, incisive and generous way.

Home where I walk on alone, grateful to be here and to have had his company for almost 29 years. Yeah, I still miss him; yeah, I grieve. I smile and laugh too. It's all part of carrying on the love we shared, baggage I never want to forget.

Photograph of love, couple, Carpenter Ranch, The Nature Conservancy Sunset at Carpenter Ranch on our last trip together....