I wrote an essay about the last week and then left, my laptop open on the couch, to get my daughter from school. I returned to my 20 pound cat purring on the keyboard with pages and pages of
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It autosaved and previous drafts vanished. It’s pretty perfect, really. My time away had an enigmatic pulse.
When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I read hundreds and hundreds of birth stories. I was hungry for the information in others’ experiences. I wanted to feel prepared for anything, to know the possibility of everything from orgasm to death.
When my body was swollen with a Margot, my doula grabbed my 29 year-old hands and locked eyes with me, just a few inches from my face.
She said, “Your experience will be different than every other person’s experience. EVER.”
I had a unique recipe cooking inside of me when I boarded the first plane, as the sun set and Ruby clutched the hem of my shirt in despair. “I will miss you TOO much mama,” she sobbed over and over.
“We will miss each other the perfect amount.” I hugged her, believing her sentence more than mine.
I jumped into a stretch of firsts, the two biggest being my first time away from my children for more than a night and first time hosting a workshop.
Planes, layovers, cars and a little bit of sleep landed my travel companion and I in Washington. Twenty hours after we left Missoula, we arrived at the ferry terminal. I thought about the word terminal. It’s an end. But there’s a boat, a swim to somewhere else.
There, as we awaited our transport to an island I met friends, new and old. Through instagram handles, recounted email exchanges and hugs we settled into our space. Together, we found our sea legs and stepped on the boat to somewhere else.
My daughters suggested I find either a shark or an orca. Both would be best, but one would be alright. A photograph was requested, preferably with me in it next to the shark and/or orca. On that boat, I studied the navy expanse for any underwater movement, any breech. I only saw a gull hover at my temple, a loon dive for an alarming amount of time, four bald eagles atop island trees and a very different horizon.
I never stopped searching.
With my excitement, I also carried insecure thoughts of traveling away from the comfort of mountains and my family. I practiced positively shifting my internal language: I travel toward an ocean of new experience. I travel into potential. I was open and in solid company of others journeying from all corners of our country and Canada. They were in planes, cars and boats pointed to the same bay on the same tiny pacific island.
Being on an island can mean entrapment and it can mean self-discovery. These things are not mutually exclusive and I felt them both. I am changed by the people I met, deeply moved by their trust, honesty and storytelling. Together conduits to something greater, we wrote and shared and listened. We ran through emerald jungles, soaked in deep tubs of hot water, squished cold toes into sand and shoved full glasses of wine together in earnest toasts.
^^ I baked during part of my presentation on storytelling about the ritual of everyday experiences. Photo by Jenn Furber. ^^
^^ photo by Jesse Michener ^^
I never did see a whale or shark. Instead I brought my daughters the sincerest hugs I have ever given. We have been touching ever since: piggie backing, lap sitting, hand holding, shoulder riding, hugging, spooning. We missed each other too much, which was the perfect amount.
Margot and Ruby pushed into my torso as I told them about the seal I saw on my run one morning. I found a seaside bench at the end of a private trail. I sat, my body quiet and mind racing. I scanned the level blue for a fin and found him instead. Right in front of me, he silently pushed through the dark water. Just his head, the rest of his body vertical beneath the surface. We held gaze for a longer time than I’d imagined possible. And then he winked at me. Twice, just to be sure I understood.