Adapting To Death And The Woods

To be honest, I don’t really know what I was thinking packing up all of my shit in San Francisco and to head to the woods. Well, not the woods exactly but for this suburban/city girl, Weed, California is as ‘in the woods’ as I get.

It’s not that I don’t like it here, actually the contrary, I love it. It’s just that every transition has its adjustments. For one, I don’t think I’ll ever get use to leaving my car unlocked. But it’s just the norm here because people are trusting of each other.

People are to be trusted but not animals. This I learned the hard way the night I left several snacks in my car from the drive up. I also left my window down just enough for a raccoon to sneak inside and enjoy said snacks.


Something else that I’ve noticed immediately is that you can’t really hide anywhere in a smaller town. You’re almost forced to interact with people, or in the very least, say hello. Which I do now often as well as wave to people passing by on the road. It’s an intimacy that initially made me uncomfortable like that feeling you get as a kid standing in a wet bathing suit in the cold. But after the initial discomfort and general get-to-know-you questions, there’s genuine interaction and compassion. And always a promise to see them again, because here, it’s likely that you will.

One of these fist interactions occurred when I accompanied Mando and his Mom to their newly built catholic church this past Sunday. After the service at a special breakfast for the new Father, Mando and I got into a conversation with a stranger from San Diego who approached us. His smile was warm and gentle and he was complimentary to our lifestyle after we told him what had brought us to Weed, which I didn’t even realize myself until I heard us say the words.

“We don’t really know what we’re doing,” I heard Mando say aloud, “Maybe we’ll teach out of the country or even stay here for a bit. We really like it.”

I could feel myself agree and for the first time I settled into those words, and the idea that, no, we didn’t really have an idea what we were doing and I wasn’t going to let it freak me out. You see, it’s not always easy being adventurous, being a free spirit. Sometimes, you can scare even yourself with your ideas and moments of uncertainty.

I keep reminding myself that this is why it’s good to have some sort of foundation so that you’re not flailing aimlessly through the universe. I try not to be too hard on myself though if I don’t stick to everything daily. Things that I consider part of my foundation lately are….

  • Yoga or stretching
  • Smoothies in the morning
  • Cooking
  • starting up therapy again
  • Journaling
  • Exploring my new home for the summer 🙂

And Mando reminds me too,”You lost your Mom and close friend, it’s OK to feel…. lost.” I’m not sure that I can say I feel this way because I lost my Mom or that the feeling is intensified by her loss, either way, it’s there for interpretation.

It doesn’t help that matters surrounding her estate are unfinished and that most people have a difficult time talking about death. Either just completely freezing up or ignoring the subject entirely. But who could blame them? Death is an uncomfortable subject only forcing itself to the surface when the unthinkable has happened. It’s not a fun water cooler topic. If people even still use water coolers.

I can’t expect everyone to be catapulted into wanting to address the subject every time I catch a glimpse of my Mom in the mirror or whiff of my Dad’s cologne passing a man in a bar. I just believe there’s so much to learn from it, so many places to go, be them dark or not, and that to turn away from them is to live in pain and fear for the future and death itself.

It reminds me of something that happened to me two Septembers ago when I was up here with Mando visiting his family. It was The Blackberry Festival at Mt. Shasta City Park where I was helping pick blackberries with Mando’s sister Dolores and my goddaughter Rocklyn. The band was playing and kids were swarming the blackberry bushes, running in and out claiming secret bush tunnels and caves. One of these little girls stopped me mid-play and asked if I wanted to join. She told me all about the game and the bushes before abruptly stopping to say, “And my Mom is dead.”

Her words threw me off, further, they shook me to my core and sent shivers up my spine. Sure, I’d gone through the pain of death in my life, even my own Father’s, but there was just something so wrong about hearing that this little girl’s Mother had died. I didn’t know what to say to her, I was stumped.

I wish I could go back and hug that little girl. I wish I could tell her that if she wanted to talk about her Mom to me that she could, all day if she wanted. That it didn’t make me uncomfortable or scared and she shouldn’t be either. I’d tell her that her Mom loved her for sure and was still with her. Maybe even there, then as we picked blackberries and she ran through the bushes giggling with other kids. I wish a lot of things.

But mostly I’m just fascinated how something that once made me so uncomfortable to hear now rolls of my own tongue so easily, almost daily. Fascinated and grateful that I was able to share many more years with my Mom than, sadly, that little girl got to with hers.

Fascinated and grateful for the small changes I see just by making the move up here  and for the warm welcome and open hearts I’ve received already so far. At least from the people, the raccoons, that might take some time…


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