Regrowth

I recently went to Bend, Oregon with a friend to a concert. It’s about 4 hours away depending how fast you drive. My walking partner, also my concert partner, couldn’t allow us to leave Bend without going on a short hike. At breakfast we asked some locals for advice on a small hike in the area and they pointed us in the direction of Double Falls.

You start the hike at Tumalo Falls. Since Tumalo falls can be driven up to, with only a few yards to walk to visualizing the falls, every local with the day off seemed to be trying to get one of the limited 30 parking spots. After wrangling one of the spots we started our pilgrimage towards Double Falls.

Watching streams of people, young and old, walking in single file up the path, I felt like it was some sort of Bend pilgrimage or some rite of passage the locals must accomplish. I was fighting off the start of a head cold, and of course always concerned about Covid anytime I have a sneeze, a tickle in my throat or a headache, even though I’m vaccinated and hardly wander from my house, it turned out to be a head cold. Needless to say I wasn’t feeling the hike if you know what I mean.

Not to mention, as grief works, it had hit me hard that morning, it has been over three years since I lost my daughter, but it can hit with a thought, a memory, an image. I had both visiting me that morning and I felt waves of immeasurable sadness hit my frontal lobe like a migraine. First was the lyrics from the concert we had gone to the night before. NEEDTOBREATHE, a Christian band Folksy with a bit of metal to it, who knew you could use a banjo and and then an electric guitar and it would sound so good?

I’ve never told anyone how I found the band because it sounds a bit metaphysical or just strange in general. When I first heard the news of my daughter’s passing and in the first couple of days I had many panic attacks. They mostly consisted of hyperventilating and then sobbing. I kept saying in my head, I need to breathe, I can’t breathe, I just need to breathe…

Months later I was texting with another grief mama, it’s what I call the other mothers who have lost children. I found they had no one to vent to, someone that wouldn’t tire of listening to them cry or ask why. I was telling the other mama that I had these words come to me, keep your eyes open. I can’t remember now if it was something I heard in a dream or heard in my head. It was somewhere in the blur of the first year where I can barely remember how I shuffled through it. I told her I felt like those words were significant. I decided to google the words and was surprised to see not only was it a song, Keep your eyes open, but it was written by NEEDTOBREATHE, a band I had never heard of, but words I had said to myself many times in those early days. I goggled the lyrics and felt the words sink in.

If you could soldier on
Headstrong into the storm
I’ll be here waiting on the other side
Don’t look back
The road is long
The first days of the war are gone
Take back your former throne and turn the tide’Cause if you never leave home, never let go
You’ll never make it to the great unknown till you
Keep your eyes open, my love
So tell me you’re strong, tell me you see
I need to hear it, can you promise me to
Keep your eyes open, my loveJust past the circumstance
The first light, a second chance
No child could ever dance the way you do, oh
Tear down the prison walls
Don’t start the curtain call
Your chains will never fall until you do’Cause if you never leave home, never let go
You’ll never make it to the great unknown till you
Keep your eyes open, my love
So show me your fire, show me your heart
You know I’ll never let you fall apart if you
Keep your eyes open, my loveOpen up
Open up
Open up your eyes
The weight is unbroken
Open up
Open up
Open up your eyes
Keep your eyes openDon’t let the night become the day
Don’t take the darkness to the grave
I know pain is just a place
The will has been broken
Don’t let the fear become the hate
Don’t take the sadness to the grave
I know the fight is on the way
When the sides have been chosen…

-Keep your eyes open, NEEDTOBREATHE

After sending my friend the lyrics, not sure if the words fell on her the way they did on me, I was then invited to this concert by another friend surprisingly, and then two years later a second friend, the one I was hiking with. The songs echoed in my head as we soldiered on up the trail.

The second memory that hit me on the trail was like a hazy dream. It was my daughter and her friend who lived in Bend along with her mom and I, dragging little ones in tow as the girls giggled and scurried ahead of us, leaning over the rail at the waterfall as we reprimand the girls to keep away from the edge. I can see the girls, braces gleaming, the sun shining off the water and then what feels like a frog builds up in my throat and I hug the memory while it slips away.

Along the path you can’t help notice that everywhere you look can be found burnt branches, and the remains of a previous fire. A quick google search tells me its a 2019 fire that most likely wiped the trail out for quite awhile. Someone had cut off all the damaged trees and branches and they lay in piles where they had been cleared. This way the path could once again be enjoyed and the falls observed.

I kept looking at the tiny small ferns, the new underbrush, trying to judge how long ago the devastation took place. Did it really matter? I then wondered was it a man-made fire or was it lightning? Whose fault was it? The though came to me again, Does it really matter?

The beauty and power of the falls was remarkable, but what caught my eye was the tiny growth of green plant life growing on the burnt, destroyed remains of a pine. To me that was the beauty, the growth among the darkness where nothing else seemed to be growing and it resonated with me. I felt a kindred spirit to the tiny patch of green.

Many days I feel like the tiny plant trying to pretend to being a giant pine, but I know I need to be thankful for the growth that I have somehow managed. I should be even a bit impressed with myself for surviving in an inhospitable environment one of destruction and sadness.

There are many days I feel like I’ll never be my old self again, and in truth I will never be the pine I once was. I get down on myself for not being able to accomplish what I think I should for that day, or week. I get down on myself for being unable to do all the things the other pines seem to be able to do, work, shop, raise kids, smile, laugh, love, play and dance. Like a large pine swaying in the sunlight, but I am not a large pine, I am the regrowth. I am the survivor. I also can dance a bit, I can grow. It will never be the same display as the mighty pine. But I am surviving in a place many cannot, and my tiny movements are big movements for me.

In your ocean, I’m ankle deep
I feel the waves crashin’ on my feet
It’s like I know where I need to be
But I can’t figure out, yeah I can’t figure outJust how much air I will need to breathe
When your tide rushes over me
There’s only one way to figure out
Will ya let me drown, will ya let me drownHey now, this is my desire
Consume me like a fire, ’cause I just want something beautiful
To touch me, I know that I’m in reach
‘Cause I am down on my knees, I’m waiting for something beautiful
Oh, oh, ohh something beautiful…

-Something Beautiful, NEEDTOBREATHE

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