the memory trip   12 comments

Posted at 2:08 am in california,Don,loss,memory,rivers

I’m on my way back to Ontario now. It won’t be long and I’ll be meeting the new-old house in Nova Scotia. However, I’m still a few thousand miles away from that space. I’ve taken a lot of photos, but it will take some time for me to sort through them, so they will keep for awhile. Today’s photos are from different points in time — not from this trip, but from others of the past. Don’s birthday was yesterday – he would now be 58 if he had not died on September 6, 2008.

In a recent post, I mentioned that my autumn 2009 trip ended with a long, strange loop. After running ahead of the bad weather pushing me further and further south to the Mojave, I circled back through the Sierras and ended up on the Oregon-California area of the coast. My purpose in revisiting that location was that I felt compelled to go to some of the places that, for me, have strong associations with Don.

One of my first stops was to see if the giant redwood stump was still lodged in the sand at McVay Beach. Sure enough, it was. It felt odd to see it sitting there, unchanged, roughly three years from the day when I photographed Don sitting on a section of root. How is it possible that a seemingly lifeless stump still persists, while Don is no longer here with me? Since the day that I photographed him at the beach, so much has happened.

The above photo of Don was taken on October 12, 2006 when he came west to travel with me for a week. It gave me such pleasure to take him around to my favourite places such as this shoal on a river in southern Oregon. I photographed him as we talked about the colorful riverstones. The photo of me was taken moments later.

Now he is gone and I am alone. I see these photos from a happier time and realize how much has changed – and how much the experience of the past three years has altered my life, mind, and appearance.

The last pair of photos are perhaps the most important to me. In November, I returned to the secluded river where Don and I watched ouzels singing and diving into the torrent between water-sculpted rock formations. I photographed Don’s hand resting upon the thick moss that carpeted one of the larger formations.

Upon my return, I photographed my own hand on the same little patch of moss. It felt good to place my hand in this spot – almost as though placing my hand on his – with only time between us — and of what importance is time anyhow?

Written by bev on April 6th, 2010

12 Responses to 'the memory trip'

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  1. Bev, it’s good to reflect on good times with someone you love. But it’s also good to look at all that’s ahead of you and all the things I’m sure Don would have wanted you to do. Enjoy your journey, be safe, and know that your friends are thinking about you.


    6 Apr 10 at 8:32 am

  2. I look at Don’s face and realize that you have painted him so vividly that I feel like I’ve met him and known him for years. My eyes fill with tears for what you have lost and what you set out to rebuild yourself. Your new project sounds like a very good one, a reshaping of a house while your heart learns to heal.

    It is a beautiful ritual to place your hand where Don’s hand once rested. I once wrote a poem many years ago about my mother’s family finding a long-lost cousin who was thought to have perished in the Holocaust. He was alive in Israel, the only one of his immediate family to have survived. One of my aunts sent him a photograph of his mother, a face he had not seen since he was whisked off the streets of Germany and carted away. As much as he loved seeing her face, it was the writing on the back of the photo that most touched his heart. He would run his fingers over those words, her written words in her own hand, which was for him as holy as any prayer.

    robin andrea

    6 Apr 10 at 10:21 am

  3. All we have is time, Bev and I understand your drive to return to those places that hold a moment in time… a memory.

    I’m aching for the love you’ve lost…



    6 Apr 10 at 10:55 pm

  4. Love is the most subtle power in the universe.
    (Mahatma Gandhi)

    That’s the power that makes your post so moving for me.

    Your insight about time rings true.

    Love the photos you chose for the day after what would have been Don’s 58th birthday.

    Just looked closely at a map of Nova Scotia. Wondering what part of Nova Scotia will be soon be home for you and Sabrina and Sage.


    6 Apr 10 at 10:55 pm

  5. I loved this train of thoughts. There is such beauty in the way you describe the experience of then, and now. I often wonder what time really means as well. To me it is all relative. I think connecting to our memories, of connecting in a physical way, such as your hand, where his had was, becomes timeless. When I find myself doing the same thing, I feel as though Michael was just there. As you have said in your comments to me, I too feel connected to Michael in certain places that hold meaning. Either to me, or that had meaning to us. I too do not feel as though his spirit is there, but feel what connected us. It’s funny, someone told me yesterday that I have taken on some of Michael’s ways. I would have to agree. My spirit is calmer, as his was. I hope you arrive home in Nova Scotia to that welcoming feeling, knowing that is where Don would have wanted to be as well.


    6 Apr 10 at 11:55 pm

  6. John – Thanks. It’s a delicate balance – walking the fine line between our past and my future. I think Don would have liked some of the current developments. I’m sorry that he cannot be with me during my travels, but I like to feel that he is here.

    Robin – I loved the story of the long lost cousin and the writing on the photograph. I have a journal that Don kept during the last year while he was doing chemo and radiation. It’s hard for me to read any of it, but I keep it with me and just like to hold the book and enjoy Don’s beautiful handwriting.

    Thanks, Laura. Yes, you’re so right – all we have is time.

    am – Time is such a mystery. Under some circumstances, it is as though a place or an object acts as a bridge between the present and the past. Some may regard this as an illusion, but I think not. The house in Nova Scotia is at a village called Round Hill. I will send you a bit more information about it.

    Dan – Interesting about you feeling as though your spirit is calmer and that you have taken on some of Michael’s ways. I often find myself doing things a little differently than I used to — more in the way that Don might do something. I’ve even noticed that a few preferences for foods or other things have changed. It’s kind of nice. I hope (and believe) the move to Nova Scotia will be a good thing — almost as though it is completing a circle that has been waiting for me.


    7 Apr 10 at 12:46 am

  7. Oh Bev, this is so powerful.

    And such a tender evocation of Don, of love, of the presence that will forever be with you and the space that can never be filled.

    Beautiful, dear.

    Really. Just beautiful.

    If my husband predeceases me I imagine I would be frozen in space and time, unable to take a journey to the center as you have courageously done. Safe travels.

    Cathy Wilson

    8 Apr 10 at 4:53 pm

  8. Cathy – Thanks so much. It’s very difficult to resist being frozen in space and time. I try to keep moving but at times it’s very tiring. I’m hoping this summer in Nova Scotia will be a good thing.


    8 Apr 10 at 8:26 pm

  9. Don was a lovely lovely man, Bev. He was a prince and a shining spirit, and he still is. I think too, that he is never very far away from you – he loved you too much to do anything else or be anywhere else.


    10 Apr 10 at 5:10 pm

  10. Thanks, Cate. Yes, he was a very special person – and I do think of him as never being too far from me. It particularly feels that way when I’m traveling with the dogs – it’s like he’s traveling right along with us – which is a good feeling.


    14 Apr 10 at 7:58 am

  11. I don’t know who writes the speeches, and for the most part I take little interest in what the great and the good have to say about matters that I’m quite capable of making up my own mind about. But at a memorial service here in the UK for the families of those British citizens who died at the twin towers on 09/11, the Queen said simply… “Grief is the price we pay for love”… and there’s a universal truth in that.

    I am so sorry for your loss.

  12. Clive – that quote is so very true. Thank you.


    23 Apr 10 at 7:40 pm

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