Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Love Letter

On our last full day in the Yukon, I finally broke the ice with my favourite server at Sakura Sushi. She may not be everybody's favourite--she's got a stony face that rarely smiles, but she is so efficient and so unapologetically herself. In our four years of living up North, she had never engaged me in conversation before, so I take it as a sort of opening of the universe that this happened just as I was preparing my heart to leave.

She wanted to know if I was Chinese (yes), if I was a visitor (no), and then ultimately, did I live in Whitehorse (no, Haines Junction.)

Her characteristically impenetrable face shifted like a seismic event.

"Haines Junction?! Why would you live there? It's so small! Whitehorse is okay, but Haines Junction?"

Yes, Haines Junction.

You are so beloved.

This fondness: I didn't think that it would happen to me, when I moved there in 2010. We thought, at most, we would ride out one year and get some experience and pad the resume. I kept the Yukon at arms distance, never allowing it to reach any real part of me.

But.. you got in, you wily bastard. You got in and you now claim pieces of my heart.

I grew up there. Or, it may be more true to say, I grew longer there; wider there. I stretched myself very tall, and spread my fingers until they were full. If my spine is straighter, it is because of you; if my soul is stronger, that is because of you too.

I know that nostalgia has a way of highlighting only the most golden tones, and it forgets all the lonely moments, far away from family. But this is a love letter to you: so nostalgia away. Golden everything, for the moment.

You were so vast, that you gave me the space to change. There was no ceiling on the tops of your sky, so I never feared that I would hit my head if I kept on aiming higher.

So I kept on aiming higher.

Your mountains and trees were still for me, in the moments in my heart that I was anything but. You let me walk in your forests, and worry them with my feet, just as I was worrying in my mind. Somehow, each time I was finished in those sacred green spaces, back on the gravel road, clarity or peace would hold my hand.

I think that you are magical.

Your wisdom rubbed off on me, and you trusted me to take care of the young people on your land that are lost, or scared or needing to be understood. When I think of them, the ache in my chest is great. They were my light on very dark days, and taught me more than I ever taught them. My last day at school was a big splinter in my thumb; a crack on my favourite mug... they were so excited for summer to be here, that I don't know if they realized truly that we would never banter in the hallway again, or eat walnuts in my office and talk about their troubles.

I did.

So I hugged each of them as many times as they would let me.  If I could have shrunken them down and carried them with us in the pocket of my jeans, I would have. But then that would be taking them away from you, and you are what is right for them.

You filled our loneliness at being away from home, with the most beautiful people on earth. Truly. If friends are family that you get to choose, then our Yukon family was one of the best choices we have ever made. They folded us into the batter of their lives as if we had always belonged there. It is soothing stuff, to be made to feel like you belong. It allows you to be brave, genuine, good. It means that you are seen and heard. I am realizing these days, that one of the most important things to feel as a human being, is that you are seen and heard for exactly as you are.

These last few weeks have been sprinkled with some tears. I feel very much like I am not here, in the present moment. Not yet. It is frustrating as all hell for me to feel this way. I cherish feeling peace, of accepting the choices I've made in life. I don't like regret. People ask me if I am so excited to be here, and their faces fall a bit as I can't match their own joy. I feel a bit lost.

So I do this:

Late at night, when it is 1am and I am still awake because of feeling all the feelings, you arrive. I think you are my spirit animal. I imagine that you turn into a blanket--one that is slightly golden, the kind that if I squint, I know each strand is made of raven, elk, moose, friendship, mountain, snow, children, fire. I feel you gently laying on me. You know I like compression, so I am squeezed equally from all sides and the force creates some support for my raw heart. I get to go to sleep.

My dear friend, you taught me to be patient and forgiving of myself, so I take that lesson into this new chapter. I don't feel, yet. But I will. Until I can, I know that you protect my ability to do so. I know from your teachings that in spite of these tall glass buildings I see around me, and the power lines that silhouette against these skies, there is no ceiling on my life.

I can keep aiming higher.