One of the best kept secrets about living in the Northwest is that we get bright, sunny days in January. Looking out the window, with all the green from the cedars and Douglas Firs, you can almost fool yourself into thinking it’s summer.
Upon stepping outside, the east winds will quickly disillusion you.
Today was so sunny that, in yoga class this morning, I had to adjust my mat a few times to avoid being blinded by the glare from the window.
Toward the end of a challenging class, we took tree pose. It was a moment of calm and concentration. As a I stood with my foot hoisted against my thigh, watching the reflection of tendons in my shin bouncing around to keep me balanced, my mind drifted to the trees outside the window.
To trees like these:
My mind drifted to my friend, Heather.
She was like the Lorax.
She spoke for the trees:
Our Senior yearbook shows her hugging a newly planted tree outside the high school. Those trees are full-grown now.
Heather always challenged me. She was so authentic, so completely herself. She sang. She wrote songs. She was completely original. She was indescribable.
She went her own way.
She didn’t try to please anybody; she didn’t try to conform.
She just, simply, was.
And she had the best handwriting:
She was brilliant.
I had a love-resent relationship with her.
Her completeness threw my own sense of lack into sharp relief. She was a constant reminder to be more me, and that made me feel a bit defensive. Sometimes she was just so much Heather!
But she didn’t do it on purpose. She was just being herself. Brilliant, amazing, real Heather. I wonder if she could even understand what it felt like to have such insecurities?
When the rest of us went to college, she went to camp. She was the most amazing camp counselor ever. She went by the name, Woodstock, and a lot of kids–grown-up now–surely remember her by that name.
She and another friend came to pick me up when I graduated from college. We took a three-week road trip through the Utah national parks, the Sierra Nevadas, and the Redwoods.
We listened to Tom Petty and Everything But the Girl and Ani DiFranco, and I finally learned how to drive.
We grew apart. I got engaged a year after college graduation, and was focused on planning the wedding.
She didn’t come to the ceremony–she was out somewhere in the wilderness. I was in a different kind of wilderness, marrying that guy. She probably sensed it.
Fourteen years ago, on a sunny, January day like this, Heather went for a walk in the woods with her boyfriend. They were near the camp where she worked. Her trees. Her paths. Her forest.
One of those trees fell on her that day, breaking her neck.
And that is why, today in yoga class, I wept.