A Sunny Day Like This

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.

Northern California
Northern California

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.

To trees like these:

Birches
Birches

My mind drifted to my friend, Heather.

She was like the Lorax.

She spoke for the trees:

Speaking for the Trees
Speaking 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.At One with the Universe

She didn’t try to please anybody; she didn’t try to conform.

She just, simply, was.

And she had the best handwriting:

Font: Woodstock
Font: Woodstock

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.

In Her Element
In Her Element

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.

Somewhere in Utah, or maybe Nevada, or even California
Somewhere in Utah, or maybe Nevada, or even California

We listened to Tom Petty and Everything But the Girl and Ani DiFranco, and I finally learned  how to drive.

Road Trip
Road Trip

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.

Scanned Image

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70 thoughts on “A Sunny Day Like This

    1. Thank you so much. If you want more, there’s a post about my dad called When You Were My Age. Blogging is such a great outlet, isn’t it?
      I really appreciate you reading and your comment ❤

      1. You’re welcome. I’m sorry for taking so long to respond. Life kinda threw me a 1-2 punch. And I am finding blogging to be of great use. That’s why I’m able to respond today. I will read When You Were My Age.
        Happy to know my presence is appreciated! Yours is also 🙂

  1. Sometimes the universe sucks.
    But you still have great memories of her, and it sounds like her life still resonates in yours.

    This is wonderfully told, and thank you for introducing us.

    1. Thanks, G. My friend–and her very close friend–blogs under the name Momo and has set up a separate blog about Heather: The Blue Follows Me Everywhere, which was the title of one of her songs. She was a gifted lyricist. My friend’s posts this week have been so beautiful and insightful about grief.

  2. I wasn’t quite prepared for the tragic ending and am so sorry for the loss of your friend. What a beautiful tribute you wrote about her — a celebration of her life! I know about myself that I’d like to die being myself in a place I love to be and can’t help but feel that’s what happened to Heather. Thank you for sharing her story — and yours.

    1. Thank you Gretchen. When we were in high school, one of our English teachers liked to tell us that Native American warriors would say ‘this is a good day to die.’ He was on a bit of a Native American kick, and had us pick names. I was Little Big Hair. I don’t know why I’m sharing this except that you are right–to die fully yourself, doing what you love, in your element is good. I need to constantly remind myself to live each day in a way that I would be satisfied if it all ended. It’s hard to remember sometimes! Maybe that should be my New Year’s Resolution: to make every day a good day to die.

  3. I think Heather will be remembered for who she was always!! This post is more like a tribute to her and you just added more beauty to the beautiful human, Heather. As I read the last part,a tear escaped my eyes…As a blogger, you made me feel what I was reading and that’s why I think you are a successful writer! Glad to have found you through Truth and Cake!!

  4. This was beautiful, and natural. I don’t mean to impose or assume anything, but I’m sure that this post was very Kylie, just as Heather was very Heather.

  5. Hi Kylie, I found your blog through the comments on Truth and Cake. I am sorry about the loss of your friend, Heather. This post seems like a fitting tribute–I love the photos. I recently lost my mom and it’s crazy sometimes the things that remind me of her and take me right back to being by her side. Bittersweet. Thank you for sharing.
    If you’re interested, you can read my “Press Yourself” post, “The Rewards of Being Yourself” here http://wp.me/p3gc23-5N

    1. Thank you for stopping by. I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your mom.
      I’ll read your post, too, and if you’d like to read about the loss of my father, it’s the post called “When You Were My Age”.

  6. Oh wow, Kylie. You so perfectly described this one piece about being friends with Heather that I’ve always had a hard time describing. I had that love-resent thing, too, for exactly those reasons. I always thought it was just me. And it’s one of the things that hurts so much about her being gone – I wish I could show her how ME I’ve become. Oh, and this is Kate, by the way. Hi.

  7. Brian sent me the link for this beautiful tribute to (and the wonderful photos of) our dear Heather – my niece. Wish I could post a couple of photos here – one of the time in 1995 when she was on the road and passed through Boulder. I drove over from Denver, where I was living at the time, and we had a wonderful evening visit. But you and Meg and Brian and all her dear ones knew her much better than I. Sending love to you all…

    1. Judi–thank you!
      We would all love to see the photos. Meg set up a website for Heather. You could maybe email her the photos with a description of your memories of Heather?

      She touched so many people so deeply. The ripples will continue for a long time.

      Much love…

    1. Thank you–I read about you on Rufina’s blog. You remind me a little of Heather. All of these pictures were from the road trip we took 16 years ago. I’m glad I have them to remember her by.

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this!
      I didn’t mean to… but this structure ended up making it feel like the horrible surprise that her death was.

    1. Thank you for reading, Kozo. You would have loved her too. A friend of ours is collecting her work, and I think I’ll link to that for my first Bloggers for Peace post.

      1. Great idea, Kylie. Sounds like she made peace wherever she went.
        It is funny you mention the Lorax, because that is one of my favorite books. It not only taught me environmentalism, but also empathy.

  8. I have to say that I thought (by judging the pictures in my Reader) that this post was about the awesomeness that is Oregon, and missing my forests at home, I have to say, I didn’t really want to look what this was all about.
    Forests are sometimes breathtakingly beautiful, full of life yet quiet, they smell of earth, and life and death. It’s quite striking that your friend who loved that place so much went to reside there for good.

    1. It was a bit of a sneaky way to introduce the post, but it was exactly my thought process yesterday.

      All of those pictures are from the road trip we took; none are from Oregon.

      Thanks for reading and commenting, TAE, and for sharing in this a little bit with me.

        1. My pictures are usually blurry, so I doubt there will be much cause for envy.

          I had to scan all those, and then crop them, and then battle with the photo editor, and then get them from Preview and re-crop them and re-upload them. Feeling envious yet?

  9. So beautiful, Kylie. Thank you for writing this and sharing the photos. Sometimes she was just so much Heather. That road trip pilgrimage was epic – changed my life for sure. I love you. I loved us all together.

  10. What a wonderful gift you have still kept from your friend, and in her own handwriting. Precious friendship transcends even death. A beautiful post.

  11. Carrie, maybe it’s not so sad- like rock climbers who eventually fall- would they rather go any other way?
    This reminded me of the times my old dear friend Amanda and I would drive around cold sunny NW days and blast thew hat in the car so it felt like summer. I miss her too.

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