July 30, 2009

Kenai Dipnetting '09...what Spirit provides

We're back from dipnetting the Kenai with 20 more salmon. It's exactly what we needed to finish setting ourselves up with 2 meals a week for the next year. We were hoping for more so that we could donate some-and because it's just so fun to catch fish this way, but..."You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, well ,you just might find...you get what you need."

The weather was more cooperative this year-warmer, very little wind (Lo didn't need to wear her "sandglasses"), it rained off and on but we stayed dry, and our last evening ended with an intensely clouded sky and rainbow. I was hoping for a glimpse of Redoubt volcano but we could only see the base.

We got onto the beach around 10:45pm our first night and met up with our friend, Dan, who was just finishing up fishing the last tide. After setting up camp, it was nice to sit around and chat before heading to bed. The next day was full of fishing and exploring on the beach. Lo had a great time playing in the water with her little "travel baby"
and was soon soaked through-but this is an Alaskan kid. She rarely seems to get cold. She was so filled with joy and excitement as she ran from the waves splashing the shore. I love to just watch her so filled with life and wonder...

The first tide was a bit of a bust. I caught 5, but Huz wasn't getting a thing and he was quite discouraged. He kept getting hits but each one got away. It wasn't until later that he found there was a huge hole in his net-what a friggin bummer. He patched it up and caught plenty of fish on the next tide. Dipnetting is not his or Dea's preferred mode of catching fish, but I love it! It's so totally different then using a rod and reel and I relish the physical work that you have to put into it. When the fish are crankin' in, it's a great workout, and so exciting hauling them to shore and then running back into the water for more. And although it's not quite like the Long Island Sound shores that I'm used to, I love the sand, the ocean smells, sound of waves and , yes, even the clustered and crazy campin'/fishin' melting pot community at the mouth of the Kenai. Maybe the whole thing brings out the ancestral hunting/gathering aspects of my nature.

No matter what modality of fishing we use, Huz and I like to fish early in the hopes of catching our limit by afternoon , get the filleting over and done with, so that we can have the rest of the day to play, relax, eat and socialize with an adult beverage or 3. It just feels so satisfying to work your tail off, get all that wonderful healthy salmon that will feed us for the next year, and have time to really appreciate and enjoy the well earned relaxation. After any type of hard work, be it dipnetting or putting an hour in at the gym, it makes a good meal, a good glass of wine, playing with family and enjoying friends so much the sweeter. Life is that much more imbued with intensity.

(fun with rainbows!)

(Salmon burritos on the fi-ah!)


And on the topic of appreciating life... since Brett's death, I have been inundated with "messages"-specific lyrics from songs on the radio, books that pass through my hands, things my kids say, stuff I just stumble upon online-all saying in one form or another,"Life is precious, never take it or the ones you love for granted, WORK at it and make it the best and most positive life you can live, listen to the messages slapping you in the face, and give thanks for what is being presented even when it takes the shape of something seemingly unwanted or negative."

As we drove to the Kenai on the Seward highway, I was woken up from dozing when I felt the sudden jolt of the truck to the side of the highway. Huz said, Jeez! Did you see that guy?!?!? He just swerved into our lane!" We wondered if he was drunk or falling asleep. We found out after our trip that not a minute later after pushing us to the side of the road, that guy slammed into an oncoming car and killed the passenger inside. We didn't see it happen, but saw the cop cars race by soon after. Huz said,"I bet that guy just killed someone-that's where they're going."
That could have been US. Or our next door neighbors who just happened to be heading the opposite way not 4 cars behind that guy...

Another close call happened when we stopped on our way home at Centennial Park so that Dea could do some rod and reel fishing . As I left the port-o-potty and was heading down the path, I glanced to my left and not 5 feet from me was a moose. I did a quick side step off the path and toward our truck. (Some portly asshole fishermen were standing there laughing. I yelled, "Hey, thanks guys, for warning me about that moose!" Nice) As I looked back I noticed a calf, too, and could not believe that mama did not charge me.

...What does it all mean?

July 17, 2009

Moving on...

Tomorrow we head back to the T’s camp on Montana creek. All of us who were there on the 4th when Bret and Porter died are going back to finish the day that we had intended to have. An afternoon of playing by the Su river, teaching our little ones to cast, eating lunch, doing crafts, enjoying the hot sun. I know the weather outlook isn’t the most fantastic, but, Universe? could you make an exception for us this one time?!

I have a deluge of thoughts to extract from my brain- not to “blog”, but to journal, to “put down on paper”. To organize, make better sense…and remember. This will not become a grief or trauma blog. What I actually see in my mind is 3 to 4 separate piles of paper, each for a different set of emotions and revelations regarding the deaths of Bret and Porter, his dog. I’m typing this in WORD, not even wanting the Blogger template to interfere. The reason I choose to publish this publically is that I believe if the ripple effect of Bret’s death can touch just one person in a positive way, then it’s ok.

How We Are Doing:
There is a settling entering back into our lives now. The rollercoaster ride of emotions we have experienced over the last 2 weeks seems to be hitting a straight stretch. I see that with time the rollercoaster with all it’s ups and downs and loop-de-loops, with that feeling that you are about to be flung out of your tenuous seating after every turn, will eventually change. The tracks will straighten and adhere firmly to the ground. That little open topped car morphs slowly into a large, heavy , solid train, passengers enclosed safely inside and carried steadily along. NEVER fully protected because even that big solid train can bring danger. Never fully protected but so much better off than on that rickety coaster with our bottoms leaving the seats after every dip. I choose the metaphor of the train, not because I’m a sicko, but because I believe we must have respect for that metaphor for life. Life is grand and magnificent, but let’s not take it for granted…

Our brains have been wrestling with the events of that day, working in over-drive to process what the brain simply does not understand. Unfortunately that progression has included running and re-running those images through our minds, sleepless nights, foggy unorganized days, the shakes overtaking our bodies at times. At first it was incessant. But from experience, I know that it DOES subside. For Dea, who has not yet experienced sudden loss or such an intense trauma, it may be more difficult. Her brain is doing its job but the poor thing doesn’t have much to work with. She’s not a kid who has been desensitized by media. She’s never even seen a horror flick other then IT. Dea says she is still in a state of disbelief. The image-running has calmed down for her but I’m not sure when her brain will get to a place of acceptance, if ever.

Our friend mentioned that when our brain has processed what happened as best as it can, it will file it away. The idea is not to allow that brain to lock it away in a box hidden in the basement. Currently, my own file lays open on my desk…. I’m certain that all of our files will rest in their spot in the filing cabinet someday-organized and out of the way, but there if we need it, for whatever reason. We have spoken to 3 counselors over the phone, one who is a dear friend and Huz’s childhood buddy in Florida. Her specialty is working with children and trauma and she utilizes a technique called EDMR. In a nutshell, it is a physical approach to replicating the Rapid Eye Movement-REM sleep- that helps expedite the painful “processing” that all of our brains are going through. The anger, grief, flashback images, etc. are all the normal process of our brains just trying to make sense of it all in order to tip the scales back to “healthy, content and stable”. She felt it might be helpful in offering us some relief from of our minds forcing this intensity upon us. At this moment, I feel that my brain has calmed a bit and I don’t need the EDMR. When the images come up, there is a sense of deep sadness because my friend was hurt but there is also a somewhat peaceful detachment that wasn’t there before. I do feel bit disturbed when I see something train related.

Poor Huz is having a very difficult time with train imagery. We watched “Slumdog Millionaire” last weekend and the scene when the 2 bother’s are on the train made him so uncomfortable. I looked over at him and was so sad to see how difficult it was for him. And seeing real-life train tracks…trains will never be the same. Huz also had a terrible time with the images, especially at bedtime, but I think things are settling down for him now as well.

I had worried terribly about Dea but I’m thankful that she has been able to break down openly, seek comfort from us and friends, and that she is willing to talk about it and process with others. She does have her limits and we respect when she doesn’t want to talk about it. We just check in now and then to make sure it becomes neither all encompassing nor totally blocked out.

We are still quite sure that Lo did not see the accident. There are many details that Huz and I just do not remember about the accident and immediately after. But Huz remembers quickly tucking Lo’s head into his neck with his hand when he realized that the dog was going to be hit. But she was frightened of the train, she heard the shouting and I know that she registered the immediate silence after and then everyone’s shock, the grown up’s and even the 2 “Big kids” trying to hold it together, the 911 call….all as very terrible. We chose, at first, not to tell her that Bret was also killed-we wanted to protect her since she seemed clueless about it. But a few days later, knowing that we would continue to spend time with these families and that all these people would need to talk about it, we decided to tell her. A counselor said it would be better coming from us rather than the other kids. Lo did not even really know who Bret was or that he was the owner of Porter but we felt that she should understand the sadness that all these people were feeling. Children can be so… extra sensory! She knew something had shifted intensely here at home-you can’t hide that from a child and she deserved to have an understanding and peace.
True to form, Lo began working through the event right away. We must be doing something right as parents because she has had no fear or trepidation when coming to us about her feelings. And I give us a pat on the back for giving her a supportive and open place to process. Not so much anymore, but for the first week she would come to me and say, “Mommy, I want to talk about Porter.” Or “Let’s talk about the train now”. As with most “things” that overwhelm, over stimulate or even hugely amaze her, Lo will become that thing. A couple years ago, when we flew to New Jersey, Lo was both excited by and intimidated by airplanes. It has a big thing for her and for months afterward, she loved to pretend that she was a plane. When she inherited her sister’s 2 wheel bike, she became a “princess bike” for a season or two. These things and/or events are, more often than not, depicted in her art and incorporated in her games. The day after the accident, Lo asked if we could play train. I knew where this was going. It was very uncomfortable but I knew this was very healthy for Lo in her understanding of what happened. She would be the train and I would be Porter the dog. She would run down the trail away from me to get ready and I would slowly and doofily trot away from her. She would then tell me that she was a train that can see ahead and know when to stop. She would run up behind me and put on the breaks before running into me, I would hop off the tracks and everyone would be happy. Throughout the last couple weeks our roles in the game sometimes change and sometimes the train does not stop and then we are sad, but Lo is in control the whole time and that is what she needs to do to best deal with it all.

A few days after the accident, all of the people who were there that day met up at the T’s house for group therapy with a woman who runs a Montessori school in Anchorage and is trained in grief therapy. Turns out she also lives about a mile down the road from us! She was wonderful and informative and I think she really helped the kids to open to what scares them, how they deal with being scared, how it is ok for parents to be scared and sad yet still be able to protect them… Some of the kids were open and bubbly and some were quiet…more grave. She asked them to go and make a drawing of something nice that they remember about Bret to share with everyone. The kids took off and she spoke more with the adults. Lot’s of helpful info and anecdotes but I was disturbed to hear about the “2 month slump”. Often when one has experienced grief and trauma, their body is pumping more adrenalin into the body and it can last for a month or two. Just when you think you are easing back in to life and things are back to normal, when people are no longer asking how you are handling it, the adrenalin leaves and you crash. FYI:Then is the time that a person can be in most need of the love and support of others. As Dea stated on the day of the accident, “Everything happens for a reason.” And I think I know what the “reason” is for me, but I truly hope that the lesson and sense of stillness I have gotten from this is not just adrenalin.

Children are remarkable. The pictures they presented to us ranged from sweet and loving to severe. The T’s daughter, who had a tremendously loving and close relationship with Bret, drew a picture of him finding frogs in the river with the kids. A bright yellow sun shone upon them all. But one little girl’s picture was simple yet dire: just a train track colored in red and orange. All she had to say about it was “Train tracks are VERY dangerous”. As unsettling as this drawing was, I believe it was telling, therapeutic and brave of her to share this with everyone.
Most of Lo’s drawings have depicted a friendly train on friendly tracks with a happy and “smart” Porter and Bret having jumped to safety on top of the train. We will continue with our drawings, and checking in from time to time.

(Porter on top of the happy train and happy tracks)

Tomorrow we all go back. Not to the tracks, of course, but to the camp to continue to experience it as a wonderful gathering place not one of sadness, and to the Little Su river where we were headed to that day. There are also 2 birthdays to celebrate: Dea's 14th, and W, who will be 5. At Bret’s memorial service, (which was one of the most amazing experiences, and I will get to that in another post) I stated that, for me, I felt a very strong need to go back and have the wonderful day that we all had originally set out to have. My last happy memory of that day was the view in front of me before we heard the train whistle. A line of children and their parents all carrying backpacks and little fishing poles, holding hands and heading toward the river. I think we all need that day. And each other. To connect, to remember and honor, and to heal.

July 11, 2009

Sisters united

(Road trip snoozin')

July 6, 2009

Existing in stunned limbo

Dea is home from Europe. She had a fantastic time, even with all the teen drama... For now, I do not recommend Sending your kids on a People to People program. I will try to elaborate at some later time.

My family and I spent the weekend with dear friends, the "T's", camping on their property on Montana Creek. We were joined by 2 other families as well as the T's best buddy and beloved "uncle" to their children. A kind, loving, and LOYAL man, living singly without family in Alaska other then the T's, that my family always very much looked forward to seeing. We all suffered the death of this friend on Saturday as we hiked to a nearby river. From our family, only Lo was spared the sight(as far as we can tell).

My head is spinning as i try to hold the images at bay. I am truly not able to see past the next second. Just wrestling with the unanswerable question,"Why." and trying to make peace with the images emblazoned in my mind. Another friend who was present was very comforting in her advice to "keep the heart open when the images come and let his spirit go in peace." I added, for Dea's sake, to turn what she saw into an image of him, and his dog, spouting angel wings and running together, happy, to a better place. A place of no sadness or loneliness. A big green meadow where that dog can around with all the big stupid branches his crazy heart desires.

She saw. Jesus Christ GOD DAMN it. FUCK!
I wish I could take it all upon my own shoulders, take if from her and spare her of it. I would take it all if I could. Bless her in all her 13 year old wisdom. "I know everything happens for a reason. We don't know what it is but it makes us who we are." She has endured ENOUGH in her 13 years. I'm so Godamned MAD right now. At that lazy selfish PIECE of SHIT biological "mother" of hers DO YOU HEAR ME WOMAN?!?!?!? Do YOU FUCKING FEEL ME RIGHT NOW wherever the hell you are?!?!?! She came from your own fucking body and you HURT her. You bitter self absorbed piece of shit. You threw away a precious child and a wonderful man who's true beauty could only shine in your absence. You never knew him. YOUR LOSS. And fuck you, too, sarah palin while I'm at it, with those beautiful children at home who need their godamned mother. You could loose them all in the blink of an eye, you twit. Why do you "women" give throw away your CHILDREN?!!??! I'm so FUCKING mad at that shit ass dog. She never would listen. She never came. Stupid fucking animal. I'm MAD at that train track for even existing and MAD at that mean scary train that,"didn't care about anyone's feelings" as Lo put it. Mad at the sound of a train whislte- at the vibration you still feel even when you think you are far away...

Kay. I'm back from the Not Happy Place....But is Dea right? What will this do to her? Turn her into a stronger, better person? or shut her down more than it already has? ...I would bear it all for her if that was the case...

I can't see beyond the next second...
What I do know is that while my family is awake I DON'T want to be plugged into this box, this FALSE world. I want to be PRESENT for/with them. As much as I love writing-at this moment-it's not worth the time it takes me away from them. I know I will have to wrestle with the idea that I need to have the things that enrich ME and make me whole-and how to better incorporate them into my life shared with others. At This Moment, unless my family is sleeping or not at home, I can't fit this in when I could be with them. When my head stops reeling, I'll try for the mornings when all are asleep. And I will still be looking at the wonderful lives you all live around me for I have gained so much from you all on a daily basis that enriches my life and in turn, my family's.

When you receive such a slap to the soul as we did this past weekend, you wake up to the realization of how fragile life is. How it is there one second and gone the next. By all means live your lives to the fullest, but hold it dear. Try not to let the little things get in the way. It's NOTHING. A friend recently wrote something that touched me: "You don't know how wonderful something is until you feel it slipping through your fingers." (Thanks, Jen )Try not to take the ones you love for granted. Thank Spirit every day for what you have. Truly.
Life....like the lightest feather.

And take your mother-effing puppies to OBEDIENCE SCHOOL for the love of god.....