Mt. Shasta, Part 2

I’ve told myself from the beginning, I can go home whenever I want. If I hate it, this traveling life, this vagabond existence, this uprooted way, I can go home, climb back into my old life, pick up where I left off. No harm, no foul.

My stay here in Mt. Shasta has been wonderful – restful, interesting, energizing, inspirational. Also confusing, lonely, depressing, frustrating.

Until this extended stop, I hadn’t realized how tired I was. How tired I am. How homesick I have become, looking at pictures of the arrival of spring in the North Carolina High Country – the dreamy misty mornings, the varying layers of green, the lush clusters of lilacs and bright fronds of forsythia and the rhododendrons heavy with voluptuous blooming.

I see in those photos that people have come out of their winter hidey-holes to bike, run, walk, picnic, play. The restaurant porches are open and the crowds at the breweries spill out into the parking lots, and the farmers market is in full swing, all the beautiful produce like paintings, and the music on the wind, a fiddle and a guitar and a bass and your foot tapping along, you can’t help it, you’d have to be dead.

Back home, my kids will be having cookouts and taking hikes and going out to dinner without me. In another month the lightning bugs will be in full concert. They dazzle me every year, the winking lights covering the mountainsides and the meadows, sparking the trees and the grass with magic.

There are hardly any fireflies out here, and most of them are only bioluminescent in the pupal stage.

Next week I’ll head to Mendocino, which I’ve always wanted to see, but I just can’t get that excited about it, because I’m not sure my brain has room for any more new discoveries, new places.

But of course I’m still going. And this morning when I opened the sliding glass door that looks out over the sea of scrubby white-leaved manzanita, I could swear I smelled the ocean, a lure tucked somewhere inside the velvety breeze.

Here is what I learned from writing a book proposal: I am not ready to write a book proposal. This is helpful information and has actually moved me along quite nicely. I have new chapters I did not expect to have. I’ve read new books that have opened new doors down hidden corridors in my mind. But I’m having to readjust my expectations for myself and this journey.

I know that’s okay. It just feels sort of shitty, is all. Insert heavy sigh here: _________

I’ve been battling the urge to quit – both the trip and the book – by stubbornly going forward. Over the years I’ve learned that feeling isn’t always fact – to consider the possibility that on those days when my emotions take a nose-dive, it could be that everything is cratering, or it could as easily be the case that I’m short on magnesium or chromium or vitamin C. Or dark chocolate.

The hard truth is, there is no climbing back into my old life. A door has closed behind me. In fact, I’ve had to take a long hard look at that “old life,” the one in which I had exiled myself, fleeing inward, succumbing to the low-level depression that has been a companion for most of my adult life. My time beneath the protective gaze of Mt. Shasta has given me opportunity to do other readjusting, too.

I’ve dropped my red wine habit and picked up my yoga practice again, only this time with more focus on clearer intention-setting. And having an actual kitchen has helped me get back to my clean eating, which I know helps everything – brain, lungs, joints, muscles –  feel better. In the early morning or late afternoon I spoon with the dogs, just a short love-fest that leaves all three of us many degrees happier.

I keep returning to the headwaters, to Big Springs, to drink in more of the water, more of the cool, more of the wonder, more of the companionship with other thirsty people. I make lists of the lovely, kind folks I’ve met in this town – at the laundromat, at the dog park, in stores and restaurants –  and marvel at the brief intersecting of our lives, our stories, and in just these chance encounters we’ve altered each other’s trajectories, however slightly.

Last evening, I was out walking the dogs and turned to see the white of Mt. Shasta, still covered with snow, painted the same shade of pink as the dogwoods that bloomed last week, and right then I remembered to breathe. Later I listened to the faint singing of frogs in a nearby pond, and the wind stirring in the tall oak trees and whispering secrets to the pines, and I breathed in sweet perfume from wisteria blossoms just beneath the open window. Right before midnight I went out onto the deck and watched the International Space Station drift by, glimmering gold in the wide black sky. I followed it all the way until it disappeared behind the mountain.

Truth? It’s all good, even when it doesn’t always feel that way.

Reality? There is no climbing back into the old life, just as once a butterfly sheds its chrysalis, its unfurled wings no longer fit the former shell. The only thing it can do is rest its wings while they dry, fully aware that this time of stillness and preparation is also a time of great vulnerability.

Then, when the time is right – she will fly.

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26 Responses to Mt. Shasta, Part 2

  1. Brenda Davis says:

    Somehow it all makes sense. What to do? Trust your intuition.

  2. Ginger Smith says:

    Hi Rebecca,
    My name is Ginger Smith. I live in Portland Oregon. I started following your blog after your article in O magazine. I have enjoyed your writing and sharing very much. Today I write in response to your thoughts above. Seems to me that you are exactly where you are suppose to be. You probably know this. I want to affirm this. Life and light will show you your next steps. Be still and feel for what gives peace. Thank you for sharing. Keep on keeping on. Peace, ginger

    • rgummere says:

      Hi, Ginger. Thanks for your kind comments and for reading and following along. I hope to be in Portland some time in late June or early July and look forward to discovering your lovely city I’ve heard so much about!

  3. Shelton says:

    I feel your doubts and think that you are brave to continue. It is earth-shaking to be stripped of all the external identities, and to be alone on the road, even with dogs and writing. It seems like a point of beginning, facing the stripped-down you. Not many of us get that far. So, dwell long in the doorway of this dis-ease, and receive its gifts, as I am sure you will. An initiation perhaps?

  4. Debbie says:

    I am sending lots of love to your sweet self. You are right. Everything is blooming here at home and it is beautiful and wonderfully lush. We are, however, looking at this lovely Spring thru fogged up, rain-streaked windows. When we leave the house we turn on the headlamps and the windshield wipers and splash along with our raincoats on and sweaters underneath. I mop constantly because of tracked in mud. Remember last Spring. And the one before? That again. we do get a few nice days here and there, so we run out and play and then go back in. Sounds better the way you tell it! Love you!

    • rgummere says:

      Lol. Yes, I guess I’ve been airbrushing a bit. Springtime and mud always go together. Stay warm and dry. Thanks for the love – back atcha.

  5. David Sitler says:

    So beautiful and self reflective of another chapter closing and you have earned the wings. Just wow. Thanks for being so honest and sharing that with us. New habits…new beginnings…a new chapter begins. Turn the page.

    • rgummere says:

      Thanks, David, so much – for reading and for sending along kind thoughts and comments. Hope you are well.

  6. Bonnie en route to NYC :) says:

    We are with you. The kindness of it all is that maybe just when we least expect it – things puzzle together for the exact perfect “oh, I see” moment. We are with you. Bark, bark greetings to your traveling companions.

  7. Dennise Kowalczyk says:

    I am inspired by your sharing of your see saw ride of sorts. Uncertainty can be such a drag, right? 🙂 But I am inspired that you sat with it (and likely continue to do so?) and came out on the other side. Sometimes, you just have to do that.

    What an adventure!

    Thanks for sharing your journey with us, Rebecca. I’m looking forward to meeting you when you are in Stumptown.


  8. Kathie Skidmore says:

    Often felt to be a difficult discovery: You can never go back……but when you take the time to explore the ‘back’ — it is apparent that you have outgrown that place (in a manner of speaking). With growth can also come sadness….that you cant be in those places any longer………. But just as the butterflies you mentioned unfurl their wings in the morning sunshine after the coolness of the evening….. They eventually let go of the branches and move on to the next chapter…….. You are in a similar place in life as I..moving on but sad to let go….. Retirement does that….. Creating new identity and flitting about trying to find when to let go of the branch and move on….. So I say, feel the sun……. unfurl your wings. And ‘Off on another adventure’ —
    Be safe, hugs to boxers. Kathie Skidmore — Chandler AZ – moving back to ‘home’ in Nebraska for the summer.

    • rgummere says:

      Yes, and yes! Thanks for reading and following along and for your words of encouragement. All best to you, and happy summer!

  9. Actually, Becca, it’s been raining, no POURING, on and off for most of the last couple of weeks here. This morning, I had to grab an extra blanket at 4:00 a.m. and the temperature when I got up was 48. The pollen has been super sucky — it’s not true that rain knocks it down you know. We had a tornado watch until midnight last night, to go along with the persistent flood warning. It’s not raining right now, but it will be by noon — and Memorial Day weekend? It’s going to be a washout. Just sayin…😇

    • rgummere says:

      LOL. I confess I may have airbrushed out the spring rains, flooding, chilly days, and mud. Ah, well.

  10. Jennifer Johnson says:

    I enjoy an addendum I was once told to the old saw “When one door closes, another one opens…but sometimes the hallway really sucks!” Transitions are tricky, no two ways about it. Take care and thank you for sharing your journey. I feel like a lot of us “women of a certain age” are in this transitional place and it’s nice to read about how our paths compare and contrast.

    • rgummere says:

      Yes! The hallway sucks! That is it! I’ve been thinking lately, too, about our age group’s big transitioning and wondering about all that amazing energy stirring the planet! Wahoo! Watch out! As always, thanks so much for reading and for taking the time to share your comments.

  11. DP says:

    Becca — your uncertainty will pass; your commitment to this journey and determination to see it through (coupled with just a touch of Gummere stubbornness) will prevail. As usual, I love all your writing, but this time, starting with the fourth paragraph from the end, it was a knockout.

  12. linda betz says:

    Thank you for sharing your heart with us. You express yourself so well and bless us with your insights. So honest and thoughtful. I bought a card this afternoon, and thought of you. It’s a darling card with a paisley-type travel home on it, a woman sitting on the ground next to it reading a map. The caption on it says: Sometimes your journey will take you off your path. It’s all part of the same trip. Wish I could send it to you! You are not alone alone in your journey. I’m with you in spirit.

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