Back from Belize – an update

To say that I have been busy is, well… an understatement to say the least. I arrived back to the states from Belize a week ago today (Fri 21st). In many ways it feels like the Belize trip itself was much longer than a week, and that I am still ‘adjusting’ to being stateside. I surprised even myself with how quickly I adjusted to ‘not being in the states’. It was almost too easy. I no sooner hit American turf than I was already plotting another overseas trips this Fall. Don’t get me wrong, I love being back and with some of my people… but a part of me seems to be ceaselessly wanting to wander, never satisfied unless another adventure is on the horizon.

squinting in the Belize brightness

Squinting in the Belize brightness

Belize was amazing. The class with WildernessFusion was amazing. The People are simply beyond amazing (both many locals I met and my classmates). I can’t say I ever thought I would visit Belize; it’s not that I didn’t want to, it simply wasn’t on the top 10 list, or even top 20. But man did I have a great time. I’m ready to go back and explore all the things I didn’t get to see. We stayed at a wonderful eco-lodge called Cotton Tree Lodge: what a great way to rest between adventures, and for those who are a little less inclined to ‘just go’ on their own, a fun and safe way to see the sights and experience some of the local flavor. I’m not going to get into the details of the trip, class or even attempt pictures of everything yet – I have 980 to sort through first…! I’m not purposely being a tease, I just want to update and forewarn. I only have bad iPhone photos for this post!

After my serene trip to Belize, I arrived in DC late in the evening, Shaun picked me up from the airport and we headed to the hotel where Kathy & Dave Gardner were waiting along with my River!

River waiting for me at the hotel...

River waiting for me at the hotel…

Kathy & Dave were in town for some work related things, and to join in on the fun of the ‘Shamrock Festival’. We had no idea what to expect, but it looked fun! River got to come last-minute since her and I were missing each other terribly. Saturday we dropped River off (much to her chagrin) at a Petsmart to day-board – possibly overnight so she was safe and cared for while the 4 of us were at Shamrock Fest.

To say the festival was… interesting is probably not doing it justice. It was a little more party and a little less festival than I was hoping for. But we still had fun. The noise and crowds were a little over stimulating after Belize, but I managed well enough! The 4 of us wandered about, often splitting up and then finding each other. It was very cool to be share the crazy with Kathy and Dave and see them have fun regardless of the years that separate us.

Kathy, Dave & I at Shamrock Fest

Kathy, Dave & I at Shamrock Fest!

They even had an EDM dance tent which is where Shaun and I spent most of our time after the draw of the bands wore off (and Shaun had enough to drink to tell the “tall people” to get in the back’ so he could see…)

Shaun & I in front of the EDM tent

Shaun & I in front of the EDM tent

Shaun headed back to Ocean City, MD on Sunday, while River and I stayed with Kathy and Dave that evening. The next day Dave, River and I toured around DC while Kathy took care of some work stuff. It was a lot of fun to walk around Monument Mall with Dave, talking about history of the various sites, the government system (which I will readily admit, I know very little about even though I’ve been told/read books about it). River earned many an ‘ohhh!’ and ‘look at the cute puppy!’ For the areas posted ‘no dogs’ I put her in my backpack (this is after all the best view point for her to see the various national parks I take her to).

She was also really into the squirrels…I made this image macro of the picture I took of her in the car right after yet another furry tailed-rat had dashed right in front of her (but due to her being leashed – no chase ensured). She wore this grin for quite a while!

River Meme

River Meme

For a late lunch/early dinner we met at McCormick’s which is just a damn tasty place to eat! After much-needed catching up, it was time for me to do last-minute car stuff with Dave’s help before hitting the road with River in the Black Dragon.

Dinner at McCormick's!

Dinner at McCormick’s with my Alaska family!

As you can see from our color pallet and choice of patterns..we look rather family like here. Kathy LOVES teal (I do too, maybe just not quite as much as she) and Dave often sports a plaid shirt (they are undeniably comfortable and dashing), so me in plaid teal pretty much tied everyone together in this picture (clearly I should have been in the middle to get the optimum effect). I always have a great time with these guys, and for some reason they do with me as well ♥

River totally zonked

River totally zonked

The last few days River and I have been chilling in Ocean City MD at my family’s rental. Shaun hangs out with us after work and often feeds me and buys me coffee (coffee is the important detail here..). I am mostly just adjusting to not being on ‘Belize Time’ which is something that doesn’t exist in this country. Also the weather changes from hot and humid Belize jungle to blustery Northeasters on the coastline has been a couple of days of uncomfortable. A few days from now I head north to Maine to meet up with Tracy and then we head to Quebec, Canada to Linda’s place where Afsoon will meet us. Element Sisters reunited! The plan is that River goes with me every step of the way.

I head back towards DC with a few stops along the way in early April, and then back to Alaska by April 14th. River too. Once back in AK we stay put for a while as I have work to attended to, Dogs to train, money to be made if I think I want to go on another trip any time soon.

Dave took this great pic with his phone of River & I in DC right outside the Lincoln Memorial! It was a windy and chilly day – my leather cap is all I could find instead of my warm wool knit, so I kept my hair down to help keep me warm (which is why the rather dramatic style going on there..). But it made for a very photogenic picture with my black leather jacket and little black & tan dog – whose ‘tan’ markings are such a shade of red that they just about match my red hair 😉

River & I in DC

River & I in DC

~ Always on a Journey  – Joannie & River.

 

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5 Years Now Without Mom

I read the ‘4 Years Gone’ write up I did a year ago basically to the day, and I am struck by how much things have changed – and how much they haven’t. I could just copy/paste most of the words again for this year. The emotions, the thoughts, the memories; very little is different in those areas, even with another year for perspective. That in itself is a little scary. Makes me want to rage at those who quote that insufferable phrase ‘Time Heals All Wounds’. Dumb fuck who wrote that was clearly in-denial or hadn’t lost very much. I rarely feel angry, except at shallow empty words thrown in my face to ‘console’ me (but only them, in reality). Then the extraordinary pissed-off redhead temper comes out in force.

As you may have guessed, I don’t feel any less grief this year then I did the last 4. I do however feel more sadness than anger (or at least I believe I do) with the world. I also find myself looking back at my experiences with people those first few years, and having much more anger now than I did then, at the level of shit I went through. All it takes is a misguided statement made by a family member or friend and I feel the slow burn of angry pain that they still don’t get it. Maybe my increased sadness is that they and most of the world never will and its unfair of me to want them to be able to grasp the faintest idea of it.

Last year I attended a Tracker class with the 3 women who many know as my ‘Element Sisters’. Though I was around people and not trying to shove everything down, I also didn’t share much – and what I did share was mostly through the girls. Tracy, Linda and Afsoon’s support that year was the beginning of me not trying to hide 24/7. This year, the Healing School I have been apart of ran the 3rd class during the corresponding weekend (the dates are set when we sign up). So not only was I in another class, but this time it was even more hands-on with the emotions of life. Instead of fading into the background and only letting people know the significance of the dates via my Sisters, this year I had to do it myself and beforehand. Instead of standing on the edge of the 130+ group of classmates – many whom I didn’t know – I was in the middle of a very close knit group of 13 that I have worked with before. Not only did I not sit in silence all day, I shared my experience with classmates and friends, many of whom are quickly becoming true family.

I keenly feel the lack of contact from most people in my life, particularly this day. Lorien, best friend, person that Facebook says I am ‘In a relationship with’ and many people do believe that (which is totally okay by us) and the first person who ever sat with me in the long silences always makes contact this day. Even if its just through text. This year I had more people than I honestly know what to do with make contact with me. Interestingly most were not actual family members – or even old friends. I also shared my experience with feeling for the first time since the first weeks of 2009. In class, while words can be important and are often used to jumpstart an event, its the feeling, the emotion that we are most concerned about. I was the ‘group project’ to experience past events – all 12 classmates and the 3 instructors at the same time. Those of you who really know me, will realize that it is close to the last thing I would ever want to do, share ‘feelings’ while actually in contact with a shit-ton of people in person! But I did. Many may think that the ‘talking’ part is hard. Its not really, I’ve had to tell that fucking story over and over again. For family, for friends, for police, for doctors, and lawyers, therapists and teachers. I’m so not in touch with my emotions when I talk about the days leading up and shortly after Mom was killed, that I learned to ‘fake’ some reaction so as to not upset family or alarm the doctors for the first few years. In the past I’ve been accused of not caring, being a cold heartless bitch and having ‘something really really wrong with me’ because I can’t talk and feel at the same time very well. Clearly the world isn’t as ‘aware’ as they think they are about things like PTSD. The worst part was never how I felt talking about it, but how the other people felt. The shock, the disbelief, the looking for the silver lining, the inability to grasp, and of course; the wondering of how I ‘didn’t know’, which eventually leads to questioning of my intelligence, the darkness I must have to attract such people. The ways in which I am broken that I could be a part of such evil – even as a bystander. My grief, anger and pain I sit with everyday. Its the rest of the world and their judgements, their dismissal and lack of awareness that is so fucking impossible to be with.

By year 2 I had stopped calling people. Asking for people to sit with me (Lorien never had to be asked, but then I moved away) or be supportive. Some friends would take it upon themselves to be around in any way they could. Something I am very grateful for and applaud for dealing with my despair. It was a strange feeling to be the one who explained to the new people in my life (Shaun, classmates, etc) what the days leading up to the 4th meant to me. It was even more surreal when even after I explained that there is only ‘dark and twisty’ on that day that I found myself accepting them in my experience of it. – I will write up another post going into more detail for those interested.

I wish there was a positive spin I could put on things from the kids and Dad. But I am not really privy to their experience with this anymore. I texted the ones who have cell phones, reaching out in between the madness of driving through snow, DC traffic and flying to Alaska. To the younger kids it is probably more of ‘another day’ in the time span of not fun days that makeup this time of year. I can’t really say how they are doing other than just getting by. I like to think I have moved from the space of surviving to living, but some days I am not as convinced. Or maybe it is more of perspective, that in my own way I do live; in the moments possible, and when not, I survive.

I do know that the various places the boys and younger kids are, Mom still smiles. I watch my brothers as they mature, and even with their anger and pain and their struggles, at their core they are amazing young men. Every single one of my 8 siblings is unique, with their own talents. I hope for each one that one day they live, fully and lovingly, their own lives.

I see my Mother in every red sunrise and sunset. I spy a cardinal on a branch and think of her. A waterfall. The Mountains. Roadtrips. All these things she loved. All these things she inspired us children to love. Thinking back to one of the many gifts she bestowed upon her loved ones, I don’t think love was the biggest one. Or even hope. But maybe was inspiration. I have countless (literally, I forget the them often) stories of the people out there who were inspired to do and be more in life from knowing Mom.

Even in death my Mother somehow inspires people to live more fully. To laugh more often. To love more fully. To nurture and care for the lost children. Below: Early 90’s in Alaska, with (I believe) a baby Jeremy. She didn’t let things like having 3 young children, 9 dogs and winter keep her tied down. She had fun anywhere she was.

Mom in Alaska with a baby brother

Mom in Alaska with a baby brother

In one breath I can go back to my last day with Mom. The brightest most beautiful light. The hope. The love. The laughter. 5 years ago in the space of a moment. And in the same space, the 5 years is also an eternity of hell. Of pain. Of a deep black hole of grief that never goes away. A breath of love and an eternity of hell in just one moment. I walk in both worlds, as they are both true. It almost feels as though it should be strange, that just a breath of love can inspire someone to live through hell for eternity. But then that is the type of love my Mother inspired. Not strange at all. Beautiful.

~ J