Grieving Without Walls

Where Else Would You Rather be?

Mount Pilchuck, WA

May 30, 2015

As our brand new windows sat in storage with expectations of weekend installation, a quick check of the regions weather let us know that there was a mountain top evening not to be missed in the North Cascades and as often is the case, our tiny house took a backseat to the mountains. The following is an excerpt I wrote the day after returning and find it appropriate to simply paste it below in its entirety along with the photos from that overnight on Mt. Pilchuck.

 “A sunny Saturday morning in May found Samantha and I driving our aging Honda Civic North for a spontaneous overnight in the mountains. It was with the last minutes of cell service on our way into the North Cascades that I received a call from my brother on the East Coast saying that they had found my uncle had passed away unexpectedly but from natural causes overnight. I have experienced relatively little death in my short 28 years and I am not sure there is a right or wrong way to grieve, but in this particular moment, remembering this particular person, continuing into the mountains felt right and our little trip took on a new sentiment as we quietly navigated our way to the trailhead. A letter thanking him for my first [digital] camera sat drafted in my mind, weeks in the making and a lifetime too late.

My uncle owned, maintained and constantly improved upon 300+ acres of pristine earth where my deep appreciation for the natural world was conceived. Maple tree forests provided thousands of gallons of sweet sap that was boiled down into maple syrup over a large wood fire that my brother and I would proudly keep “stoked,” excited to be able to play with fire and appear important in front of the tourists that stopped in. It takes 50 gallons of sap to make a gallon of Maple syrup, and it was that 98% evaporation ratio that filled the “sugar shanty” with steam and allowed us to climb into the cloud cloaked rafters and spy on those below from our temporarily private fort.

 In the winter we would congregate on top of the rolling hills for a day of sledding. The challenge of standing up on the sled evolved into a love for snowboarding and this became a place for us to get together and build jumps for an afternoon of tomfoolery that at least once left me recounting to my mother how my brother broke his collar bone off of a jump that we had him test first. Upon injury, it was decided that the jump was far too steep, and we made our way to the hospital.

 The network of ponds and cabins became focal points for our large extended family on a weekly basis throughout the summer and provided a safe place to sleep when we returned from a spotlighting excursion in his little Toyota truck, thoroughly spooked by the number of reflective eyes we spotted in the water, fields and trees.

Some of my most vivid young memories relate to his ability to always come armed with a new captivating story, some of them firsthand accounts, some of them hand-me downs, and some of them unique factual recitations, the likes of discovery and history channel programming. His stories could educate and inspire at the same time. I grew up wanting to be able to deliver a story like he did and a bit of my yearning to explore stems from those evening tales of a world that seemed so far out of reach at that age. I never developed the ability to captivate with the spoken word but have found a love in story telling though captured moments and experiences. My Uncle gave me my first camera 15+ years ago, and while the device has changed many times over, I still chase that feeling I get when I am able to harness the beauty, emotion, and energy of a moment.

 Up there we grieved without walls and gave thanks for a life without boundaries, due in large part to those who raised us. Our planet is an incredible place, we are just trying to take it all in, and as we are reminded this weekend, this beautiful experience is finite.”

-May 31, 2015

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