Sunday, July 03, 2005


"Wronk! Wronk! Wronk!" shouts the raven.

I'm home from Sitka, just last night. Sigh.

I haven't been able to write in here in a week, maybe longer. It feels like months, because so much happens at my lovely little camp that I can never keep up. I'm stuffed with images. And over the next few days, I'll try to write them down in a sensory montage, let go of the need for narrative, and post it in here. But for now, know that it has changed my life, once again.

I miss camp. I miss Maya and Finn and Berett and Adrienne and Anthea and Becca and Tamsen and Molly and Mollie and Connor and Kari and Aren. I miss seeing all my students, some of whom I didn't know existed three weeks ago but now they feel like family. I miss seeing the faces of the people I didn't teach but liked because they were at camp. And I miss teasing Karl, checking my email next to Scott in the morning, making coffee with Dawn, walking next to Kari and talking, romping with Carol, hugging Roblin, and laughing with Lyn. And oh, how I miss Sharon. She and I never have the chance to spend two weeks straight with each other, and especially not in magic-place Sitka, so these were two of the best weeks of my life. But those two weeks at camp are always two of the best weeks of my life.

So what do we do afterwards? (And by we I mean the collective unconscious that is everyone at camp.)

Well, I know now that I have to give myself a solid week to decompress. For the first few days when I return home, I feel adrift. In Sitka, I feel so saturated with all these people and gorgeous moments I love that I literally don't know what to do with myself at first. This year, helpfully, a clump of us took the same plane home. Kari had a layover in Seattle for the evening, so she and Carol and I went to Wild Ginger for dinner and reminiscing about Sitka. We all just love it so. Carol went home, Kari and I stayed up until late talking, and then we slept for four hours. Just like all the other nights in Sitka, when Sharon and I stayed up late talking, far too late, and then the morning felt like ragged towels being dragged across our eyes from too-little sleep. Kari had a 6 am flight, so I woke up to wait for the shuttle with her. The light was rising, just like in Sitka, but the birds sounded different. I miss the ravens when I leave. She left, and I went back to bed, feeling truly alone for the first time in weeks. Thankfully, I was able to sleep.

And today, I moved slowly, let myself feel bereft. Over and over, I realize that the only way out is through. (to quote Camus.) Or, to be Buddhist about it, to let the moments arise unbidden, without worrying that I feel sad or lost. Feel them fully, accepting, and they start to change. And this year, I do feel different. In the past, I have mourned after leaving Sitka. But now, I know that I'm part of the place, firmly, and it is part of me. I know I'm coming back next year. I don't doubt it. Every year is slightly different, and every year is magic. And every year, my life blooms in unexpected ways from being there. So this year, I just feel excited, waiting to see the effects splay themselves out in my life.

This afternoon, I drove over to Vashon Island, to see my nephew. I had missed him. The Seattle sky arched warm and blue above my head. On highway 99, heading to the West Seattle bridge, I realized it in my body: it's summer vacation. (Our last day of school was the day before I came to Sitka, so I hadn't felt free here in awhile.) I rolled all the windows down, popped in the cheesy cd that Sharon and I had driven around Sitka listening to for days (in a borrowed mini-van, which is always going to be hilarious), and felt alive. Warm air, fast car, loud singing with the windows open--these are good. And my nephew, he's good too. He ran to the door to greet me. "Shauna!!" he shouted, and I felt at home again. We ran and romped and drove in the car and went to eat lunch and played at the park. Apparently, a few days ago, when Dana (my sister-in-law) was drawing him an airplane, he said: "Shauna take an airplane. To Alaska. Her coming back soon?" That's enough to make me feel at home. So we were in the park, and I was pushing him in the swing, and now he likes to pretend that he's flying somewhere in his swing. When I asked him where he was flying, he said immediately: "Alaska!" So I told him a long list of what he might see in Alaska: whales, bears, deer, sea lion, trees, mountains, water, eagles, and ravens. I started to miss it, something fierce, just explaining it to a two-year-old. After, I told my parents, who were watching, the story of how the fire alarm had gone off at 6:15 am, and how when I returned to my bed, I heard this loud "cronk cronk cronk" outside. And I realized it was the raven imitating the fire alarm. All while I'm pushing my nephew in the swing. A few minutes later, he started making noises. My brother was pushing him by this time, and he didn't understand. "Wronk! Wronk! Wronk!" Elliott shouted, over and over. When Andy asked him what he was saying, he said, "I's a raven, Daddy!" And he kept shouting the sound in utter delight. It made me happy. It made me feel like I had brought Sitka home with me, and now it's in my nephew.

This evening, when I returned home, I rode my bike around my neighborhood, in the soft evening light. Seattle freaks me out now--the density of houses, the well-paved roads, the immensity of the grocery stores, the expensive clothes on the dozens of people I pass on the streets. And the missing mountains. There are beautiful mountains here--the Olympics stop my heart whenever I see them, and the sight of Mount Rainier looming over Puget Sound made me cry today--but they aren't like Sitka mountains. Everything is smaller and larger in Sitka. Smaller town, smaller options, smaller mountains. But more vast, closer, everywhere, infused in the air. Nature isn't a concept where in that place I love so well. But I like where I live too, though. Last night, Kari and I agreed that we have both reached the place that feels best in life: wanting the life you have. No gaps between concept and reality. Riding around the blocks, I could feel myself coming home. A different self, of course. Now, at the age I am, and after all the experiences of the last few years, I know that the Buddhist philosophy of no-self is true. It isn't a concept to me. I change every day. And after Sitka, I take a radical shift. I can't wait to see what happens next. But I know that some of part of me, in memory, will always be standing at the top of Mount Verstovia, surveying the view, feeling triumphant. It will always be with me.

All my love,

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