Of all the loss endured from the heartache of the past year, the most challenging has been my reluctance to revisit the place we once called ‘ours’: Jemez Springs.
It is one of my favorite places on earth.
It is also one of the last places where 'we' found happiness, however fleeting.
The thought of facing the memories and shared moments felt incredibly heavy. Already laden with baggage from an impending divorce, I had no strength left to carry more sadness than I was already dragging. Month after month, I would tell myself that I was finally ready. And month after month I sat frozen, finding excuses to avoid the trek into the mountains I cherish, while I carefully sat and sewed my life back together, scrap by scrap, until I was whole, if not worn.
Finally, in early October, I did what I have been trying to summon the courage to do for more than a year: I hopped in my car and made what felt like a journey of contradictions: reminiscent memories of the past wafting around each corner while creating new footprints across fresh terrain.
The soft, cool mist met me in the Caldera, embracing me like a long lost lover. Spits of rain fell from the swollen, grey clouds as I wound the curved highway taking in all the luscious and vibrant color laid before me. This past summer, fire ravaged parts of the landscape. When I came across a patch of newly risen baby aspens, quaking as their charged predecessors towered over their delicate, lean trunks, I stopped the car and cried. It was a spectacular reminder that heart wrenching beauty can emerge from the worst devastation.
Finally I arrived in the breathtaking valley of the Jemez, winding through town to stop at the cafe, grabbing a warm beverage, and making my way down to the hot springs across the street.
For the next hour, I soothed my weary flesh in the cleansing waters, allowed the steaming waters to diffuse the last of my apprehension and anxiety. My eyes feasted on the sharp, surrounding hills, the stratified red and beige calming my spirit. Thunder made empty threats in the distance as I baptized my soul, releasing all my grief into the pool, leaving behind the woman with a broken heart in the water's reflection.
As I prepared to made the journey home, something inside, a small hole I could never quite seal, found the thread of catharsis it required to finally close. As if it was the final stitch I required to walk into my new skin.
With that, I laid claim to this sacred space I'd long loved as my own.
And finally, after 476 days, as I snaked along the highway headed home, I felt free.
Reflections of a woman spawned in a cement cocoon...