Posted by: carolyn / through a widow's eyes | May 8, 2014

a thing about birches

My friend Phil (our friendship a story for another day in and of itself) posted this picture of a grove of birch trees in Alaska a few days ago. When I saw it, these words started coming and did not stop. 

As you know, Phil, I lost my husband to cancer almost five years ago. A strong independent woman, I found myself far more broken than I had ever expected. (Strong, independent, naïve woman, perhaps.)

One winter morning a year or two later, I went to an acupuncturist. Once the needles were in, I drifted pleasantly through January sunlight in the quiet room, utterly relaxed. Afterwards, I felt a little restless, so instead of going home, I went for a walk. I climbed a trail into the woods and found myself in a clearing ringed by large birch trees. I gazed up through the trees, into the bluest possible sky. 
Something inside me broke open into a strange and unfamiliar sensation. What was it? Thinking and not-thinking, I searched my body and brain for what this feeling could be.
Then I realized, I’m HAPPY!

I hadn’t felt happiness for so long I didn’t even know what it felt like anymore. But the old me was still in there – the one who could be happy for blue sky against white bark.

It’s not that I never felt grief or loneliness again after that, or that I am always happy now. But that day I recognized my old self as if meeting a fellow traveler on the trail. It was a turning point of some kind. And my symbol of this turning point is birch trees and blue sky. 

“Maybe this is what grace is, the unseen sounds that make you look up. I think it’s why we are here, to see as many chips of blue sky as we can bear.” –Anne Lamott




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