So recent travels took the girl and I back East to Cape Cod to bring my mother's ashes to be buried with my father's. Things started off comically: do I pack or carry mom on the plane? I packed her and then warned the Delta agent "Don't you lose my mother!" He wasn't quite sure how to respond to me.
Cape Cod is a place that holds many memories for me. My parents bought a home there when I was in college and it became the summer retreat. Later, when living in Boston, the not-yet-Husband and I would travel out there every weekend to get away from city living and our tiny, one bedroom closet of an apartment. Twenty seven years ago we were married on Cape Cod and when Cowgirl joined our family, it was to the Cape that we took her for the first five years as a family.
It has been three years since I was last on the Cape and while I have missed it, I hadn't realize just how much it is part of who I am and what I love: the gentle wildness of the landscape; the wide and long beaches; the rough and unruly Atlantic ocean and the icy cold water that shocks and invigorates me; and the wildlife that is visible if you know to slow down, be quiet and pay attention. Seals, otters, turtles, egrets, herons, hawks, fox, coyote, and many vocal and riotous birds.
Traveling to the Cape, I was returning to my heart's home. I love the openness of the prairie but my soul aches for the ocean. And not just any ocean, but the crashing tumble of waves that is the Atlantic. The pulse and rhythm of the earth is most present for me when I stand ankle deep in the frigid waters of Nauset beach, stones and shells tossed unmercifully against my feet and shins, skin turning fish belly white from the cold. The rawness of life apparent in this place of sea, sky and sand.
While I was surprised by these feelings of homecoming, I was even more unprepared for the sensation of weightlessness, an unbearable lightness of being and deep and tender vein of grieving that opened up with what I now understand as the completion of a journey. This trip back to the Cape was the bookend to the trip made between snowstorms 5 1/2 years ago when I brought my mother West to live near us. Now I was taking her home and, after a lifetime of so many travels and adventures, this was the last trip we would make together.
Having fulfilled so many daughterly duties over the past few years, the weight of responsibility has been lifted off of me and while yes, there is a sense of relieve and ease, there is also an unfamiliar and disconcerting emptiness or lightness. The space that was held by my mother is now gone. I stand again on a stark edge: there is my life that was - as a daughter, caregiver, friend - and the life that slowly pools around me, the tide turning from emptying of grief towards the filling of what I cannot yet know or name.