On Nov 3, 2018, my husband, Chip, was finally released from the terrible pain of pancreatic cancer. He had been diagnosed less than 8 weeks before and the journey into death was one not only of pain, but grace, clarity and incredible love and support from our community.
Our 30th anniversary had been earlier in the year, in May, but our busy schedules kept us from celebrating. We had planned to go 5 months later, in October, on a road trip to the Ancient Bristlecones. Instead, I packed up the dog and went on a memorial trip in November. I was able to find clarity & wholeness in the wilderness of the Eastern Sierras; finding beauty & calm while my dog bounded joyously through the meadows.
First stop was Zion. We had been there, together, the previous November. He went climbing while I hiked and photographed. Some nights he spent on a wall & texted me about the beauty of his bivvy, other times it was about how the wet sandstone came flying apart as he tried to climb. My main objective both times was the Subway, hiking in from the bottom.
Next stop was the Bristlecones, going to both the Schulman and Patriarch Groves, the latter being Chips favorite. I camped at Grandview Campground, a Dark Sky location. That night, I began to understand bits of his last moments; in the moment, I had thought he was rushing outside because he was agitated, but there, walking under the canopy of stars, I realized that what I had witnessed in him was instead a perfect clarity. During the day, I basked in the calm exuded by those ancient, enduring trees.
Further north, in the Lee Vining/Mono Lake area, I began to be able to breathe and find my own center. Twenty Lakes Basin was the start of finding grace and moving on from the past and into the future.