I thought I would feel the return of home when I landed in Portland after a six hour flight from Boston on the evening of April 19th. But, halfway through the trip, I began to question the idea of home when all I could think about was the moment I would step into the woods alone with my two dogs in New Hampshire.
What happened to the euphoria I felt two years ago when I had returned to Oregon with my own family of four, after having been away for over a decade? It had clearly left me. The jolt of excitement of recognizing a park I hadn’t visited since I was three or four, quickly dissipated into the idea that I no longer belonged in this state. Portland was nearly impossible for me to navigate with its crowded buildings and thick ropes of traffic. The wind at the ocean bit through my fleece with teeth of ice, and never let up its grasp. Why could I not find peace inside this place of my birth?
I could easily blame it on my grandma, in fact I find myself doing just that when I speak of my trip. By the end of the week, after five days together at the seacoast, I nearly pushed her out of the car door when we dropped her off at her condo. I could no longer endure the heaviness of her energy. She was caught inside a pain I no longer wanted to hold onto.
But, I couldn’t avoid it. My reactivated pain body clung to hers, as I my spirit struggled to breathe. I could not escape this ghost that connected us together, filling the air around us with a suffocating weight that I found impossible to lift in her presence. Two years ago, when I last saw her, we had spent a late night talking about my life. It was the first time in my 36 years in this body that I had shared any of my pain and childhood “secrets” with my grandmother. An opening of voice that would ripple across the ocean into a tidal wave of wrath, deteriorating the already tenuous relationship she held onto with her daughter, my mother.
This “ghost” hovered around me and my grandmother, its density affecting my children and husband as well, as we tried to enjoy our time together. My grandmother was the willing medium, speaking its words of pain whenever it found a the space to be heard. I could not, despite my efforts, lighten the energy that permeated my grandmother’s body.
Was there, I wonder, a way for me to reach through the density? What does one do for someone who chooses to wallow in darkness? Is it our place to try to lift them? How do we shield ourselves and others from its effects?