At one point my side of the shore ends. I have to cross to make it to my destination--just around the bend on the other side of the river--but the water is rushing past like crazy. I look across the raging waters, wondering if I should stop. My head pulses again and I shake my head. Screw that stupid water, and screw my life.
I tap my pocket then; I'd gotten two letters in the mail and somehow they were my lifelines, from two people more dear to me than most. That morning, I'd decided to read those letters in my favorite cave. It might sound silly to anyone who hasn't been depressed, but I needed to be up in my mountains, read those letters and feel peace even if for a moment.
So I strip off my shoes and socks, throw them over my shoulder and roll my pants up. It's 20 degrees and the water bites my skin as my slender white feet dip through the surface. I'm up to my shins, then my knees. And it's so icy that after a moment I can't feel my feet sinking through the mire beneath. But I won't stop. I'll find my cave and read those letters there amidst the bats, the howling, windy entrance, me in the darkness, with only a flashlight to be my guide and help me read words written from people I love.
Then I'm back in the moment. The water is so deep, I'm pulling the letters from my pocket, holding them high over my head so they won't get wet. I'm up to my waist in water, and the current is strong. I've lost so much weight, down to 105 pounds, that soon I'm slipping as the water pulls, tugging so hard.
I cry out, almost losing one of my letters, barely saving it and myself in time.
I feel like I can't hold on . . . but still reach for a massive, slippery boulder at my side. And I'm thinking, Is this how I die, thinking of you in the mountains we love, as the waters take me away?
The smell of mountain air and pine trees fill my senses--that gives me strength to climb, struggling hard to get onto that boulder while still holding my letters. My upper body muscles are killing me. And I still can't feel my bare feet.
But I make it--somehow, like I made it through all the other shit I've gone through these past months. And I stand on that rock, look at my reddening feet and my soaking pants. This situation is so me--not something I've done recently, but rather something I used to do when I was single before I met Cade 13 years ago. And as the thought hits me, I can't help smiling. . . .
Even though the wind hits me hard and I'm freezing, I don't care so much. I can jump to the other side of the shore from my rock. The opening of my precious cave is finally within sight.
My fist still clutches the letters tightly; they're awfully crumpled from my trek through the water. Despite that, I keep grinning; the emotional pain isn't at the forefront of my mind anymore.
I put my socks and shoes on. My feet come back to life with tingles and heated pains. And my pants are still rolled up, soaking. That's when I start running to my cave. I can hardly wait to sit inside its jagged opening, like being in a lover's caress.
Suddenly I'm there, my hands feeling every part of the cave's sides. I don't even turn my waterproof flashlight on. Instead, I'm eagerly touching the rock, inspecting every part, just like it's the first time.
The farther I go inside those rocky hallways, somehow God's love radiates from the innards of the mountains. And my heart is racing, beating with the same soul I haven't felt since I was an uninhibited kid, knowing exactly what I wanted and who I truly was . . . all by myself.
After a while, I feel the back of the cave, knew it would end soon; I've been in there a million times. I sit with my shoulders to the wall, breathing hard, emotions rushing around as I gasp, intrigued and passionate.
And as I mold myself to that rock, it cradles me softly. I pull out my flashlight, click it on and hold it between my teeth.
Finally reading those letters makes me cry for the thousandth time this year, sweet tears mingling with the mud and river water that's dried on my skin. And the sentences that stick out to me are at the bottom of both letters--and although they're from two different people, the words are shockingly the same: "I love you and your kids so much! Elisa, enjoy!"
"Enjoy . . . Enjoy . . .," I repeat the word.
Soon the flashlight is turned off. The letters are placed gingerly in my jacket pocket. And even though I'm in complete darkness and my pants are still freezing cold, I'm content, really happy for the first time in a while.
I put my hand to the rock as if it's a lover's strong chest. Then I whisper to God, hoping He can hear me, "I love you, God. Thank you for letting me be alive. Thank you for reminding me that I can enjoy life again, whether I'm alone or not."
So I left my cave, struggled back through the water, and decided there's something I need to do for myself: I'm going to take at least a year off from having a serious relationship. I'm going to focus on myself and my kids. And by golly, I'm going to enjoy!
One of my last caving trips where I took my oldest daughter, the Scribe.
It was awesome seeing the love of nature blossom in her, just as it had within me at that same age.
This song kept repeating in my head as I hiked to my cave that day.