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Occasionally I wandered in where I was not wanted and gave truthful answers.
Sometimes I even did it deliberately. A little disruption now can prevent disaster later.

Taproot: Through the Woods

It was the end of October a few years ago and my family was Driving Through the Woods.

For a kid born of red sandstone who grew up in the Arizona deserts, there's always something wonderful and amazing about the woods. The desert calls to me but the woods sing. Especially these woods. It's green that tastes and whispers and caresses. Dozens, hundreds, thousands of shades. A wind sighing through aspen leaves and pine needles, stroking your skin, and tickling your nose with the promise of scent. The soft damp shadows between you and the sun. The woods.

The Woods. Summer weekends meant the family would escape the Phoenix heat. In the fall Dad insisted we come to watch the aspen turn. In the winter we would come to play in the snow. After the stepsibs moved away and it was just teenage me with the folks, we'd still come to enjoy the woods. I will always be the desert guy who Visits The Woods.

My stepdad had passed just weeks short of his birthday. The day after his service the family went to scatter his ashes. Disposing of human remains in a National Park is illegal, so I won't tell you exactly where.

We were driving through the edges of a national forest. Lightning had struck a couple of years earlier and started a major wildfire. Maybe a third of the trees died. But now I could see new growth poking through. The forest was coming back in it's own time, but it was coming back. "Circles within cycles," I remember thinking. How apt it was for Dad's ashes to be near this reborn forest in the landscape that he loved. I remembered the time in the same forest when lightning struck WAY too close. No fire that time, just one shattered tree and a sound that set the core of my bones to thrumming. Marvelous memories of this particular forest plucking at my senses and singing in my thoughts.

My stepbrother and his companion, my stepsis and her husband, and my mother were all shocked at how "devastated" the forest was. I wasn't really paying close attention. Thoughts and memories were clamoring with my senses. "It will grow back," I said, feeling the Wheel turn at the edge of my thoughts. I couldn't really put that feeling into words. I really couldn't give all the MEANING behind those words. So much unsaid because the words just weren't enough.

"But not in our lifetimes," my stepbrother said. "We'll never see it again." In a flash I felt the exact difference between us. For a second I was Walker again, the guest passing though, the perpetual outsider, never belonging but always longing. I realized that stepbro lived Walker more than I ever had. He was always there to see but never there to stay. In that moment I accepted Walker and I could put Walker behind me. The Wheel still moved. Change happens.

That day was cold and clear. In the desert fall lingered, but in the high country winter had settled in for a long stay. We scattered Dad's ashes, told stories of the man we loved and remembered, and renewed the bonds between us. We remembered what we had shared.

Dad was a Christian. I'm not sure he was one at the end because there wasn't a lot of Dad left at that point, the dementia had taken it's toll. Mom is certainly a Christian. So it was nominally a Christian farewell. I don't think stepsis and her hubby are particularly religious, but they went through the motions out of respect.

I had said goodbye to Dad years before when he could still understand it. This was just the final bit. And it felt so right that he would be part of this forest in this time and in this world. Satisfaction isn't quite the word. Harmony is also close.

To honor him and the day, I didn't mention the obvious difference between my perspective and theirs. I don't know if they had even noticed it. Maybe if I had three days and nights, a starry sky, a summer storm, a campfire and a lot of suitable beverages, I could have explained it so they might understand intellectually. But they never would feel it.

They would never know why Dad's death didn't touch me like it did them. I'm sure they thought I was hiding from sorrow.

Dad's death taught me a lesson.

Once-upon-a-time I would have demanded that the family notice. I would have shown righteous indignation if they did not promptly acknowledge the differences between us in oh-so-carefully delineated areas. I would have taken perverse pride in the simple fact I. Was. Different.

I learned. I saw that it was selfish to focus on the differences between us during that time of loss. Because it wasn't about me and my needs, I really should just live and let live. Let the moment happen without controlling it. If they didn't notice, I didn't need to demand attention. There was no grand injustice. There was no unavenged wrong. There was just a man's life moving through the Wheel. Because that life had touched us and we had loved him, we moved through the Wheel too.

Maybe it wasn't just this one moment. Maybe I could work on that "let the moment happen without controlling it" thing. Maybe I could take a step or six back for most things.

It's only as I write this now that I really understand just how much that moment in a minivan with my family changed me. Probably for the better.

Thanks Dad.

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A narrow slice of life, but now and again pondering American neopaganism, modern adult pagans & the World.

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