Pawtuckaway 5-18-13


It was difficult, returning to Pawtuckaway, a place we had hiked with Emma we estimated at least fifty times, a place she knew well. We had been out and about with friends and family, some who understood, and some who didn't that it would be hard for us to adjust to being just the two of us when for so long it had been three. We knew we eventually would have to go alone together to a place we had been with her, no matter how difficult it was to take those first few steps. Pawtuckaway had long been a favorite refuge, not too distant to return again and again, and always, at least for the last thirteen years, with Emma.


I think: Hairy Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum pubescens)

People have said, "They're your kids, it's like losing a child...", well, I've lost a child... it's not like losing a child. My mind and body went into such shock when I lost my son I couldn't see, couldn't hear... it was all still happening, but I was watching it from somewhere else, a dark place where there was no escape... I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep for I don't know how long, my mind could not fix on anything but my lifeless son. I felt nothing, and the nothingness I felt was my system's only defense, because if I had given in to the things I would feel I would have lost. I've lost my dog, I am intensely aware of my loss, my awareness of the full reality of what has happened is acute. My body and mind set up defense systems at the loss of my son, I do not seem to have them with the loss of my dog, I feel the full impact of what has happened now, whereas it was metered out to me over time with my son, a blessing... I am afraid Judy is experiencing much of what I felt, or didn't feel when I lost my son...


Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)

We walked the first few steps together, holding hands, wiping tears and choking back sobs. Sorrow comes like a tidal wave. It comes in and washes up beyond its normal boundaries, it inundates all that was normal and had been stable for long periods of time, sucking it all into its gaping maw and vomiting it back in horrible disarray. The initial wave then recedes, but irreparable damage is already done and the waves continue to lash. As the storm weakens, and we begin to gain strength again, there are still large, unexpected waves that hit us long after the storm has departed. We get to the first viewpoint and embrace. We know this is where we belong, where she would want us to be, and where she would be with us if she could. The impact of the realization that she is no longer beside us but is now within us was overwhelming. Some people will get it, some won't...


Pink Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium acaule)

I'm sure some are thinking, "Get over it, move on..." We are, one slow step at a time, but each step is mired in the flotsam and jetsam the tidal wave spewed back on the shores of our lives. We are still picking through the wreckage to see what we can salvage and what we can take with us as we move on and start again...


Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum)

Full set of pics HERE:



Mount Major 1786? and Straightback Mountain1840?

Boulder Trail/ Straightback Mountain Trail/ Brook Trail/Mount Major Trail

5 Miles 1200? Elevation gain

Kevin and Judy


It has been twenty days at this writing since our little girl took the trail we could not follow. I?d like to say it?s been getting easier, but it hasn?t. One drawback to retirement is having the time for the things we never had time for before, like grief. When you are working, raising kids, living in the prime of your life these things still happen, but the necessity of getting on with your life pushes things like grief to a backburner more quickly than when you have loads of time on your hands. With all this time you get to think, and when you get to think you begin to realize the full extent of your loss.


Red Spotted Newt Notophthalmus viridescens

With each new wave of grief you realize that things that have long been buried in the sand are being uncovered and washing up on the beach. Loss is a part of everyone?s lives, and everyone somehow manages to live through it, we will too, but it is not easy. We try to face the things we need to face, like returning to places we had always gone with Emma. Returning to Kingston State Park was hard, we took the neighbor?s dogs to distract us. They had walked there with Emma and with us many, many times. Emma was queen of the park, everyone knew her.


Low-bush Blueberry Vaccinium augustifolium

We returned to Pawtuckaway, another place we had been to innumerable times with her, it was difficult, we shed many tears that first hike without her. Mount Major was another one we had visited so many times with her. As we started up the Boulder Trail the burden of our loss was heavy. The dampness and the new spring leaves were beautiful, but bittersweet. We wished that she was with us, she would have loved it so. As we continued to hike we began to come across Red Spotted Newts, still in their beautiful, cute Eft form, growing big and strong to prepare for their return to the aquatic life they were meant for.



We distracted ourselves by counting them: One, two... ten, twelve... as we passed the steep part of the trail we spread out a little, exploring ledges we had passed by before. We found huge blueberry patches where fire had burned the woods years before, and lots more newts. We went off trail and over to a southwest hump of the hill, I found a bone field and pondered on who it was that was taking their final rest in this place... I?m not sure.


Black Chokeberry Aronia melanocarpa

We continued up to the summit, crowded with a busload of kids. The remains of thick fog were still lifting off the big lake stretched out below us. I hoped that eventually our grief would lift like the fog and the sun would shine through again. We continued on towards Straightback, exploring more ledges we had not visited, eventually weaving our way back along the Brook Trail. At the junction to the trail that would lead us to Straightback I didn?t feel like going over, but I made myself.

Continued: