***Read Telluride:Part I.
“They’re not here, Mommy!”
The girls ran ahead to look for them. I walked slowly behind, retracing my steps and covering them up at the same time. I searched each board on the right side of the dock; the initials were gone. They replaced the wood. I’m not sure when, maybe a year ago, maybe five. I was relieved.
I pulled out the sharpest object in my backpack. I left my first-aid kit back at the house; I didn’t think I’d need anything in it for a leisurely stroll. Luckily, I had my tweezers. The same tweezers I used on the little boy at the Four Corners Monument on the drive to Telluride. He tripped and fell into a bed of cacti while waiting in line to take a picture on the quadripoint. His parents were panicked, attempting to brush the needles from his skin. He was screaming; a long line of tourists stood staring, frozen in the summer heat.
I’ve never understood the frozen thing. Humans respond to trauma in three ways: we either fight (action), we flee (escape) or we freeze in fear. I’m a fighter; I see things in slow motion and two or three steps ahead when bad things happen.
I went over to them, asked permission to help, sprayed my tweezers with antiseptic and plucked each needle from his delicate, bloody skin.
As I dug the tweezers into the dock, I thought about the little boy’s weeping eyes and dripping nose, and then ten minutes later when he was running around laughing.
Everything is temporary.
“Do my initials first, Mommy!”
With each drag of the metal into the supple wood, I etched the present into proof: the three of us. I don’t know how long this dock will last, or how many more initials we will add in the future, but I do know that life changes slowly, and then all at once. And, it’s up to us whether we fight to be present in our lives, or run away and retreat into nostalgia (or sprint towards the future), or become paralyzed in the past.
I choose to fight for this life.
I finished carving three sets of initials and the year I came back to unfreeze the past: 2017. My mom took a picture of us, then we all started to walk back to town. I turned around though. I went back for one last goodbye; the goodbye I hadn’t said yet.
I squatted at the beginning of the dock, watching a woman bait her daughter’s fishing line and then teaching her how to cast it into the lake. I noticed the sign posted in the reeds: Catch and Release. That’s life. We have the freedom to choose to fight and catch as many moments of life as we can: the pain and the joy. And, we have the freedom to choose to let life go as it lets go of us.
My older daughter had waited for me just up the hill: “Mommy, come on!”
She reached for my hand and I caught it. ~Rebecca