Yesterday night, I sat down on my pillow on the floor, looking through my map of Yosemite National Park. There’s a lake there, a lake I love more than any other place in Yosemite.
It’s not a spectacular place, objectively. It doesn’t evoke the sheer awe as El Cap does, it doesn’t baffle people as Half Dome does, it doesn’t roar into life as Nevada Fall does, it doesn’t offer a signature view as Tunnel View does, it doesn’t bring one’s head into clouds as Glacier Point does. But it’s a place that had given me the most beautiful memories, filled with peace and serenity, filled with joy, filled with icy baths and warm sunshine.
The lake is inaccessible for at least half of the year, buried under several feet of snow, packed away in Tuolumne Meadows in the High Sierra.
Even though it’s only a short hike from Tioga Pass road, it doesn’t get much visitation; most of the time, I’m there completely alone. Every time a friend asks me where they should go in Yosemite, I always send them to this lake. The snowy tops of three mountains reflect in its surface, smooth as a mirror. At all times of the year, the water is quite cold. I’ve never seen anyone take a dip besides the friends I took there.
On its shores, I’ve written countless poems. In its icy water, I’ve braved grief. In its mirror surface, I’ve glanced the person I could be.
I haven’t been to this little paradise of mine for about three years now. (Wow, time really flies when the world is up in flames.)
In about a month, the road that leads to this lake is going to be closed. And together with the access, my last chance of visiting the place that holds so much magic, so much significance, so many memories, will be lost to me forever. You see, the road usually opens anytime from mid-May to the beginning of July. But unless a miracle happens, I will most likely be gone by April.
I realized that I might never get to see this place ever again if I don’t go within the next month. It was quite the eye-opening realization. I’ve been working so hard to stay here, sacrificing weekends, saving money, spending so much of my time on trying to figure things out… that I completely forgot to give thanks to, for, and enjoy the things that mattered, the reasons why I have to stay.
But what happens if I fail? What happens if I’m forced to leave the US, leave California, leave my home? Last night when I looked at that map, I realized what will happen. I will regret endlessly having spent so much time fighting for something that proved futile, and not spending the last months I have left here, at home, by actually loving, enjoying, and giving goodbyes to the places and people that matter the most, the places and people that are the reason behind my fight to stay.
I have three months left to figure something out. And I’m at the end of my wits — and my strength. I’ve done everything right and still, I don’t have enough money to go back to school so I can stay, I’m not “important” enough to be able to get sponsorship for a work visa. I have people who offered me jobs only to realize that convincing the government about my irreplaceability was near impossible. I have people who searched for scholarships when I couldn’t do it anymore.
I have people here that I love and care about — people who love me back, people who return this care. I have places that have been home to me, a real home, and they’re not back where I came from; they are where I am now.
Last night when I saw the lake on the map, I nearly cried. I have to get back there one last time. I have to.
What I’m (probably) trying to say here, trying to remind both myself and you, my dear friend, is that in our fights, we sometimes forget to take the time to actually be grateful for the things we fight for. We can forget about friends and family, places and people, experiences and emotions. But for our fight — and for both the potential victory or loss — to have any meaning and not be filled with regret, we must remember the most important things and keep loving, even if it tears our hearts out in the end.
Well, I’m going to leave you with this thought now, my friend, and go figure out how I can get to the High Sierra within the next month. Because I would never forgive myself not visiting this lake before I inevitably fall. It won’t make the fall any less painful — but it will stop it from being filled with regret on top of the pain…
I hope you’ll take the time to appreciate the things you fight for and I wish you much luck on your journey.
The first time I visited Dog Lake, summer 2017