This Christmas, I thought of them. I thought of Hancho, the sure-footed Morgan who carried me across the beautiful Point Reyes Natural Seashore trails. I thought of Kodi, the person who got my dream job and became my friend, the one who let me stay at their place and whom I cooked dinners with. I thought of Jon who also gave me a place to sleep in his work shed, warming it up with a space heater so I wouldn’t be cold. I thought of Doug and Beth and Pascal. I thought of Jonathan and Tim and Craig and Will. I thought of a hundred more friends I might not see again.
Just hold that Bear close, wrote Jonathan one night when the going got especially tough. The Bear was a good-bye gift from him.
I missed the desert, vast and dry and beautiful, I missed running among the oblong boulders that dot the landscape and the hardiest of plants that don’t hesitate to defend themselves. I missed the ocean, roiling angrily with the tune of an incoming storm. I missed running up Mt Tamalpais with my friends and seeing the lights and the Christmas tree. I missed the nighttime bike rides with Ari. I missed eating weird food with the people who have become my family. I missed seeing the kids open their Christmas presents.
I missed so much—oh, so much and so terribly—I missed everybody and everything.
It’s the Day of the Three Kings today. It’s the day when the three wise men came to say hi to little baby Jesus and gifted him gold, frankincense, and myrrh. As is the custom here, three little kids walked around the village today, dressed up, singing songs and writing their initials on doorframes. It’s supposed to bring good fortune and blessings to the household for the following year. It was hard not to cry. The three kids might have as well been the three rascals I took care of for five long years.
You see, that’s the thing with grief. It never, ever, goes away—all the while it’s invited into our lives by every seemingly little thing. The taste of sesame seed oil. A pair of running shoes. A song. It’s everywhere. It’s there when I open my eyes in the morning, and it’s there when I close them at night. It’s there, haunting me in my dreams, and it’s there, adding salt to my lunchtime meals. It’s there—together with the crushing loneliness—and it’s there so very much it physically hurts.
I hoped that the gift I’d be getting for Christmas was one of a life without this pain. I still hope the Three Kings might have brought it. After all, it is said that Time is the healer of all things.
Between Christmas and the Day of the Three Kings, there came that fateful midnight that gives hope to so many; the New Year. People all over the world shared end-of-year Instagram posts overflowing with stunning visuals and words of cheer and joy. All I could bring myself to share was honesty…
I didn’t want midnight to come, I wrote. It meant the end. The end of the year when I was still in California. The end of the year when I still lived at home. The end of my volunteer service in Point Reyes National Seashore. The end of running around the beautiful North America. The end of my volunteering with Inside Trail. The end of running with my friends—and the beginning of running alone. Of being alone. 2022 was a year of incredible heartbreak—it felt like the end of the world which I, in the end, really visited in the fall.
This is not meant to be a sob story. I don’t know where I was going with this post. It’s a very atypical one. But I always tried to keep things real here—and experiences like these are (unfortunately) real for many of us out there. The reality is that it was nigh impossible for me to do really anything over the Holidays, let alone write blog post. I’ll try and be back on our regular schedule this following Tuesday with something you might actually enjoy reading, like a post from the Valley of Fire or something similar. Until then, I wish you only the best.