Never is a hard word

Relationships change slowly over a long period of time, and then action is taken that makes a break up look like a hasty decision. Last October was the last month I was together with my Ex-husband. We were both contemplating what life would be like without each other. Would it be better? Could we move on from each other and both start separate lives? I was transferring with my job to Manhattan Beach California, he wanted to stay in Portland Oregon, and my daughter was in college in Seattle.

Six months before I had booked a retreat with a good friend of mine to Brietenbush Hot Springs for an all women retreat for a weekend in October. It was a coveted retreat that always filled up fast because it was an all woman weekend so we could get in the hot springs naked without embarrassment. Also, all the workshops were women centered. It is exactly what I needed. My friend knew that I was on the verge of divorce and as we made the drive from Portland to the foothills of Mt Jefferson, we looked out the window to the beautiful countryside of Eastern Oregon and contemplated life.

The breathtaking views eased my turmoil and slowed down my anxiety. We stopped in Detroit lake at a small diner and had lunch. We were greeted with local charm and homemade soup as we sat in the dark wooden restaurant. After lunch we drove slowly on the one lane road up to Breitenbush Hot Springs. As we got closer I looked down at my phone and saw the little dial in the right hand corner click to; ‘no service’. I was officially off the grid and ready for a weekend of recharging and getting in touch with my emotions.

We unpacked our car and brought our things to a small 2 person cabin with 2 twin beds. I felt safe, I felt the energy of the area enveloping me and taking me in like a lost traveler in a storm. We went and got massages before we dipped in the natural hot springs. My body warmed, my heart relaxed, and I smiled knowingly at the other women who were here also to soothe their souls.

That evening in a workshop I broke down crying when the teacher put his hand on his heart, looked in each of our eyes and said, ‘I see you.’ I had felt unseen and unheard for so long. I had stopped stating my needs because it became a waste of energy, lost on someone who didn’t have the capability to take my words in, or to do anything about the pain that was behind them. My heart had been sad and broken for so long. The teacher and other women in that workshop saw and acknowledged my sadness, they hugged me, and then I blurted out, ‘I am getting a divorce.’ Because underneath my sadness was a yearning to connect, and when they connected with me my true feelings came out. They made me realize that I couldn’t go on feeling so sad and alone any longer.

I came back from that retreat and tried one last time to mend my marriage, to no avail. It was time to move on, and that retreat built me up and gave me the strength to walk out the door and away from feeling a sadness that weighed on my heart daily. So, on October 31st I moved to Southern California, and my friend and I made a pact to revisit the retreat the next October to see how things had changed.

But this last week changed all that. As I watched the map of Oregon and where the fires were burning, I saw the outline of the fires encircling Breitenbush Hot Springs and the surrounding areas. My heart broke.

Beautiful green lush Oregon that should be in blooming in the changing colors of the fall and the cool clear days of September is now covered in a cloud of unhealthy air. Oregon where you can see for miles because there isn’t the pollution in the air like there is in Los Angeles, is under a black cloud.

Never have the fires come so close to Portland Metro, or so many people been evacuated. It seems like the whole state is on fire, in the mountains and at the beach. An oasis of beauty being burned to the ground.

The state will take years to recover, and Breitenbush Hot Springs will not exist in the way it used to. It is yet another thing that has changed along with so many other things this year. The retreat in the mountains where people go to get away from it all, did not escape the fires. The memories I have of that weekend will forever just be memories, never to revisit the beautiful drive and peacefulness in the same way I once did. My heart goes out to the people that work there that helped me find the strength to move forward in my life. Their simple kindness made me break down my wall, and realize that kindness and empathy was exactly what I was missing in my life.

I was so wrapped up in my feelings that weekend last October, little did I know it would be the last time I would see the greenery of the countryside of Eastern Oregon, the mom and pop lunch place we stopped at, the tall pine trees on the one lane road up to the resort. It all only exists in my mind now.

I took for granted that I would come back in a year and all would be the same. I never doubted that it would. I had visions of my friend and I having our vegan breakfast at the retreat talking about all the changes of the past year. Between the pandemic and now the fires, that is never going to happen. And never is a hard word.

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