I’m an inveterate searcher – sometimes, when the search brings nothing but frustration, I blame this characteristic on my son’s death and my need to know more about living within those vast and humbling concepts called life and death; other times when I learn something really vital and beautiful, I am grateful and thank son, Matt, for pushing me to continue exploring. Knowing I was headed into a new self-examination took me to a reference in Sue Monk Kidd's book, When the Heart Waits. She starts with the word, nowhere, (someplace we’ve all found ourselves at one time or another) and then shares how someone brought to her attention that Nowhere and Now Here have the same arrangement of letters – that “the letters are merely separated by a small space in the latter. Likewise, a fine space separates us from experiencing life as nowhere or now here.” I believed my new search and find was taking me to a big Nowhere. What I didn't realize is that it would become a treasured Now Here.
We landed in Portland in the drizzle, collected our bags, caught a shuttle to the rent-a-car spot and finally scuttled through their lot to locate our car. The sky reflected my mood – it was a grey veil of sogginess, stripped of any energy beyond letting itself drain on whomever and whatever was around. Our morning consisted of a very early flight and, needless to say, I had left scintillating behind, hours ago. This Oregon trip was much anticipated but I didn’t realize how much I needed a shinning sun to help me welcome all that we’d planned to do. Besides the pure enjoyment of watching my granddaughter sprint in a large track and field competition at the University of Oregon in Eugene, my daughter, son-in-law and I were first stopping in Newport to visit the piece of beach where the family had scattered the first part of my son's ashes years before. I sat in the back seat, watching the green, lush, wet landscape usher us toward that tender place full of memory. I mind-talked to Matt: “What did you see in this place that captivated you so much you didn’t come home?” I went on the remind him that the dampness could only make the ever-present aching of his arthritic joints worse – a fact I knew he certainly lived daily. I wanted him home, close to me, to all of us – another fact I expect he lived daily.
For years I have asked unanswered questions, wondering, in silence and aloud, the draw of this coastal area he seemed to love so much. I settled back into my seat, watching the still heavy sky, a light grey backdrop to the green world around me. We angled our way toward the coast, deciding to stop and take a break before continuing and then it happened. The sun began to break free, the sky just around it taking on an incredible azure. We pulled into a turn off close enough to hear and see the rush of the ocean waves meeting the shore, exited the car, and headed toward the water, now canopied in spots by a brilliantly, blue sky. How quickly the veil of a Nowhere grey can lift in this part of the planet! I was beginning to feel the draw a Now Here moment.
In the midst of my own disquiet – my long-held desire to know why he remained in a place I considered Nowhere because it was far away from me, and my new worry of facing the place I left him when I had to move on – I’m given a Now Here gift. The stunningly immense landscape with its vivid, sun-drenched blues and greens; the raw power of the ocean’s determination – it’s natural order – it’s give and take; the independence of a single wave, crashing mightily into rocks and beach, moving out again at its own pace only to gather strength and rush in again, and again: all qualities my son relished and valued were now, here, freely available for him to relive every time the clouds parted. I heard my own intake of breath and felt a smile finally touch me. “OK Matt; now I get it,” I whisper to my son; “now I’m here.”