For the last ten years, Dean and I have made an annual trip to the Sequoia National Forest. It started a few months after I was injured, when a Chinese medical doctor recommended we go. We fell in love with the trees then and we’ve been returning faithfully ever since. Typically, we try to go in August — the month we started dating — to commemorate that anniversary. This year, our August calendars were too crowded, so we made the trek last week.
This was a particularly special trip. The only years we haven’t gone were 2010 when I was deathly pregnant, and 2011 when Aidan was a baby. So this year was a bit of a reunion, long awaited. It also marked our ten-year anniversary.
It’s been many years since we blew past my record for longest relationship, but there’s something really remarkable about ten years. I guess it’s mostly that I didn’t want this relationship, exactly.
If you’ve been in my world for awhile, you’ve probably heard at least some part of mine and Dean’s origin story. And you know that I resisted this relationship pretty fiercely. I just didn’t think it was what I wanted. I had this image of the kind of person I wanted, had it all figured out actually, and Dean wasn’t a match.
But Dean, kind of, didn’t care. My master plan was pesky, for sure (in fact, it annoyed the hell out of him) but he wasn’t about to be pushed out by it. Somehow, he had a sense that we could be something really special together and, whether or not I agreed, he was going to keep loving me.
Talk about pesky. Like a terrier. A very tall terrier. He just wouldn’t let go. And now, I’m so grateful that he didn’t. Because he was right. Together, we are something really special. And I almost missed out on it (me and my master plan!). These ten years have been the happiest of my life, hands down, and they’ve been not only happy but extraordinarily happy. At the center of that happiness has been Dean, splashing around in his slightly dorky, deeply devoted way, and I am truly blessed for that.
Another big deal about this year’s trip was introducing Aidan to the Big Trees. We had no idea if he’d “get it” and, in fact, for the first day, he’d point to any tree and say “biiiig tree.” I suppose from his perspective, they really all are. But by the second day, it was beginning to sink in. His eye became attuned to the special big that is a Sequoia and he’d reserve his exclamations for the truly BiiiiiiiG trees. Actually, the first time I saw the big trees, it took a day to sink in, too. Apparently, he takes after his Mama in this way.
Getting this family on the road is always a production (I so should have taken a picture of our ton-o-gear) and traveling with a young child is an adventure for any family. Our four hour drive took seven, we had at least one emergency potty break, and poor Aidan got car sick on the way up the mountain and threw up.
That was actually scary for a bit because he made a weird gurgle-y sound all of a sudden. Dean pulled over so we could check it out and I suddenly got a hit that something was about to happen. I told Dean to get back there and just as he arrived at Aidan’s door, Aidan started vomiting.
The drama dissipated almost immediately though. Aidan wasn’t particularly phased either by the vomiting or the vomit (all over him, the car seat, the iPad he was holding), and actually Dean wasn’t particularly phased either (good Papa!). He cleaned up, we settled in for the rest of our drive and Aidan went to sleep. Done.
Unfortunately, car sickness on a winding road is also something Aidan gets from me. Mama seems to have mostly grown out of it. Hopefully Aidan will too.
Happily, Aidan took after his Mama in more pleasant ways, too. He LOVED his first wilderness hikes, walking further than any two year-old should be able. He loved playing in the dirt and running down the trails. He’d lift his nose to the wind and sniff. And he climbed… All sorts of things. It was incredible to watch him engage so deeply, so joyously in a place and activity that has ALWAYS made my heart soar.
I also decided to use this opportunity to bury Aidan’s placenta.
I’d been saving it in our fridge for almost two years. It’s quite common among my tribe of Goddess-loving, natural-parenting women but, I have to admit, I never felt particularly attached to it. I’d asked that the placenta be saved but it was almost an after-thought, something I did because, well, women in my tribe do that. Once I had it, I was remarkably ambivalent about it, attached enough that I wouldn’t just throw it out, but not really feeling any deep connection to it nor to the tradition of offering it back to the earth.
Then we planned this trip, and I knew this was the time. And not a moment too soon, if you ask Dean. Placenta in the fridge is so not HIS tradition!
It was the last thing we did on the trip. We found a spot near the road where four Sequoias grow together, forming a little grove. We’d been looking for a good spot, not too much of a hike to get to, a bit secluded… And this was perfect.
As soon as I was out of the car, a wave of excitement shook my whole body. I was THRILLED to be doing this. Where that feeling came from, I have no idea. But I am SO grateful I asked for that placenta, so grateful I lived with it until the time felt right.
Dean went to get Aidan and I began to pray, offering my gratitude and asking for guidance on where exactly to bury it. Then Aidan ran around the trees while Dean helped me haul to the spot I’d chosen. (Or, that chose me?)
I asked permission of the Sequoia, asked if it would receive this blessing, this tribute. The affirmation I sensed was more an invitation, so gentle and sure. So together, all three of us, we dug. With pieces of bark and a large, kitchen spoon.
And I wept into that hole.
We could so easily have NOT gotten pregnant. There were so many factors inhibiting it, so many things to overcome. And then my baby had the most idyllic, textbook gestation. And now… Aidan remains extraordinarily healthy; he’s happy; and our family is a constant source of joy for all three of us.
There was simply no containing my gratitude. And into a little puddle of tears, I dumped Aidan’s placenta.
Then we filled the hole, marked it with pine cones and bark, and hung out. Playing in the dirt, soaking up the beauty, relishing these exquisite, truly awesome, and dare I say loving trees. It was perfect.
Reba had a good time, too, on this trip. We didn’t take her on the trails because it seemed like enough to deal with a wheelchair and a toddler in active bear country. But she got lots of time with us the rest of the day, got to see her first chipmunk, and clearly enjoyed the fresh, clean air FULL of new and interesting smells!
One morning, a young girl asked if she could take a picture of Reba to sketch later. Of course, we agreed. And that night at dinner, she gifted us with this:
Except for the color, it looks just like our girl, huh?
Oh, I also fell out of my chair on this trip. It’s hardly worth mentioning… My purse got caught in a wheel and suddenly I was on the ground. It was a slow, gentle fall as falls go, and I wasn’t injured. Though I did learn a bit about what I should and shouldn’t have a passerby tell Dean.
I was alone when I fell (wouldn’t you know), so I asked a passing woman to tell Dean, who was back in the parking lot, that his wife was on the ground. As soon as I heard her say it out loud, I realized my mistake. I should have just asked her to tell him I needed his help.
As it was, he panicked a bit, but we all recovered quickly. The woman’s husband held Aidan, the woman’s kid held onto Reba, and Dean picked me up and returned me to my chair.
I’m sort of the worst person to ask if I’m OK since I can’t feel anything below my waist. But I went to the bathroom (my original destination) and checked myself over as best I could. Then Dean and I did a little mobility check to make sure everything was bending in the right place. All was well, and that was that.
I wish I could adequately articulate what it feels like to be among the Sequoias. There is an energy about them that is utterly palpable. They’ve stood for thousands of years, watched everything we’ve done, seen it all. It’s more than awesomeness I feel. They exude peace. And gentleness. There is something so… comforting about them, about their presence. And among them, I am constantly inspired. In fact, I kept thinking about the retreats I’d like to lead there (“live events” they’re called in the coaching world). To breathe in the company of these trees is to expand from my very root. I am bigger and more alive than I am anywhere else.
This place has been sacred to Dean and I for years. And now, it belongs to all of us. I couldn’t be more ecstatic. And I’m counting the minutes until we visit again.