It's good to finally see the grey, I said. Don't worry. She's reassuring. To someone. Don't worry, it looks like highlights. No one will ever know. But I want to know! I've earned this shift of light and dark. It's like stretch marks. They're called the badge of motherhood and sometimes it's all I've got because children grow up. They move on. I can see those marks on my belly and remember where this all started.
I can remember who I was.
The last thing I heard, before I inserted the white noise tape, was: You don't look old, you know. Not like some people when they start going grey.
I don't look, what? How is that relevant?
Between February 2020 and last week, approximately eleven inches of hair has hit the cutting room floor. Sometime between then and now all trace of the process that put highlights and lowlights on my head has vanished. What you see is what it is and I've had a hard time seeing it until just now. It feels like a gate through which I need to pass in order to justify my own changes. I don't know if that's reverse vanity or the belief that I need to justify myself. Old isn't relevant in this conversation. The passage of time is what matters.
I was startled sometime last week. Maybe a bout of existential freak out but I don't know I've ever asked the question. Who the hell am I anyway? I didn't have a clue. That's alarming if you can really hear your own answer: I don't know. I was standing on the front porch watching tiny snowflakes and ruminating on the strong belief that my brother has no idea who I am. He knows who he needs me to be which isn't particularly palatable to either of us. However, he knows what he knows which is a truckload more than I know at the moment.
I decided it didn't matter. I asked, Heather, who do you want to be now? That dog didn't hunt. You can fill up the void with words and thoughts but who you are is the launching pad. It's not like there's a do over and you can start again from two seconds outside the womb. You can't. A school of thought says it doesn't matter, you're carrying who you are before you take your first breath. Fine. I'm still interested in the platform. I don't care how long it's been there.
The trailhead at the top of the App Gap is nothing to be trifled with in the winter. A hike that might wear you out in June can kill you in December. We moved slowly; she put her feet in my prints, and grabbed the hand holds I decided were good. On the way back I rode the sled of a conveniently insulated ass down twelve to fifteen foot sections and didn't care how it looked. I cared about getting off the trail before the weather rolled in. From the top of the mountain you can see it roll across the sky. You know it's coming but you don't know when. Assume right now and get out.
These moments present the opportunity to say, CRAP! I'm old, or, Mother of God, I feel alive and I'd sure like to stay that way.
We sat on a log and looked at the trees and the light and the black and white world called winter. We took a picture because sometimes we remember to do that and it was good because it told the truth. Later, I looked at the sweeping arc of grey that starts at my hairline and thought, there it is. The two inch swath cut by some cosmic paintbrush that I've never been able to properly isolate.
I looked at the hairline against the backdrop of light and shadow and thought, there it is. I am part of this mountain just now and I should go back because it's good to feel alive and even better to connect the dots between those trees and the top of my head and that might be all the answer I need.
I'm the woman who climbed a bit of mountain on powder covered ice and got out when the getting out was good. I'm also the woman sitting on the school bus rock and the natural juxtaposition between seasons, circumstances, and time tells me I'm always going to be on that rock same as I'm always going to be on that mountain. I think that's a good enough place to start.