by Laura Green
I’ve never seen the Atlantic Ocean, not as a discrete thing. It’s impossible. It doesn’t end where we say it ends – it blends into all other oceans and waterways. Even from space, you can’t see it completely; the earth is round, the water curves out of view.
I grew up near the Atlantic. We were introduced days after I was born; I was in it before I could walk. I knew it before I knew what it was.
Little by little, I understood more about its outlines, its shorelines and seabed. I learned about maps and understood there are places I’d never visited that are the same ocean I’d been in thousands of times. And a place, on a map, where the Atlantic Ocean somehow stops and the Indian Ocean begins. But that all happened later, once we already knew each other, and by then it didn’t matter. Over time I learned that I will never see or touch the whole Atlantic, but by then I also knew we were inseparable. For all its vastness, being close was completely simple.
Yesterday I felt disjointed and unsure of myself. Everything felt big and impossible. I felt like I’d lost sight of the project. I kept thinking - what’s the point, again? Something about grief? Something about happiness? Many things have come apart. I haven’t seen you in weeks. I hug hardly anyone these days. When will this end? How will we know? What will that be like? And after? How does everything get put back together?
Which brings me to Mt. Hood.
I see it every time I drive home from my mom’s house. Less often, but many times, I’ve seen it from a plane. It’s huge, but I can hold it all at once in my perception.
I cannot figure out how get to know Mt. Hood. I’ve lived here for 13 years and we’re still strangers. It’s enormous, but from up close it never seems to start. I can’t stay in a plane forever, but when I move toward it, it vanishes. It’s just trees like any other trees. Some chipmunks. Then ice, rock, and nothing I can manage. I’ve seen Mt. Hood whole, but when I approach, it disappears.
I’ve been away from the Atlantic for years now, but doing massage feels a little like visiting that ocean. When you and I are working, the thing we’re working in feels vast and uncontainable. Changing always, impossible to define. It’s nothing I could ever summit or encircle, so I don’t ever try. I just wade in. And when I approach, you appear and appear and appear. Always and limitlessly more.
Today I wonder: Is that it, somehow? Should I be meeting everything as if it were the ocean? As if it were you on my table? Could I do that?
It’s easy with you and the ocean, because there’s clearly no other option. And I trust you. I’ve known you before I knew what you were. But grief? Happiness? Living life in ways I didn’t expect to? Putting life back together in ways that feel hopeful and resilient and right? How do I approach these big things?
How do I get to know Mt. Hood? Do I lie down on its needles? Do I sit on a log and listen for ravens? It’s snow-capped! What does a raven have to do with that? I want to know the mountain. Will sitting on a log get me any further along?
I think, yes - just like a newborn infant getting to know the Atlantic Ocean. Sit on one log, listen for waves. It’s helpful to remember the ways I’ve been doing this all along. Getting to know grief, figuring out what comes next, is just like getting to know any vast thing, like a mountain or you. I have to let it disappear from view, not panic, take deep breaths, and relax. I have to let myself remember when I was tiny and I knew that the sand is enough. The chipmunk is all I need to be able to see.
Then let the mountain appear, one raven at a time.