Tonight, in my new life, I am burning a part of my old life. I am burning wedding pictures.
I look at them and I don't feel weepy or nostalgic. I don't feel like I could have done anything better, or that I did not try hard enough. What I do feel is sadness for the woman who looks back at me: for the long, hard road she will have to travel. This is what I want to tell her: It will be worth it. It will be hard, and lonely, and miserable, but in the end it will be worth it, to get to this place, this new life.
In the way some people have faith to sustain them, I have always had wilderness. Because of that, I will always be all right. Give me a winding trail into the mountains, a river without end, and I can go there to heal from nearly anything. In the calm indifference of the trees, I see that the cycle of life cartwheels on, regardless of tragedy, despite despair. There is something about wilderness that shows me that things change and renew. A stand-replacing fire, a hundred year event, brings hundreds of tentative new seedlings. Avalanches move mountains. Time marches on, with or without us. There is always mystery in the secret life of snow, hope in the wind.
I loved my wedding, a colorful gathering of many wilderness friends from around the country, representing places where I had worked: Florida, Sequoia National Park, Idaho, and others. They didn't know each other but quickly became friends themselves on a sandy beach at Redfish Lake. There was my history in their faces. They had all known me at different stages: dragging a drip torch through a sawgrass prairie, collecting sugar pine cones in the Sierras. It was my outdoor life, my whole life, right there, each stage of it.
I have a new life now, and am making new friends. I don't think about the other life that much, not the four years of it when things were hard. But the best part of that other life was the one day at the beginning, when hope still floated and we told stories. "Remember when?" we asked, dredging up those memories of hot springs, chasing fires, long hikes. We rolled with laughter, recalling the time Jack and I nearly got hit by lightning near Red Ridge, the time Breck returned to his pack to see a bear eating his peanut butter sandwich supply. We thought about searching for a hidden grove of royal palms and floating the Jeep Buggy way down south. There is a long and winding trail that leads me back to these people. Our bonds will never be severed, not by adversity, not by flame. I will remember them forever.
I don't need pictures for that.