I'm back. Boris had a lovely time with my father; the chickens and cats and gardens survived just fine. I think I may have spent an entire eternity on lay-over at o'hare. And, in other news, I have internet at home again.
When I picked up Boris, my mother asked if san diego was "worth it." I don't know that I can answer that, and certainly not in any words she would understand. I don't think I can create an equation where travel + money spent is < or > camp widow. I missed matt in new ways, found him missing in new ways. I took my first trip somewhere without him, and it was very wrong. The way we travel together, our rhythm of adventure, is gone. I am going to live, and I am not too thrilled about that. There will be trips and adventures, and he will not come. There are whole new places to explore, and we will not explore them together. I sat in a place I should not be, with people I should not know. I left more lonely and more sad than I arrived.
Walking in to the reception area on Friday was overwhelming. All these people. All these people, and every single one of them is widowed. Every single one. Usually, in crowds, I go into "city mode" - walking quickly with determination and focus, with a bit of the "fuck off" vibe so as to not attract the random proposals I seem to pick up from men with heavy accents. But then I realized, in this crowd, everyone is like me. This sea of people wearing green lanyard nametags, and not one of them deserves or needs the brush by or blank gaze. I kept thinking "but they're all so young," and then remembered - me too. I am one of them. There was a lot of that this weekend. A lot of reminding, as if I could forget, that I belong here. I am one of them. This is wrong. There was a lot of this is wrong.
I also got to spend long hours wandering around with a friend, sitting in churches and eating figs (figs. Local ones. My farmers' markets do not have figs. Or avocados. Or dates.) I did not get confused or pitying looks when I told Dan and Jackie about the confusion and stammering I caused my hotel's young check-in girl when I asked her to check where the widow conference was, and that I had to say the word "widow" more times in less than two minutes than I have in a very long time. I got to sit by the pool holding hands and crying with people I love (though studiously avoiding looking at the pool with all those flashback inducing people in there). I got to sit outside and discuss this life without the annoying need to translate and explain everything I'm saying, as I do with the non-initiated. I got to touch and hold on to people I already loved from a distance. I got to put my arms around people and just stand there, linked, talking within our group - a party I enjoyed, rather than tried to escape. I had hands on my back, arms around my shoulders. I got to meet other 'accident widows,' which is a rare and wonderful thing. The meeting, that is, not the accident. There is something that passes between us, unspoken and not needing to be said. Exhaustion kicked my butt, and I didn't get to spend nearly enough time out and about, but I feel like our connections will continue to grow. In that, it was exactly what I wanted - physical roots to take back into the non-physical world.
I also learned that my bed is not nearly comfy enough, and I need hotel-level amendments.
There are a few things I would like to see at future Camps - maybe an organized field trip somewhere, like the botanical gardens or something. To be out somewhere doing something, without needing to shout over music, would be great. (NOT the SD zoo! Good lord what an over-priced mass of ill behaved humanity.) I also found myself very much wishing you were there Amanda - to key out insects and plant life with me.
At the hotel itself, having a room set up with chairs and coffee/tea would be nice. A widowed-only space, like a cafe with exclusive membership. I know there were plenty of chairs everywhere, and starbucks did a brisk business, but a designated hang out place would be nice. In grand irony, we shared the hotel and conference center with a huge contingent of spandex clad "fitness supplement" people in town for their sales convention. Big banners outside read "STAY YOUNG FOREVER!" Poor dears. They also wore green lanyards. Big thick ribbony ones. They were all very perky.
In a macabre but totally within character way, I found myself wanting some kind of listing, with names removed, of causes of death, causes of widow-ment ~ was I the only drowning there? There was one widowed by fire, one by air; was the earth element represented? How many sudden deaths, and how?
I am a bit dreading the questions from people here - how was it? Did you have a good time? What was it like? I have no answers for this. I especially have no answers for anyone who has not gone through the hazing it takes to get here. That is one big thing I take from this weekend - how much nicer it is to not explain. To know that explanation is not necessary. I left San Diego thinking I wouldn't be back, that I don't need any more Camps. But then, I impulsively signed up to volunteer for the east coast event in 2012. It's still wrong, and I am apparently going to live.
Those who are near me do not know that you are nearer to me than they are
Those who speak to me do not know that my heart is full with your unspoken words
Those who crowd in my path do not know that I am walking alone with you
Those who love me do not know that their love brings you to my heart.
— Rabindranath Tagore