A Beautiful Moment in Time

After writing Friday’s post about the harrowing experience that my husband and I managed to survive the night before, I was extremely emotional. But instead of marinating in negative feelings (as I’m often prone to do), I decided to throw on my hiking boots and visit Sweetwater Wetlands here in Tucson. (One of my all-time favorite stomping grounds, recommended by Rigel when I first started exploring the Sonoran Desert on foot.)

I got in the car and paired my phone (where my MP3 playlists are stored) to the blue-tooth. As I began my twenty-minute journey across town, a Christian song poured through the Civic’s speakers. (Christian music was Nicky’s thing; and after he died, I added a few of his favorite songs to my music library.) When it ended, another Christian artist began to sing… and then another and another.

This was odd, because my catalogue of this particular genre is not large enough to warrant more than one song in a hundred or so being chosen by the shuffle algorithm. In addition, each of the titles that played had a common theme: You are not alone, and things will get better.

As I stepped out on the trail “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again” by Danny Gokey thrummed through my headphones… and then YouTube Music got mysteriously wonky, and played the song three more times. The chorus goes like this:

Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away
Step into the light of grace
Yesterday’s a closing door
You don’t live there anymore
Say good-bye to where you’ve been
Tell your heart to beat again

Listening to these words, I looked up and saw a roadrunner dash across the trail ahead (a bird that is rarely seen in this particular park), and then a nest in the scrub brush that contained three baby roadrunners. This was a rare treat, and I smiled at them.

As I rounded the corner on the outermost loop of the trail, a gust of wind blew through the cottonwoods; and dozens of floating lil’ fluffy motes danced through the air. I stopped and watched them in awe (this is one of my favorite things to experience out there, but it rarely happens this late in the season). When they had all contentedly landed on the soft dirt below, I continued on.

A little over a mile and a half in to my hike, I decided to take a less-traveled, narrow path through the marsh grass and found myself face-to-face with one of the bobcat cubs that was born late last year. I gasped, and stood still as a statue. (I hadn’t seen any of the bobcats in months.) The fur-ball stopped too, and watched me for a time before traversing back into the grass from which it had come.

I walked another half a mile, and encountered a gorgeous black butterfly with iridescent blue markings at the tips of its wings. It flitted around me for a good five minutes before returning to the trees. It was the most beautiful butterfly I’d seen out there, and I nearly wept tears of joy.

I chose to take a route I don’t normally take in order to exit the wetlands, and a second bobcat cub graced me with its presence. She stalked with confidence across the bridge and tiptoed onto the park’s only sidewalk. I slowly sat down on the concrete and fished my phone out of my sports bra, hoping to take a picture of her before she disappeared.

To my surprise, she sat a few feet ahead of me and posed for a photograph. She remained quietly in my company until another couple approached from behind, oblivious to the fact that she was there. She scampered back into the brush at the sound of their footsteps and chatter, but I’d gotten to sit with her for nearly fifteen minutes.

I stood up and kissed the tattoo on my arm in reverence to Nicky. (It’s a piece of artwork that my brother drew. I had it inked into my skin shortly after losing him, and have developed a habit of kissing it when someone I’ve lost crosses my mind.)

My younger brother didn’t speak to me over the course of my expedition. There was none of the casual conversation or commentary on my form that usually accompanies me as I hike through the arid landscape of the desert; but I knew — I just knew — that the entire experience was Nicky’s doing.

He reminded me that there is beauty to be found beyond the tragedies of our existence, that missteps and words said in anger can be forgiven and forgotten, that life is filled with wonder — if we can only remember to look beyond ourselves.

As I dropped into the driver’s seat of my vehicle, I closed my eyes and took a deep breath… and that’s when I heard Nicky whisper, “There’s only one mistake you can’t come back from, Big Sis. Only one; and I don’t want you to make it. Your journey’s only just begun. Take it.”

So I will continue to fight against the Witch Bitch within; I will tattoo Nicky’s words on my heart, and try like hell not to make the same fatal mistake that he did.

Fuck. I miss him so much; but I’m ever-so grateful that he’s still with me.

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