A still glacier lake, water sheer, like ice. You can see every pebble, ancient
rock, and boulder under a thin mossy fur. The lake reflects California’s
highest twin peaks and an airless sky like a crystal ball. This is where my
dad said we should lay him.
A day on horseback to get here, to this mountain of many returns, a
lake of my childhood. A place of solid stone and glacier, where we’d
make grape icees, cook freeze-dried beef strogano√ over a small fire, and
dream of the hamburgers we’d eat on the way home. This is where we’d
return every summer, where we learned to grow like trees, to bow to the
He has brought us back here for the first time in almost twenty years.
My sister is the first to spread the ashes. Under a small baby pine. When
it’s my turn, I pour them into the lake. I watch the ashes color the water
like powdered milk. The water turns white. My mom is quiet, solid as
the rocky peaks that rise up behind her. My brother draws his long
brown legs into his chest and wraps them in his arms. My sister howls as
if something ancient—longing, loss, grief—is coursing through her.
I’m just looking at the ashes as they turn the water white. I study it like
snow swirling in a crystal ball, searching for a final reply.
As his ashes float and drift under the watery weight of gravity, settling
into the mossy bottom, a sense of urgency rises up within me. He’s
disappearing. This is my last chance. I tug at my T-shirt, kick o√ my
boots, step out of my shorts. I dive into the ashy white water. I want to
see him, to touch him. He is blurry white all around me. He is cold ice
water. I pass through him, and then he is gone.
Every year since, my mom, my partner, and I return to visit this place.
The journey is all phases of life, death, and rebirth at once. ‘‘It’s a pil-
grimage,’’ my mom always reminds us. ‘‘That means there is struggle
involved.’’ It’s hard work walking all those miles with the weight of her
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