We were belting out lyrics to a song (which one, I now forget,) at the top of our lungs when –
I slam on the breaks. The momentum throws our bodies forward and our seatbelts snatch them right back. I let out a gasp of “what the fuck” as my eyes settle back into their sockets. I squint to make out what triggered me to stop:
Half a dozen cars in the previously clear single-lane ahead, lined up like a funeral procession. Some passengers had stepped outside, some were calling their friends in others to make sure they were okay. Most were kind of frustrated by the interruption, eager to get going, and all were thoroughly confused – “What happened?”
A few minutes pass, and the cars start to inch forward. Brows furrowed, I mutter a prayer. Heart in a knot, I manage to put the car back in Drive and gently press my big toe on the gas, as if politely tiptoeing through a scene that had suffered enough noise.
We see a mangled motorcycle on the right, an ambulance on the left, a coroner's truck next to it.
We pass by, forgetting how to breathe.
“You’re a different person to everyone you meet.” – Chuck Palahniuk
We all play different role in other peoples’ lives.
You are YOU, to you. But to everyone else in the world, you are: friend, daughter, cousin, co-worker, teammate, a stranger they smiled at while crossing the street, etc.
This person whose life ended moments before we passed through the accident scene still had a relationship with us. Though nameless, faceless, they were a part of our journey up the mountain, and our lives as we move forward.
They reminded us of the fragility of life. The preciousness of the now. To keep our eyes on the road. To take care of each other. To forgive. To Love. To BE, as much as you can, while you can.
You, my friend, were and are with me – and will always be.
The first time I lost someone close to me, I had so much trouble making sense of my own grief. I’d never before thought of death (nor life) in such a focused way, never had to force myself to accept a truth I found unacceptable.
In order to find some meaning, I volunteered at a hospice; my role was to, more or less, just BE with a patient (as their family/caregivers can’t be with them 24/7).
Surprisingly, the visits were never strange nor painful. I felt so honored to share a part of their lives with them – one of the most vulnerable parts. I sat by their beds and read books as they slept, listened to their families talk about what made them special, what they will miss most about them. Once, I held hands tightly with a beautiful great-grandmother as she prayed for her family to be safe after she passed.
These were moments when I felt so human, so connected – not because the looming salience of "Death" made the light of "Life" shine brighter, but because I grew to understand the connectivity that both are defined by.
I learned that the greatest gift you could ever give anyone – including yourself,
is to simply be, together.
A few days before our trip, I asked Philip what his intention with this project was. He was having a group of 30+ dancers hike up a mountain to perform in the dirt for a group of strangers that none of us have met before. (And we were all, as you can see, super down).
He said that he got his inspiration by the idea of a "tribe" – and fusing it with "the earth's natural energy - everything from the intensity of the mountains, the flow of the waterfalls, the resilience of the forests, the calmness of the deserts, to the force of the ocean waters."
We incorporated nature's movements into our bodies' movements to craft these stories of family, community, hurt, healing.
On the way up the mountain, we talked and laughed and celebrated how good it felt...
To just be with your tribe.
“Find people who can handle your darkest truths, who don’t change the subject when you share your pain, or try to make you feel bad for feeling bad. Find people who understand we all struggle, some of us more than others, and that there’s no weakness in admitting it. Find people who want to be real, however that looks and feels, and who want you to be real, too. Find people who get that life is hard, and who get that life is also beautiful, and who aren’t afraid to honor both of those realities. Find people who help you feel more at home in your heart, mind and body, and who take joy in your joy. Find people who love you, for real, and who accept you, for real. Just as you are. They’re out there, these people. Your tribe is waiting for you. Don’t stop searching until you find them.”
Thank you Arthur for coming in so clutch with these designs!
Note: The Angeles Crest Highway leading up to the San Gabriel Mountains is one of the most scenic, yet dangerous roads in the country. There are numerous accidents and deaths reported each year. If you're planning to drive through, please check road conditions, the weather, and your car beforehand. Safe travels, my fellow Earth Tribe 🌎