On august 11th I went camping. It was my first time going out alone. I have camped quite a bit, but have never been brave enough to go on my own. In the absence of having a partner or friends who are into camping, I just haven't gone. Every summer I have been envious of people who camp, but not wanting to be the person asking if I can tag along on their family trips. When I finally decided to go, I didn't realize what the date would be. I just planned to “go on Tuesday”.
Dates are extremely meaningful for me. I almost always remember when a significant day is coming. Usually it is an anniversary of a significant event. Unfortunately, often the event was not a pleasant one. I can tell you dates of breakups all the way back to high school. I remember exactly what day my dad left home when I was fourteen. I know every significant (and terribly unpleasant) marker in the road that led to my painful divorce five years ago. Sometimes it is almost like my body remembers the pain or trauma and relives it on some level on those anniversaries.
Sometimes, the dates I can't wipe from my mind commemorate good things that happened.
On August 11th, 2018 I drove out to a nearby town where a large Christian music festival was being held. I had participated in a competition that led to a performance opportunity on their tiny “Indie stage”. While I remember every. single. detail. about that day, I will save that novel for another time.
What ended up being significant about August 11th was the person I met. His name was Ben. We connected instantly, in a way I had never experienced before. Unfortunately (that word isn't even close to being big enough), I would lose Ben less than a year later in a tragic accident.
On August 11th, 2019 I got to speak to Ben's mother and sister on the phone for the first time. I can't describe the paradox of overwhelming emotion I experienced - the joy of connecting as instantly as Ben had predicted we would, of feeling like I was talking to family - mingled with the sorrow of losing him, and that ultimately being the reason I was talking to them. The word “bittersweet” is the closest I can think of to what that conversation was, but really it's more like excruciating-ecstatic. Words fail these kinds of emotions.
On August 11th, 2020 I sat in a cheap Walmart lawn chair that I had purchased on the morning of August 12th two years prior, wearing a sweatshirt I had bought at the same time when my first day at the music festival turned out to be much colder than I had bargained for. I wrote in my journal and painted and drew a picture and read for hours and cooked for myself over a fire and it was perfect. I realized a couple days before leaving what the date would be and the timing of me escaping the monotony and anxiety of the strangest summer of my life was really quite perfect.
The next morning, the air felt just as frigid as it had two years earlier. I had checked the forecast and everything, and I just could not believe the cold. I thought for certain it was going to snow.
So I drank my coffee and waited for my breakfast to cook over the fire and then I sat and cried. I just let myself remember Ben, and all that I had felt, and all that I had been through. In some ways I can hardly believe it was only two years ago. I feel like so much has happened in me since then.
I always have lots of great plans about writing blogs and posting things on social media and doing all the things an independent artist is “supposed” to do. I thought I would post some special tribute to him on August 11th, and then I got off track on my little plan (so what else is new?). I guess though, in this whole thing I don't feel like an artist who is trying to have a career in music (though I am, or at least I was). I just feel like a person who loved and lost and I'm trying to navigate the grief the best way I know how.