I am beginning to open to the possibility that maybe this is how the second half of my life is meant to go. Time and space to think and process and ponder thoughts and ideas. And as I have been pondering this, I encountered this beautiful passage from Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass.
"If she went on, it would have to be by herself." The protagonist, Lyra, has been on a hero's journey through a treacherous, frigid landscape, escorted in the final legs by a strong and comforting giant polar bear. But, finally, they encounter an ice bridge over a great dark chasm, cracked to the point of being able to hold very little weight. Lyra's, perhaps, but certainly not that of the bear.
I am there. At that part of my journey where I realize if I am to go on, now, it will be by myself. It is not a bad place, but this realization does not come without it's terror and angst.
"I got to go across," Lyra says. "Thank you for all you done. I don't know what's going to happen when I get to him. We might all die, whether I get to him or not. But if I come back, I'll come and see you to thank you properly..."
She laid a hand on his head. He let it lie there and nodded gently.
"Goodbye, Lyra Silvertongue," he said."
And as I read this the tears started to flow and I saw Roy standing clearly nodding to me that it is fine and good for me to move forward on my path.
"Her heart thumping painfully with love, she turned away and set her foot on the bridge. The snow creaked under her...step after step she took and wondered with every step whether it would be better to run swiftly and leap for the other side or go slowly as she was doing and tread as lightly as possible. Halfway across there came another loud creak from the snow, a piece fell off and tumbled into the abyss and the bridge settled down another few inches against the crack. She stood perfectly still."
Coming out of grief feels like that. Inching onto an uncertain bridge suspended over an abyss of the unknown with no guarantee for the next step. But the next sentence grabbed me with its truth:
"The bridge held."
THE BRIDGE HELD!!!! Yes yes yes! I have taken many of those tentative steps in this last year, not knowing if and/or how the bridge would hold. It has creaked beneath my weary feet. But the bridge has held.
"She took another step, then another, and then she felt something settling down below her feet and leaped for the far side with all her strength. She landed belly-down in the snow as the entire length of the bridge fell into the crevasse with a soft whoosh behind her...
"After a minute she opened her eyes and crawled up away from the edge. There was no way back.
"She stood and raised her hand to the watching bear. Iorek Byrnison stood on his hind legs to acknowledge her and then turned and made off down the mountain in a swift run to help his subjects in battle...
"Lyra was alone."
I see you there, Roy, raising your hand to me, encouraging me that the bridge has held and I have made it across. And I can go forward on my own. I see you making off down the mountain in a swift run of joy toward the eternal and infinite experience of love.
"Lyra looked up at the blazing sky. She was aware of how small they were...in comparison with the majesty and vastness of the universe and of how little they knew in comparison with the profound mysteries above them."
"She turned away. Behind them lay pain and death and fear; ahead of them lay doubt and danger and fathomless mysteries. But they weren't alone [after all]."
This is why I love story. Because of the way others' stories inform my own experience. I know this feeling. I know the feeling of the bridge holding, and the feeling of something settling down below my feet so that I can not just step, but leap forward. I know the feeling of landing on something sure and solid, even though it be a belly-flop. I know the stinging truth that there is no way back. And I know the feeling of being alone and being OK. And then of trusting in the fathomless mysteries among which I am not alone at all.