Mountains of Light: Seasons of Reflection in Yosemite (River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize)

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Light flows down the mountains and fills the photographs of Yosemite I took a few weeks ago. The memory of sitting here with her last year radiates through the glen.


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It was her last trip. Six months later she would die of an unknown heart problem in her forties, and my journey through grief began. Kind of.

Yosemite Nature Notes - 7 - Tuolumne River

So it must be her face. But not quite. I mention this to Barbara when she calls a day later.

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She says her psychic friend was talking to her recently about other matters when he mentioned that Ev was interrupting him, wanting to know what Barbara was looking at. Barbara said it was a picture of Evelyn.

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Ev laughed. She had forgotten what she looked like. But the reason that Barbara was calling was to tell me that when I was in Yosemite and asked Ev to do something to let me know if she was still around, that Ev had responded. At that moment the clouds changed colors and I was speechless. I wrote it off as a coincidence, even though a friend who lives in the valley had never seen anything like it.

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Now it takes a step closer to being real. I was in Yosemite for a number of reasons—to hike through the mountains in its fall colors, but also to honor last year when Evelyn and I helped our friends Francesco and Molly celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary. Molly had been struggling with brain cancer for most of their marriage. Surgery and chemotherapy had halted the disease, but we wondered if Molly sensed her remission was ending.

That evening the four of us thought of nothing but love and good friends at an elegant, candlelight dinner at the posh Ahwahnee Hotel. The next morning, Ev spotted a Native American craft item that she knew would be perfect for Francesco and Molly and bought it for them.


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Their journey together is now measured by time. Closing my eyes, I still see Francesco and Molly standing in their wedding clothes by the flat rock in the woods where the Ahwahnechees ground acorns into food, sharing their promises to be there for each other, no matter what happened.

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Evelyn and I still walk in the warm sunlight that seems shaded in eclipse, a half light careful not to shine too bright and overwhelm the valley. Moments of eternity like this do not come often, nor the grace I felt sitting next to Evelyn in the hospital. Although she never woke up, I sensed that she waited for me to arrive so that I could share the grace of being with her when death came. During those long, quiet hours, in the space of ordinary time, life and death quietly exchanged places, and darkness whispered its secret that this was the completion of light.

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Mark Liebenow is the author of four books, most recently Mountains of Light: Seasons of Reflection in Yosemite , published by the Univ. This essay is from his unpublished grief memoir.


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For more information about his writing, please go to www. This entry was posted on April 14, at am and is filed under Junk Spring , Mark Liebenow with tags journey together now measured by time , Mark Liebenow , Mountain Light , She had forgotten what she looked like.

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River Teeth: A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative

Mountain Light by Mark Liebenow Light flows down the mountains and fills the photographs of Yosemite I took a few weeks ago. Like this: Like Loading Leave a Reply Cancel reply Enter your comment here Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:. Email required Address never made public. Name required. Blog at WordPress. Post to Cancel. Post was not sent - check your email addresses! Sorry, your blog cannot share posts by email.

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