Unfortunately, there will be no telling the tail of my 600 mile adventure along the Iditarod Trail in Alaska last winter. I am writing this only as a brief explanation of how it ended and why a part of me is (and may always be) still out there. In my mind there exists some alternate reality where some version of me, frozen in time, is just outside the small village of Koyukuk, AK. He's still scheming and pushing to continue the struggle, hoping to complete the final miles to Nome
It's reality where I, ultimately, return home to share with the people I love the story of not just the physical accomplishment, but the spiritual journey I'd taken along the way. And, when I imagine it, I see myself standing beneath the massive cliff looking up, ignorant of what awaits me. Alas, I am still just grounded enough to not allow that reality's existence (tempting though it may be) to shield me from what did happen.
In the real world, I continued on into the village and was met by a local official on snowmachine first asking Beat and then me "are you Steve?" After which I was given instructions for contacting the Alaska State Troopers. A year earlier at mile 200 of this race, I'd been delivered the news of my father's passing. Now, 400 miles further down that same trail, I was to learn that I had lost so much more. The woman with whom I'd been married, helped raise two amazing boys and watch them grow into men--my best friend of 20 years--was gone.
Six months now and I really don't have much more to say. These words have become no easier to write except, perhaps, that I am now able to actually write them. In all honesty, I am only doing so because it has become, in some sense, easier than not explaining or, rather, having to explain at random times and in unexpected situations. It's one of those things they never tell you about grief. The hardest thing is simply having to explain.
If I could wish for one thing, it would be for, somehow, the news to have been delivered in my absence into the ear of all but my closest friends so that I didn't have to be the one to do it. I'm not an especially social person, so having each of my infrequent interactions with casual acquaintance and family friends consist of the conversation-ending story of my personal tragedy is probably the most difficult part. That and the inevitable, but understandable flood of condolences that follow.
If I had a second wish, it would be to ask people to please, stop saying "I'm sorry". I understand the need to say "something" and maybe it is said more for them than for me. However, I just can't help thinking that, right now, sorrow seems to be this ever present theme smouldering beneath the surface of everything I do. Each time I hear that phrase along with the offers for "anything I need", no matter how well-meaning and sincere, it just seems to add more fuel to the fire. I've enough sorrow of my own, I don't really need more. The fact is, beyond my closest friends and family who have been and continue to be here for me, there really is nothing anyone can do.
With everyone else, though, I really just want some semblance or at least remembrance of "normal life." Simply knowing that you know is enough. There truly is nothing more I ask, but if you do really feel the need to offer something beyond the usual platitudes (and, since this blog's readership consists mostly of runners and other outdoor enthusiasts), then if we happen to meet, please just share with me your upcoming races, next adventure, hiking plans or anything that represents those values that we might have in common. Values really are the whole point of life and sharing them the point of friendship.
As for this blog, I'm not sure if it will be continuing. It's been mostly silent for more than a year as is. I did recently finish Hardrock, but don't expect to write anything therein. I have been doing more writing on my other, older, even less-read blog. It's filled with random, sometimes philosophic musings and the occasional wine-inspired bit of poetry. I don't expect to garner readership there as its contents will likely seem foreign to even some of my closest friends, let alone those only casually acquainted with the extents of my thoughts and ramblings.
Thanks for reading. Happy trails.