Easter week, circa 1978, was the last week of my nervous breakdown. That's one of the reasons I love Easter, the only Christian holiday I feel attuned to.
My boyfriend and I were living in my volkswagon bus, in Portland, Oregon. Oh that Pacific Northwest low hanging overcast! Oh that rain ... it was not good for me especially because I was already such a mess. Anyway, I got crazier and crazier in the bus with the sound of rain falling constantly. I was utterly incapable of helping myself. It was awful.
When Easter week rolled around, I went to church - to get out of the rain, mostly. But I was so fractured, damaged and sliced open that the story of the end of Jesus's life got inside me, worked itself inside my shattered psyche. When I remember that time, I feel so sad about how much pain I was in.
Yeah, that was me, the crazy lady sitting in a pew at the back of the church, rocking and crying as I listened each night to the unfolding of the story. It was a powerful experience.
On Good Friday, I found a pair of scissors in the bus and cut my hair very short. It was only then that my boyfriend understood something was seriously wrong with me. I had been telling him, but he couldn't, or wouldn't, see it.
On ... Good Saturday? What do they call the day between Good Friday and Easter? ... we drove out to the Columbia River Gorge where we often hiked. Spending time out there felt more like camping than being homeless, and we both loved the long walks through the ferns and past the waterfalls.
We woke early on Easter morning, began our hike. It was dark and of course raining, but for some reason we were inspired to walk far beyond where we usually turned around. We kept climbing and climbing until we were inside the low overcast. Rain didn't fall there, it condensed on every surface, including us. It was like being in the densest fog you can imagine. We kept walking up the trail and now it was getting lighter and then - a miracle - we hiked above the overcast.
The tip of Mt. Hood stuck up above the layer of cloud. We could see the tips of other mountains as well. The most important thing was the blue, blue sky above us. I had not seen blue sky in months.
I started laughing, the laughter accelerated into hysteria. Then I cried. After that I lay down and stared/squinted at the blue sky for about an hour. I was dry and warm for the first time in what seemed like forever.
At last we went back into the cloud, then below the cloud, back to the bus in the rain. Something fundamental had changed within me. It was an incredible day, the end of my nervous breakdown.
Within a couple of weeks we'd put down a rental deposit for a nice apartment. I found a job, after a trip to a hair salon to have my chopped up hair styled. I got a new pair of contact lenses through which I could see clearly. The tide had turned.
Of course I had a long ways to go before I was truly functional, and years of therapy and other work before I could begin to understand what had happened, but that day, that Easter Sunday so many years ago, was a real Easter. I felt it, I knew it in my body, what it meant to shove a big rock out of the way and get out of the cave. I will never forget that day.
I'm not working on Easter this year. I wonder how I'll spend the day. Walking around, probably, taking pictures.
I've told this story before, but I think that was on my first blog, now long gone. That Easter is now long gone as well. Thank God!