Guest blogger Scott Newport recently returned from a trip to Everglades National Park. During the trip, he employed a technique to deal with grief over the loss of his son, Evan. In today’s post, Scott explains how he used the practice of scooping up things during his trip down south.
Scooping Up Things:
From the Most Irritating No-See-Um
to the Greatness of the Full Moon
I just returned from an adventure to the Everglades National Park with one of my high school buddies. He and I go way back. When we were sixteen and first got our driver’s licenses, $1.20 would buy two gallons of gas, just enough to get to his house and back. Before I left for Florida, I made sure to give my son Noah a big hug goodbye. This trip was going to be my first real getaway since the birth of my other son, Evan.
Evan would have been ten this year. Since I was going to be gone for three days, I wondered if Noah would see my absence as another loss. I know any time he goes away for the night, I feel a loss. I think once you have lost a family member, you realize the unthinkable can come true. On the flight from Michigan to Florida, Noah continued to be on my mind. He’s such a great kid, but I often worry if surviving the death of his younger brother will one day manifest in a negative way. So far, Noah has turned to positive outlets for coping.
Scooping Up Things
For me, my main survival skill has been what I like to call “scoopin g up things.” I can make it through each day if I embrace the simple things in life. With every breath I inhale, I scoop up in my mind what I think has value. I do this almost unconsciously as I go about my daily work and routines. And of course, this trip would be no different—of course I’d be looking for things to scoop up, examine, and save. On our first night in the Everglades, my buddy and I camped on an old Seminole mound fifty miles from the isolated boat ramp from which we’d launched. We saw alligators everywhere, floating silently in the meandering waterways or sunning their gnarly black bodies on the muddy banks as we motored past. Soaring black vultures circled overhead and long-legged white herons waded in the brackish water. When we stopped to eat lunch, I sat at the back of the boat. While no-see-ums swarmed around my head I searched for anything that may be lurking around the boat.
Scooping Up Beauty
My eyes immediately spotted a family of tiny translucent minnows darted between the roots of the far-reaching arms of the mangroves. With every organ of their thinness exposed, I wondered how long the minnows would live; how long they had been alive. On shore, ancient lemon and banana trees were visible among the thick foliage, evidence of indigenous families that used to live there. The smell of those trees was something I had never experienced before. Overwhelmed by the process of scooping up these things, I took a deep breath, grabbed my notebook, and started to jot down my thoughts.
Before my trip, I thought that the night sky over the Everglades would be full of brilliant stars but, in fact, the moon is so bright the stars are dimmed. On our last night in the Everglades, the full moon was king, opening a whole new day in the darkness for me to scoop up my treasures. As we poled my buddy’s flat boat around the spider’s web of inlets, ripples on the water glistened smoothly as they rose and fell, radiating away from our boat. We couldn’t see any alligators, but we heard their midnight rumbling noises resonating for miles.
Scooping Up Words
I felt like my time in the Everglades could provide me with a lifetime of storytelling material. After paying three dollars for a much needed shower at the little store by the boat launch, I said goodbye to my friend and headed for the airport. On my flight home, I opened my notebook and gazed again on the Everglades. The descriptive words and phrases I had written down while on my buddy’s boat took me back in a flash. My short notes and childlike sketches made me smile and reminisce. I was sure to get a dozen poems out of the scribbles. Even though I took pictures on our adventure, I prefer words on a page when it comes to sharing my trip with my friends and family. Words seem to better capture the simple things I scoop up. The young girls seated next to me must have thought I was nuts as I kept a silent smile on my face during the whole flight.
Share Your Grief
Though I’ve never been to the Everglades, the images Scott scooped up and shared made me feel like I was there. Tomorrow, he’ll describe how his son Noah helped him scoop up joy enough to bear the grief of his loss for one more day. Scott knows that sharing your feelings is one way of coping with grief. So feel free to leave a comment about the grief you bear and how you deal with it. Remember, you are not alone.