We walk along the trail at a leisurely place. The winding path is dusty in most places and wet in some places, mostly down near the creek that moves rapidly over boulders and the roots of swollen palm trees. Jagged rocks tower over the north side of the gorge. They take the oppressive heat in stride and have an air of intimidation about them, as if they are keeping watch over the miraculous water that helped form their very existence. A dry, mountainous desert borders the south side and seems to go on forever, ridge after tiresome ridge. Lizards run over rocks and around trees and seem to be anxious about everything. This is Indian territory and we tread solemnly, with regard for the sacred land. A half mile in, we find a nice smooth rock near the edge of the creek and take our shoes and socks off. Sitting down, I wrap my arms around my knees and dip my feet into the cold, cold water.
I can already feel my daughter, running over my toes and around my ankles.
Looking back, I don’t think there was ever much of a choice about what we would do with Margot’s little body. A casket and burial seemed like too much in those early hours after her death, as we held her in a state of shock. It felt like too many details and too unnatural, her body slowly decomposing away in a sealed casket underneath the ground somewhere in a city that we have just started calling home. Besides, what if we moved one day? How would we access her then? Instead, we opted for cremation. We wanted to spread her ashes into the earth.
We placed most of her ashes into a seasonal creek that runs out of the rocky and formidable San Gabriel Mountains. Once out of the foothills, the creek joins forces with the LA River and eventually makes it’s way out to the Pacific, the largest puzzle piece our earth possesses, connecting continents and bodies of water to one another. I didn’t know how important this one act would be until I started sensing Margot’s presence every time I entered into the ocean or river or stream, as if her ashes multiplied a million times over to cover every body of water I find myself in.
I slide my feet deeper into the water until the coldness hits my knees, the hair on my calves swooshing back and forth in unison. Margot rolls past, over and over until I lose myself in the symbolic water. I want to tear off my shirt and submerge my whole body under the surface. I want to swim with her, downstream, as far as she will take me.
I wearily immerse my hands into the water and collect as much of her in my cupped hands as possible. I miss you, I whisper, and then bring the water up to my face and let it wash over me.