This week's photography project was 100 Steps. My assignment was to walk 100 steps from a starting point and take some pictures. The point of this particular assignment is to get us out of the house at a time it may be difficult to do so. Had I started this project in March, this would have been helpful. When you are first fighting grief, the outside world is terrifying. 100 steps doesn't sound so bad. It's doable. While this summer has not been at all what I had planned or even wanted, it has taken me all across the country. For my 100 Steps project, I picked a few starting points during my trip to Boston and I took pictures where I ended up. (The journal assignment to accompany these photos was to write about what I am grateful for. I decided to do that as a separate post. It's entitled Gratitude and should be posted at the same time as this one.)
My sister is training to run her first marathon in October, so she was starstruck by the Boston Marathon course. One of her goals for our time there was to walk up Heartbreak Hill. So, we took the T to Boston College armed with our smartphones. Using a clever mixture of Wikipedia, Google Maps, and some helpful locals, we were able to find the start of the hill, at mile marker 20 of the marathon's course - and three miles from our train stop. I thought it fitting that my 100 steps begin at the bottom of a hill named after the moment someone's heart was broken. I snapped a picture of Kenley's Boston K at the bottom of the hill and then began to walk as I counted to 100.
100 steps isn't really all that far. It was just enough to get about four houses up the hill. In the corner of the yard where we stopped, there was an old, gnarled tree stump. It reminded me of the trees I pictured while writing this post. The only difference is the trees in that post were looming over me and this one had been cut down to a stump. A stump is a defeated tree. To me, this stump meant more to me than just a tree that once was. It was a symbol of my grief. Cut down to size by all of my efforts to heal. I used black and white for this picture for the obvious reasons of how sometimes the world seems gray and colorless, and no matter how hard I might work to chop this forest down, the stumps will always remain. For the rest of my life, all of my victories will always be bittersweet.
Across the sidewalk from the stump was a round traffic mirror attached to a tree. There are so many different ways I could take this symbolism, but I have chosen to look at it like this: the mirror is a reflection of myself and how I have changed in this journey. It reflects down to the bottom of Heartbreak Hill. It shows me where I have been, the path I have taken to get here. The reflection is distorted, like memories are distorted with grief and pain. I can look in that mirror all I want. I can focus in on where I have been and how much it hurts - or I can turn away and focus on the road ahead. I choose to move forward.
I took a few other pictures at this location, but they weren't all that exciting. I do, however, want to tell you about a few pictures I took several hundred steps later. At the very top of Heartbreak Hill. The trek down to the base from our train was rainy and gray. The mugginess of the air rivaled Florida on it's worst days. It was oppressive and heavy. As we crossed the street to begin the 100 steps, the air started to clear a little bit. The thick cloud cover began to break apart like a crumbling cookie, and a cool breeze managed to find its way through the sticky stillness. Walking uphill somehow seemed easier than walking down in the first place. The top of Heartbreak Hill is crowned by Boston College. Obviously, I needed to get a picture of Kenley here, so I did.
But, the remarkable part of this trek up the hill was the sky when I reached the top. The clouds had parted. The threatening storm dissipated. The weight of air lightened. At the top of the hill, directly above me, was this sky.
A parting grief to make way for the sunlight of days to come. I am not finished with this journey. I have reluctantly realized I will never be. Heartbreak Hill is here to stay. So, I'll lace up my sneakers and pound that pavement. I will walk this path until the day I die. The road may smooth a bit. The clouds may drift away. But, I will still be here. Walking. Fighting. Living.