We visited Mount Rainier National Park, Washington for our 11 year dating anniversary October 13th.
Within the first 24 hours, I had an incredible life epiphany involving the movie Rambo First Blood, which is filmed in Washington (and Canada, let’s be honest).
By the time we arrived at our cabin, it was dark and our son was already asleep, so after unpacking the car and tucking him into his bunk bed, my husband and I got to just sit out on the back deck, relax, and enjoy the woods. My husband and I kept remarking to each other how happy we were that it smelled like autumn. We are both from Western New York (AKA the 716) and LOVE everything about the fall. It is so hard to live in a desert when you love the fall.
As we were sitting, we both found ourselves smiling to hear that old familiar sound of an autumn leaf falling from its tree. I kept getting excited, straining my eyes into the darkness beyond the deck trying to see an elk. Over and over again, I found myself holding my breath and straining to hear what I hoped to be the sound of hooves walking on top of autumn leaves and branches. But something was not right.
It actually was not familiar. The sound. I couldn’t understand why it seemed like an animal was getting involved with the leaf as it fell from the tree when there ended up being no animal follow up sounds whatsoever. It was weird. Anticlimactic.
The next morning, we bundled ourselves up to explore the backyard in the daylight with our boy and I could not believe how beautiful it was.
As I was standing here taking in this moment I saw, for the first time, what my husband and I had been listening to last night. The noise started so high, I had to totally lift my face up to the sky to see what was going on. One huge leaf falling from the top of a 100 year old tree and hitting hundreds of branches on its lengthy descent to the forest floor.
Obviously that’s when it hit me. Rambo. As I have mentioned before in previous blog entries, Rambo First Blood is the greatest PTSD story ever told. I’m sure it’s no coincidence that my brothers and I watched it nearly every day of our lives as we navigated a horrifically abusive and neglectful upbringing. Since I was too young to be watching it, let alone memorizing it, many moments from that movie have stuck with me. Haunted me.
It was in this moment of watching the leaf fall that I finally understood what was so bad about the scene where Rambo jumps off the cliff and is badly injured, as he hits many tree branches before hitting the ground. Rambo wasn’t falling through upstate New York trees, he was falling through Old Growth, which means he had to hit MANY branches in order to reach the ground. More than I ever even knew about. Until just now in this moment.
Oh man. Rambo. It was worse than I thought.
I was so struck by this information that I began to excitedly point out the great distance the leaves were falling to my husband and son. I had this feeling of weird validation flowing through me because it now suddenly makes so much more sense that I would be haunted by the imagery of a human being falling through an old growth tree. But even as I was saying out loud to my family, “look at how many branches that leaf is hitting,” I became overwhelmed with a totally new idea:
In response to my question my brain showed me the other moment from Rambo First Blood that haunts me: in the scene shortly after Rambo falls through the trees, a police officer falls from the helicopter straight to the ground, landing face down on rocks. It is just horrific. The surprised sound of his scream as he falls. You can tell it was blunt force trauma that killed him when Rambo grabs him by the jacket and flips him over, revealing his smashed in dead face.
WHY ARE YOU SHOWING ME THIS?!
Oh. OH! OMG!!
That’s life. Who do you want to be? Rambo, the hero who hits every single branch before hitting the ground, who then is mercilessly shot at until he has to throw a rock to successfully defend himself so that he can stitch up his own wound in peace.
What’s the alternative?
The dirty cop that tries to murder Rambo in an insane abuse of power play who falls from the helicopter all the way to the ground and dies instantly.
Um. Rambo. Everytime.
This story resonates with me because 2014 has been packed with punches; loss, grief, hurdles, mind fucking power plays, you name it. I am tired.
Hey, also though, 2014 has been full of AMAZING gains emotionally, creatively, spiritually, personally and collectively. I love my journey. I am just getting started.
Do I hit a branch every damn day?
But at least I don’t fall all the way to the ground and die.