for Our love & for that morning.

alcatraz federal prison, 22 november 2018; photographed by pan ellington

I stood on the top deck at the back of the boat, hands in my pockets, wondering at the depth and warmth of the darkness and the very bright light of the moon. It would be my first adventure without Her, something I’d wanted to see since I landed up here, turning then into something I imagined we’d one day do as a family, turning then into something I would end up doing alone, feeling the spirit of Her in the wind instead of actual Her next to me, the warmth and love of Her hand in mine.

One of the last to disembark, I followed the stream of people making their way up the steeply graded road of the Rock, the pavement glistening and scenting of moss, still wet from rain the days before, though milder than I expected it’d be. I turned and stole a look behind me, my perspective changed?? by my place on this island, out of the city, horizon unobstructed, feeling at one with the earth and ocean and night sky, the warm buzz of murmuring conversation wrapping its arms around me as Her breeze kicked up above again.

after the closing benediction, indigenous people’s sunrise ceremony, alcatraz island, 22 november 2018; photographed by pan ellington.

The Circle well formed around the warm, sparking bonfire, the lighthouse looming above us, lit dramatically and ominous. I’d find a spot on the Bay side of the Circle, huddling in amongst the crowd made of Native people, Bay Area people, normie couples and their kids, people in Giants caps, Oakland caps, Warriors caps. I looked up at the stars, burning sage dancing on the air and smoking it all away.

gathered together in silhouette, alcatraz island, 22 november 2018; photographed by pan ellington.

The dancers took their places in line not far from me, men and boys dressed as birds, of course. I watched them prepare their entrance in costumes complete and authentic to hybrid. The beat of the drums marked the beginning of the morning’s ceremony, beginning softly, aft first, then increasing in volume and power with the chants of the singers, the two sounds combined, pulling me in, into that moment, and the next, and the next, one after the other. I closed my eyes and tilted my head back, letting them cleanse me, there in that moment, cleansing Her, too, letting them mark for me the beginning of something new, the beautiful new, the beautiful sadness after tumultuous change, letting them mark for me the hope inherent in survival as I stood there alone, but not, in that moment and never again to be so because of the Her She’s become.

sunrise on the rock, alcatraz island, 22 november 2018; photographed by pan ellington.

The closing speaker, in her remarks, waxed on goodness in her benediction — acting in goodness, speaking and writing in goodness, for ourselves and for others, for strangers and for our friends and for the Earth. She spoke of seeing the goodness amongst the flaws and failings in ourselves, in those we love, and in those we do not. I let her words wash over me as the morning had and as both were coming to their close. And then I wept. For Her illness and the loss of Her and the loss of Her goodness. For Bea. I turned to see the sunrise. And then I wept in gratitude. That it was me, in all my flaws and in all of my failings. For Our love and for that morning.

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