Mt. Bromo Sunrise
“Mom,” my youngest daughter said, “if you fly out of LA on February 13th you’ll arrive in Melbourne on the 15th, it would be like February 14th never existed.”
Perfect. On my flight from LA to Melbourne, somewhere over the Pacific, what would have been my twenty-eighth anniversary disappeared. Just like my life had.
At the beginning of my trip I figured I’d just disappear too—somewhere in the world. It was an idea that gave me great comfort. What disappearing would look like, I wasn’t sure. One thing was clear, I needed to end the pain. A pain I nicknamed the black hole. A pain that had nearly consumed me when I boarded the Quantas flight. Before disappearing, I’d spend all my money on a journey to make one life-long dream come true.
I remember how scared I was when I said goodbye to my friend Dee in Melbourne. Her family had been so gracious during my stay. From that flight on, I’d travel alone. The idea fascinated and terrified me. In reality though, I traveled alone in life for a very long time, and hadn’t even known it. Perfect strangers I’d meet taught me more about compassion, love and friendship than I’d ever known. An ocean away from the trauma, I met myself in the world.
My life-long dream to do research for my screenplay took me to the island of Java, the island where my dad grew up. The trip would inform the setting of the true World War II story about how and why my dad, a Dutch colonial boy, had been taken prisoner by the Japanese. I interviewed Dad off and on for over ten years when my plane touched down in Jakarta. Together, we unearthed dates, places and situations long murky in his mind. Our talks brought us closer in ways difficult to describe. I still had so many questions. About Dad’s experience. About my own. Destiny would take me to the island where my father fought for his survival as I was having to fight for mine.
When we first separated, my now ex-husband came to me every night in my dreams. Not in a creepy way, just in the way a great love would when love falls apart. A sad sort of comfort. We’d known each other for thirty years. Grown up together. Because we’d had them so young, we grew up with our children too. There wasn’t one place, thing, song, phrase that didn’t recall tragically happy memories. I needed something of my own.
My roommate Hannah and I sleepwalked into our clothes. Together with our traveling companions, we piled in five jeeps to take the dizzying, nighttime drive to summit Mt. Bromo. I sat in the far back seat of one of the jeeps. Every twist and turn sent mystery metal digging into my hip or thigh. My friends and I had braved many adventures on our tour together. This one was the earliest. After a short hike to the summit we waited, having no idea what beauty we’d witness. What wonders sat in the darkness below.
I saw The Southern Cross for the first time. My friends and I sung the Crosby, Stills and Nash song of the same name. As I sang, I understood why I came to Java— the truth I ‘d been running from was so strong, it was as big as the promise of the coming day.
In the pink and purple smoke of many shrouded volcano peaks, at the summit of Mt. Bromo, the sun rose. Illuminating beauty out of the darkness. It was my sunrise. All mine. A new beginning. An invitation to do the very same thing within my own life. To illuminate the darkness. I am the sunrise. In that moment, I decided I’d always go big. This big trip, this big sunrise called me to trust my big dreams. I’d no longer need to doubt or be frightened by them any longer. I’d bravely keep on dreaming. Keep on living, to discover myself and my passions in the face of catastrophe.
There were a million reasons not to summit Mt. Bromo at dawn and stay stuck in fear. To pull back, especially in the face of so much pain and uncertainty. Going big will always be my North Star. I believe love is like volcano smoke. Sometimes it’s thick. Sometimes it’s thin. It takes different shapes and isn’t always what you’d expect. Love can surprise and overwhelm and thrill. It can survive and even transform, becoming more beautiful in destruction.
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