Feathers & Stacks

This my excavation and today is Kumran, Everything that happens is from now on……This is not the sound of a new man or crispy realization, It’s the sound of the unlocking and the lift away, Your love will be safe with me

-Stacks, Bon Iver

There wasn’t much I could do, but be present. I felt helpless alot of the time. Dad was not able to walk anymore. It was October, about 7 months before his spark rejoined its *parent Sun. He was not in the hospital at that particular time, but his health was rough; he was doing his best to keep his spirits up. Part of me felt guilty for being on vacation, but I knew that my parent’s wished me well. I was with 2 girlfriends on a multi-day trek in the highland Incan Trails of Peru. He was crazy about archaeology when he was a kid, so he would have loved this trip. I told myself that every step I took was for him, dedicated to him & to my mom, brother & husband, especially on the 3rd day.

As we ascended from Huacahasi to Ipsayqocha Pass at 14,000 feet late that morning, I realized I was grieving. There I was, lucky to be alive, healthy, able to take such a vacation, to be walking in this vast incredible landscape. There I was in all this beauty and yet there was a heaviness in my heart. We headed down into a nestled valley and had just finished lunch next to a lake. The group was setting off again, but I was not ready to leave. My boots caked in lovely mud, I stood on spongy earth next to the lake and watched a bird on the water. It was sunny & cool, the wind was steady and strong. One of our Perunvian guides, the quiet Quique, approached to let me know I needed to get going. He picked up a feather & handed it to me. Something in me came loose. I put the feather in my pocket & tried to stifle tears that started to flow. A comforting, cathartic instrumental melody came to me, too. Some vaguely familiar song.

I hung back and trekked in the back for the rest of the day & cried for who knows how long. Mixed with acceptance that one day I would be without his physical presence was acceptance of old sad regrets, all of my adolescent & young adult loves unspoken, affections unexpressed, all my holding back. There was recognition that I had learned from those I loved from afar & all that mattered was to apply those lessons to the here & now. I accepted that one day when he was gone he would still live in me and in all of those who knew him. Also that I was enough.


Later when I was home I realized the melody was Bon Iver’s Stacks. The 1st line in the lyrics had a word I did not recognize, kumran. This sweet little post explains that word & captures precisely the nature of the songs meaning to me. The line with the crow also makes me smile. Hope you enjoy today’s musical accompaniment when the time is right for you.

  • Attribution Note: The reference to a spark or ray of light “returning to its parent Sun” is from the writings of Sri Aurobindo. -not sure yet of which poem or work. It’s a line I remember from a memorial service pamphlet prepared by Rand Hicks to honor his dear friend, Robert Kleinman.


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