I was just a girl when I met you.
All of 19, with a bright smile and the vague sense that something was wrong, disillusionment already creeping in at the edges.
I was in school that fall, wrestling with my first round of student teaching; you were nearly finished, set to graduate in the spring.
We bonded over the steaming hiss of the cappuccino machine, me on the 7-11 shift, you on the 6-12.
We read gardening books and poetry on break, you told me you were going to become an organic farmer when you finished school. “My farm will be in a valley at the foot of two hills,” you said, “I can picture it in my head.”
When you told me you were leaving town, I knew I was going with you, before the words ever left my mouth, before the thought even crossed your mind.
You were the angriest person I had ever met. Mad at the world, budding activist. Your body lean from running miles of trails, your favorite spot the ravine by the river where the flood waters tore through.
In a world of vanilla you were chocolate with caramel bits, and sprinkles. I would have followed you anywhere.
“You’re making a mistake.” My father said. “If you leave school now, you won’t go back.” The night before we left he tucked a small painting in my hand, by a local artist, a farm landscape, the barn against a backdrop of snow. “To remember home,” he said.
You and I watched the full moon move across the massive black sky in the Texas desert, silence so loud it was a ringing in our ears.
We hiked in the the grand canyon, at the top it was snowing, the bottom hot enough to swim. You carried a picture of your cousin, a victim of brutal violence, to the bottom, a place he had always wanted to visit. It was the first time I ever saw you cry.
We stayed with a sad widow in Austin, who sat with us and fed us coffee while we looked through her old family photos.
And visited an animal rehabilitation center, ghost eyed coyotes, and birds of prey, patiently waiting to heal, to be released.
We fell in love on the California Coast over campfire breakfasts on the beach, our only company a slick, black seal,
and beside the bone numbing waters in the canyons of Big Sur, their green waters swirling beside our tent; we read Kerouac, Chekov, Bukowski, laughed, made plans, made love.
We joined rally after rally, against the war with Iraq. Not sure if the marching made a difference, but swept up in the tide of things.
Someone handed us a copy of The Culture of Make Believe by Jensen. We read it in the shadows of the mighty pines, redwoods, and Sequoias. I cried for days on end, watched my understanding of the world slip away like so much smoke.
In the warmth of your love I taught myself to paint. The curves of your face, over and over, until my hands began to understand what my eyes saw, and I could draw anything, our backyard, the maple tree out front, the cicada on the window.
I played with colors while you sat feverishly typing, writing your poems, the words a kind of grieving for the childhood you never had, the world that had been too hard. I stirred rice to the rhythm of the typewriter keys. Click, click click, clack, clack.
We were born again together, in the mossy forests of the Pacific northwest, and the blazing, sandy deserts of the west. We became children again, shedding our worries and responsibilities, watching the sun set over the Channel islands, clutched to the soft breast of our great mother, the earth.
And when the broken record of our repeated argument cues up for a song, my frustration pours out, the tedium of everyday life, the pain of living in a collapsing ecosystem, the exhaustion of trying to make it in a world that has set us up for failure. And I apologize, because those irritations are not really directed at you. What I want to do is hold you close, bury my head in your chest and be still.
Our relationship speaks to me of what love can do. Love can transform, and make whole. It can wake you from a lifetime of slumber, inspire you to act, tear down old worlds and build new ones.
Our love is the kind that raises the sparks and pleases the gods. The old kind of love that the ancestors smile upon and the geese understand.
This kind of love is as old as the earth, and as warm as the sun. Silky as the softest sand.
Thank you for giving me a love like this. For giving me the blueprint I use for all my relationships, the model I use for my connection with this beautiful planet.
Thank you for giving me,
and forgiving me.
Each day with you is a gift.
I love you.
Follow your heart with reckless abandon, do not be afraid.
People will caution you, but do not listen.
We must allow ourselves to fall head over heels in love with ourselves, with each other, and with the earth.
And we will let that love be our guide.
Thank you for listening,