Where we belong


Marriages end. Marriages begin. Love blossoms. Love fades.

“How did we get here from there?” we ask.
Or: “How do we get there from here?”

Some say there is no there. Only here.
Is that true?

Doesn’t every beginning embody its ending?

Don’t love and hate, union and dissolution, copulate?

Maybe our job is not to arrive or transcend but to…
What…
Realize?
That it is all here.
Beneath us.
Within us.

And to understand that right here is where we decide:

How to coincide.

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From Mint to Tulsi Rose

My mothers cup.

Just after my mother died (about the age I am now), my husband began placing a mug of tea beside the bed while I nursed our second son. Mint. A herb that’s been with me since before my First Bleed.

This waking ritual went on for some time. From the single bedroom we all crowded into on Ames Hill to the sprawling house atop Cow Path to the cozy post & beam raised by friends on MacArthur road where we’ve lived ever since, and where Motherhood gave way to Menopause and Mint to Tulsi Rose.

Every morning for an unfathomable… 18 years.

Until yesterday.

With Aidan off to college by week’s end, I’m ready to find what comes from fixing my own morning tea and curious to see what arises in the space for Casey; though I did have to remind him this morning, so comforted is he by the well-worn routine of tending others.

Return

We met and fell in love (and later celebrated our marriage) on this narrow strip of land between the ocean and the bay, long before our hairs were gray and gravity & weight had its way.

Moved by a song, we stopped the car and danced there beside the marsh, undisturbed for a precious few moments, before the hoots & hollers & honks interrupted our flow.

“GET A ROOM!” someone yelled from the line of traffic inching toward the drawbridge or was it from the steady stream of cars heading toward the island?

“WE HAVE A HOUSE!” I wish I responded.

“You made a lot of people happy,” said the guy behind the camera, as the song ended and we got back into the car. “So many people were smiling.”

At 18, our youngest was surprisingly unembarrassed by the new waiter who would become his father and the manager who would become his mother–as they danced across from the sea-shelled driveway that led to the Crab House where they became—us—in 1986—as the sun set over the intercoastal waterway–on the way to Cape May.
~
SUMMER BREEZE LOVE-TOUR DATA ROLL:


3 states, 6 siblings, 5 siblings-in-law, 6 nieces, 4 nephews, 2 cousins, 1 aunt, 1 parent, 1 stepparent, 1 sister of my grandmother, 1 second cousin and 3 cousins once-removed, one circle of lifetime friends from highschool (celebrating the life of one passed), 2 four-legged friends (only one who bites)…

lots of storms, 1 beach afternoon, 1 beach morning, 1 solo sunrise walk in my pj’s (because I’m 54 and men go topless), several sunsets, one timeless Cape May – Lewes Ferry crossing with my sister’s family (who made a round trip just to ride with us)…

2 different pies from 2 different sides of the Delaware Bay (Grotto Pizza & Sam’s Pizza Palace), Dolle’s popcorn, Laura’s fudge, Dogfish Head (shout out to Flesh & Blood!), West Side Market (for the best cheesesteaks!), Kohler’s Bakery–3 minutes after opening (with a line already dozens deep), one blissed-out hour at H&H Seafood picking crabs and swallowing steamers, mussels, shrimp & scallops…

1 Beach Creek Oyster Bar & Grille happy hour, 2 breakfasts with sisters including eggs benedict at Congress Hall, Cape May with a side of several winks from our late mother…

One 6-seated bike ride in fierce conditions (thanks for the off-roading & laughter D R Bradley’s Bikes Rentals), one niece on guitar & vocals, one starring at Cape May Stage, one dancing at the YMCA…

one rescue pause of chardonnay with my Aunt Ann on her porch in West Cape May…

4 different beds, too many steamy nights, too many latte rebounds…

lots of ocean breezes & soft conversations, 3 attempts at a sandcastle, 2 surf immersions on the beaches of my childhood (Wildwood Crest Beach!!), 1 getting too old to jump in the waves neck injury, 1 parting moment along the awesome Angelsea Seawall…

1 dance beside the marshland where we met & fell in love & married

1 more attempt at reframing these micro-visits as heroic acts of LOVE & DEVOTION instead of never enough or too much. 

Spoiled or Met?

Casey does a gazillion things for me, like bringing me tea or a glass of water or covering me up or turning off the lights; the accumulation of which, over time, fills my empty childhood cup, parched dry from neglect, and early parentification, and a lifetime of tending all those who were abandoned after me. The thing is, it’s been 30 something years, and my inner child shows no sign of satiation.

Is she spoiled?

Indulged?

Or simply, finally, deservingly loved.

Graduation Missed

A shop keeper in  Donegal turned me on to Yeats (and wool),and some time later, I copied down this  verse so as to lure a lover back to me whose passion I mistook for soul.

I’d found a four-leaf clover on the day that I told him that I had to go.

“You’ll miss my graduation,” he said, and I did, after I extended my time abroad.

I suppose he never forgave me even with all the letters I sent and the Aran sweaters I brought home.

But this poem and I remained forever close.

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.
Though it’s only now, “Old and grey” myself (though not quite “nodding  by the fire,”) that I realize that I was the “Pilgrim soul” to whom I would pledge my heart.

Casey’s 50 Things

Open Clip Art .com
Open Clip Art .com

My beloved turns 49 this September, and I suggested he turn his yearning for completion into a year-long adventure toward 50.

Here goes!

  1. Front steps
  2. Back steps
  3.  Attic stairs
  4. Sheetrock attic
  5. Install bathroom fan
  6. Finish stairs to basement
  7. Shelving on stair landing to basement
  8. Door on shop
  9. Continue organizing basement areas
  10. Label water lines in basement
  11. Create a chart to document filter changes
  12. Repair bulkhead leaks
  13. Wrap around patio
  14. Box in pipes
  15. Kid’s closet
  16. Bedroom balcony
  17. Finish master closet
  18. Shave doors
  19. Straighten doors
  20. Finish doors
  21. Remove ceiling nails
  22. Trim
  23. Spackling
  24. Painting
  25. Repair or replace kitchen cabinets
  26. Complete stone path to shower
  27. Continue stone wall behind garden
  28. Raise garden bed
  29. Screened porch
  30. Complete classroom website
  31. Continue morning pages
  32. Develop a consistent organizational system
  33. New prescription for glasses
  34. Apologize to mother for youthful neglect
  35. Retrieve losses
  36. Six-pack
  37. Retrieve self
  38. Fortify self-awareness
  39. Honor 25 years of marriage
  40. Clarity/individuation in emerging adult relationships with sons
  41. Reconnect with nature more regularly
  42. Integrate more yoga philosophy into classes
  43. A balanced relationship to lifting
  44. A healthy relationship with cardio work
  45. Continue exploration of Ayurveda and eating
  46. Release legacy of powerlessness
  47. Release SERVING for ACCEPTANCE
  48. AWARENESS of CHOICES
  49. AGENCY
  50. Self-Honoring

A recipe for love…

An illustration from Eric Carle’s new picture book “Friends.”
An illustration from Eric Carle’s new picture book “Friends.”

She was struck that others were so struck when she explained that her vows had been undone. “We don’t believe in them anymore,” she’d explain, and then in the face of their panic, she’d quickly add: “But we’re still monogamous and passionate about our partnership”

No one seemed to understand, and so she wasn’t sure. Was she really willing to live without vows? Without promises?

She was, only because she had seen so many of those promises broken in marriages all around her.

There was no such thing as solid ground when it came to relationship. Soft ground was needed. More like water, than rock. Yielding. Flowing.

If she had to create a new recipe for marriage, it might look like this…

Whimsy

Errors

Devotion

Dying

Invitation

Noticing

Growing

The Taste of True Love

Anniversary celebrations, particularly at this stage of the game, traditionally include a “renewal of vows” –but if you’ve been following this blog, you already know that I don’t believe in them; which raises the question–What do I believe in?

Dissing vows or admitting that I don’t put much stock in: “till death do us part,” probably doesn’t give a full enough picture of how important this relationship is to me–nor  does it reveal how hard I work to protect it. As a lifelong educator, the least I could do is to offer whatever wisdom I’ve gleaned from a relationship that’s been allowed to thrive for 25 years.

I touched on this with a fellow American, as we walked through the streets of Santiago last month. Noah talked about open relationships–and swapping, and I talked about fidelity.

“It’s not that I think that there is something inherently wrong with the way you see it,” I say, to my young American friend.  In fact, I appreciate the transparency of Noah’s generation. “Back in my day, we just cheated on each other, while pretending that we were ready for commitment.”

“When you have kids, the cost is greater,” I explain, referencing friends whose marriages fell apart after swapping; or whose relationship survived, but suffered root-deep damage.

A sobering silence follows. Noah and I both share the history of a “broken” family.

We pause at a playground on the hillside of Saint Lucia. I explain to Noah that Casey and I don’t stay together for the kids, but that we are extra careful because of them. He climbs atop an intricate metal structure, as I talk about the preciousness and weight of parental responsibility–while considering that this playground would be an insurance nightmare in the States.

Noah motions to me to join him on a long, wooden seesaw.

“That doesn’t mean our world revolves around the kids or that we don’t take risks,” I tell him, as he raises me precariously into the air. “Casey and I are committed to having lives that are alive,”  I say, “He took off for a month last summer to study yoga, and I did something similar a few years before that.”

It was after the birth of our second son that Casey and I realized that we were both holding back in some subconscious attempt to maintain the stability of “equal deprivation.”  We decided then and there that we wouldn’t survive this way–so we gave each other permission to act on behalf of our selves–even if left the “other” behind for a bit. There was a great deal of vulnerability in that decision, but ultimately it brought new life to the relationship.

When you spend an entire day with a man you hardly know, these are the kind of conversations you  have as you walk along the river in a foreign city past lovers lying in the grass.

The topic returns to sex.

“One surprise is that it keeps getting better,” I say. The same is true for another friend of mine from school who has been married longer than me, and who was just as much a “player” as I was back in the day.

“There’s a gift that comes from commitment, from fidelity, that draws lovemaking from an even deeper source,” I tell Noah.  “It’s not something than can be artificially stimulated by the titillating experience of swapping–or by pornography.”

I launch into my organic sex soapbox; and Noah politely listens.  College students “living life” suffer enough lectures from middle-aged professors “about” life, without having to endure another from a friend of their mother’s; but I’m on a roll…

It’s really hard to capture how loosely and how carefully Casey and I hold this gift of our relationship. We certainly don’t pretend we aren’t attracted to others. We’ve always known that each of us is susceptible to falling in love–or lust–with someone else. We’re pretty honest about the close calls. We’re in this together, and we remind each other of that.

After 25 years, I think Casey would be really happy with a long-legged brunette with silky hair who rides horses and has a barn and who challenges him–on the outside.

Instead, he’s got this curvy, curly-haired petite woman who regularly has him traversing the inner landscape of just about everything, whether he wants to or not.

Today, it’s Noah who’s traversing, and he redirects the strength of current with a “Terre Mote,” a famous Chilean drink, appropriately named, “Earthquake.”  A third of the way down, Noah’s voice gets louder, and mine softens into the sweet memory of the youthful abandon I see everywhere around me in this outdoor bar.  By the time night falls in Santiago, and Noah and I return to Nunoa to eat Egyptian food with our hands. I am too tired to talk, and my thoughts turn inward.

The love my husband and I share is so strong that it increasingly has us placing each other’s happiness above our own comfort–even 5,000 miles away, when I’m sleeping in another man’s apartment–a Chilean colleague who I described via email to my husband as “gorgeous.” Granted “Pablo” is away for the weekend, which is why he lent me his place, but that doesn’t stop Casey from slipping into a well of self-doubt on the opposite continent. Casey didn’t realy his angst, however, because he appreciated how VITAL  it was for me to find myself “free” in the world again.

When I return home to the States two weeks later, I laugh when he shares what he put himself through, and then exhale, as he wraps his arms around me and reclaims me as his own.

There was a time when I would have loved to have “collected” another experience–a swarthy Chilean man, for example; but that fleeting pleasure has become “too” sweet for my taste, which has grown much finer.

Kelly Salasin, May 19, 2011

On my 21st Wedding Anniversary

Till Death Do Us Part

Earlier this week, I wrote the post, “Happy Anniversary–I don’t promise you anything,” and now I want to confess that this isn’t the whole truth of our 21 year old marriage.

It is true that after all these years of watching relationships end, that Casey and I don’t believe it’s possible to promise something like “till death do us part;” and neither do we find it practical to say that “we will cherish one another all the days of our lives,” (especially since I wasn’t cherishing him on our way out the church); but what we do still believe in, more than ever, is not each other, but LOVE.

We don’t even have to promise to love each other forever because we know that love is stronger than promises; heck it’s even stronger than divorce; and it definitely surpasses death.

What we ARE committed to is prioritizing love–to continually work toward giving it a front and center seat in our lives.

Casey and I are so committed to LOVE that we don’t promise to stay with each other forever.  If there isn’t love–the “alive” kind that nurtures and invigorates–then we’re not willing to wilt on the vine together just because we once said, “I do.”

This type of commitment–without the promise of tomorrow–leaves us feeling fragile, and inspires us to tend to the preciousness of the gift we share, right now.

Kelly Salasin, May 18, 2011

on the eve of our 21st wedding anniversary

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