In the kitchen today over lunch, the subject of Canada's weather came up. It's cold in the evenings, and the lakes are clear, we said. My colleague had fished on a lake, and I had been with a love.
My heart sprung way back, into a July that happened a couple of lifetimes ago.
We drove,my love and I, through Indiana and into Michigan, all the way through the upper peninsula where the trees are taller and the road just doesn't end. Driving onward, we passed Mackinac island and the border, and on to back roads in Canada. We arrived at the cabin his grandfather built,and removed the boards from the windows, as tired travelers.
We had some really good fights and we knew how to make up. We also had some deep conversations, an easy affection for each other, and a propensity to be wrapped up in each other's energy. Whenever he greeted me, it was like something out of a "B"movie...like he hadn't seen me for years. He loved me after my first divorce, and when I felt lost or conflicted, or like bolting again, he would say, "I just want you to be happy." We were off and on for awhile before I decided he really did love me. My kids and family were none too thrilled about him, he had his quirks,and we pretty much drove each other crazy. He was, in every way, my best friend, my beloved, and there we were, in Canada, together.
The cabin was small and sparsely equipped. We cooked our meals on a small stove, and there were plenty of windows from which to watch the rain,or the lake. I found out the truth about Canadian mosquitoes. There was an outhouse and a boat,and a store about 15 miles up the road.
One day, we took the boat out and explored the lake.I don't remember anything we talked about, I just remember his presence. Sure, we were both musicians and creative beings with an appreciation for art, but there was much more than that.There are some people in your life that you just fold into, and feel safe with, who are not threatened by your quirks and idiosyncrasies but welcome you with unending grace and uncommon mercy. He was that for me, an absolute giver, my beacon of "unconditional positive regard."
We love who we love. We just do.
Years later, my heart broke with him over and over as we just could not find a way to make our paths converge and continue. That caused a trail of tears that seemingly lasted an eon. But we eventually found our way to new paths: his to a new love while mine definitely held much more pain, and also joy in more children.
"Why'd you leave a guy who would wash your hair?, my colleague asked, and I told him.
People are portals into memory, grief, love, and who we are inside. My old love was a portal into so much learning and growth, and if I saw him today I would embrace him and wish him love and we would go on our way. Some people lead you to your grief, others lead you to your worth. He showed me deepest love. Of course there is a tinge of wondering what would have happened, but life always moves just the way it is supposed to.
I've had a few loves since then, but none who carried such fire for so long with me. And it's not like I've not been open to what others offer and set them up to compete with distant memory or an idealized version of a past relationship. It's not like we weren't complicated and conflicted. It isn't like we didn't fight or have jealousy. It was just a beautiful love despite all that and still it couldn't last and that is just sad. And it's completely ok. It was there and now it's not. It is funny, though, how after so many years, after a period of finding fault with the situation and with him, all that is left is love. This is what I choose to remember most.
I fancied myself Annie Hall in that relationship. These days I jokingly refer to myself as the "Taylor Swift of 47-year-olds": "I go on too many dates, but I can't make'em staaayyy." Jokingly, for I am in charge of my love life or lack of love life...I choose. But when a lonely sting or an insecure pang hits me, I remember love. A former love said I was strong but he was wrong on some level, for I fall prey to sentiment and longing like anyone else. I am not invulnerable. I am still human because I love. I am love, I am loved, I have love, I have loved, I love.
Today I walked through a portal into another time, into a Canadian sky and a clear-to-the-bottom lake, into a certain melancholy, a few tears shed, a distant love.