Blue and gold are my favorite colors, so much so I created a Pinterest page named Blue & Gold to capture those radiant images that inspire me.
Now it’s the Ukrainians’ fight for freedom that inspires me, under that radiant banner of Democracy. So I’m sharing some blue and gold images from my page today in their honor, although I wish I could stand with them and fight at their side. I wish the world would.
I don’t think it’s enough to cheer them from the sidelines, or to merely send in arms and ammunition. If my neighbor’s home was under attack by Putin’s thugs, if their family and way of life was being threatened, would I simply stand at edge of my yard and not step foot into theirs to help them? Even if their attackers threatened me and my home if I did, would I bow to such threats?
And would I refuse to do so only because they did not happen to belong to my NATO club? I think not. Honor and love and the Golden Rule would not allow me to do so. If my home was under attack, wouldn’t I want my neighbor to come to my aid?
Why is it we are leaving Ukraine to fight this war alone? I know what the fear is—that doing so would start a World War III. But when we stood by and allowed Hitler to take over the Czech Republic in 1939, it didn’t stop world War II from happening. It seems a travesty to me that we are repeating past mistakes. Stop the bully now, don’t wait for him to defeat Ukraine and hope by doing so he won’t attack some weaker country later on. It will only encourage him.
There’s little I can do here to help the Ukrainians, but I dedicate this page to them and the colors of their flag. And I will pray for them. As well as for the United States: to do the honorable thing, the just and righteous thing, to step across that border and help them as the Golden Rule and love of Democracy and Freedom and plain decency demands.
I’ve been in a romantic mood lately. Both in the sensual and spiritual sense. This lust for life. This sense of wanting to “crack open our ribs and merge with” . . . well, everything.
After writing my valentine for lovers in my last post, I’ve been reading more of Neruda’s love poetry. The one below inspired this post. It too speaks to that sense of being one with what one loves.
I’ve paired it with two other Spanish romantics, Sorolla’s art, and the Spanish guitar music of Jacob Gurevitsch. His song “If Da Vinci Was a Girl” is a favorite, and the accompanying video speaks to that tender regard for the everyday beauty so often overlooked. As does the painting above of the artist’s wife and daughters at siesta. Those lush sensuous lines falling across a cool grassy knoll. Sigh! Makes me want to curl up beside them. Enjoy!
I crush her against me. I want to be part of her. Not just inside her but all around her. I want our rib cages to crack open and our hearts to migrate and merge. I want our cells to braid together like living thread.
— Isaac Marion, Warm Bodies.
Full woman, fleshly apple, hot moon, thick smell of seaweed, crushed mud and light, what obscure brilliance opens between your columns? What ancient night does a man touch with his senses?
Loving is a journey with water and with stars, with smothered air and abrupt storms of flour: loving is a clash of lightning-bolts and two bodies defeated by a single drop of honey.
Kiss by kiss I move across your small infinity, your borders, your rivers, your tiny villages, and the genital fire transformed into delight
runs through the narrow pathways of the blood until it plunges down, like a dark carnation, until it is and is no more than a flash in the night.
— Pablo Neruda, Selected Poems.
Where did love begin? What human being looked at another and saw in their face the forests and the sea? Was there a day, exhausted and weary, dragging home food, arms cut and scarred, that you saw yellow flowers and, not knowing what you did, picked them because I love you?
— Jeanette Winterson, Lighthousekeeping.
love is the voice under all silences, the hope which has no opposite in fear; the strength so strong mere force is feebleness: the truth more first than sun more last than star
If you’ve never heard Nina Simone’s version of George Harrison’s song “Isn’t it a Pity,” I can’t think of a more fitting day to do so. While Harrison wrote the song about the pain caused by broken relationships, Simone takes it to a whole new level. Small changes in the lyrics and the way she uses her incredibly heart-breaking voice to wring out every emotive nuance turns the song into something much larger than what it had been before. It’s about when societies break down, when our humanity tears apart, when we forget about who we are or could be, when we fail to see all the beauty around us, including inside us.
Joe Taysom wrote the following in Far OutMagazine about how Simone transformed Harrison’s song:
“[Simone’s] voice is one of the most incredible sounds that has ever graced the earth so when you mix it with George Harrison’s mercurial songwriting then you’ve got an emphatic mix and her cover of the former Beatles guitarist’s track ‘Isn’t It A Pity’ is a true delight. . . . . [Her]11-minute cover feels more like theatre than it does music as her voice takes the listener on a rollercoaster of emotions where she makes every word that came from Harrison’s pen years previously come to life. It was this ability to express another’s emotion which elevated Simone to legendary status and it shines on this effort.”
The song meshes so well with Martin Luther King’s messages of love:
“At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love.”
“Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”
“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.”
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”
Simone’s version is long, 11 minutes, but I hope you will listen all the way to the end. I think you’ll be glad you did.
A man lamented to an Elder in his Church that try as he might, he could not love his hyper-critical, unloving mother. The Elder told him, “My son, you don’t have to love her, you just have to love.”
That was a freeing thought to me years ago when I was having the same problem with a difficult-to-love mother. I knew I loved her, in the sense I cared about her happiness and well-being. But I was plagued by floods of unloving thoughts about her. Me being, probably, as hyper-critical of her as I believed she was of me, and just about everyone she met.
The Elder’s advise seemed to lift a heavy burden from my shoulders. I didn’t have to love the hyper-critical person, but I could be loving in my words and actions toward her, and gentle with myself for my shortcomings as well. I could love her humanity, her challenges, her struggles, and be compassionate toward her inability to be what I wanted, as well as compassionate toward my own inability to live up to my highest aspirations.
But how do we do that in these hyper-partisan times where so many people and political leaders acting out in ways that are hateful and violent and dangerously unreasonable? With the rise of tyranny and fear-mongering; the assault on truth, plain hard facts and overwhelming evidence? One worries about the fate of our nation and democracy itself, not to mention the fate of the world, plagued by firestorms, hurricanes, floods, with so little effort directed at making the changes needed to halt or even slow this global meltdown.
The world we love is being threatened by those we have come to hate. What is a loving-minded person supposed to do with all these intense, negative feelings and fears?
The answer is: You don’t have to love them. You just have to love.
But what do I “just love,” if not them? How can they be excluded if we’re “just loving” without a particular object to love?
Then I realized something, and it was like a hard, obstinate, ugly dam had been broken and the love I’d been withholding and resisting broke loose. The anger and resentment I’d been nurturing and justifying, and the fear that had been terrorizing me, were swept away.
The thing I realized is that genuine Love—the unconditional, not the personal kind —isn’t an add-on, something we choose or chose not to have. Genuine Love, the big kind with the big L, is the ground of being upon which all of us rest, that supports and sustains us all, the loving and unloving, the good and bad, the tyrant and saint.
We’re all delusional in one way or another. All living our lives on limited information and understanding about the world around us and each other, about what’s right and what’s wrong, about who we are, where we came from, and what our purpose is. Whether we like it or not, we’re going to rub up against each other and each other’s delusions, no matter what we do or how we chose to live. We can’t get out of it. We’re stuck with each other. And while things may get better for us personally, at the same time they are getting worse for others. And new challenges are on the way.
That’s where the compassion of genuine Love flows, from the realization that the one we are prone to hate or fear for their hateful deeds is just delusional, a rube to his own delusions, as we are to ours. Our sympathy, our love, extends to all of us, because we are all suffering, even while not condoning the acts that cause our suffering, and doing what we can to relieve it.
We can “just love” the whole human drama as it has rolled out over the centuries and through our own few days of existence, knowing that it will continue to roll on without us, perhaps forever in the way delusions always seem so real while they last.
But beneath all the drama that is heaving us about like storms at sea, is this deep sympathy, this oceanic peaceful presence of unconditional Love that supports and sustains us all even in the midst of all the turmoil we are experiencing.
Within that maelstrom, we each, like tiny bubbles thrown up and tossed about, clashing with each other, opposing or uniting, go about the business of being separate and apart until the delusion of our bubble of existence dissolves and we know each other as we always have been and always will be, an essential part of the underlying, unifying whole. Part of that tender, exuberant, endlessly creative flow of Love.
To sum it up: Don’t love “them,” just love “Us.”
This Metta (Lovingkindness) Prayer, which can be adapted by anyone to fit any circumstance, helps to bring that loving aspiration into focus:
In gladness and in safety, may all beings be at ease. Whether they are weak or strong, great or humble, wealthy or needy, omitting none, The wise or foolish, friend or foe, neighbor or stranger, Those who have wronged us and those we have wronged, Those who love us and those who do not,
May all beings be at ease!
May all beings have happiness and cause of happiness. May all beings remain free from suffering and the cause of suffering. May all beings remain unseparated from the sacred joy and that is free from sorrow, May all beings rest in the boundless and all-inclusive equanimity that supports and sustains us all.
I first become aware of jazz singer Nina Simone when I watched the film Before Sunrise, with a young Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. They meet by chance on a train in Europe and spend the day together walking the streets of Vienna and carrying on an endless lively conversation before he has to catch a plane home to the U.S.. In the final scene, they are at her apartment waiting until it time for him to leave. He puts on a recording of Nina Simone. She entertains him by describing what the sultry singer is like at live concerts, imitating her sexy talk and sexy walk. We watch him watching her, becoming more and more certain, he’s not going to make that plane.
Since then I’ve become a fan of Simone as well, her voice having, as one music critic puts it, a “magnificent intensity” that “turns everything—even the most simple, mundane phrase or lyric—into a radiant, poetic message”.
Three favorites are below, as well as the film clip of that final scene I was telling you about. If you are a romantic, like me, it’s worth watching.
Otherwise, skip to Simone, and have a sultry Sunday.
My understanding of what “mothering” is, or could be, was hugely influenced by this passage in the Tao Te Ching (CHXXV). The artwork that follows amplifies it.
There was something complete and nebulous
Which existed before the Heaven and Earth,
Unchanging, standing as One,
Able to be the Mother of the World.
This Mother of the World, of course, is the Divine Creator, the all-pervading, all embracing, unchanging, and unceasing. It’s the thing that evolves, supports, nurtures, protects, and provides space for its “children,” all individual being.
A tall order for a mere human.
Yet it inspires me to embrace my children in that spirit. To step back and project in some way this more expansive sense of mothering that allows them to feel loved and supported without all the worries and anxieties and criticism and fear that accompany a mere human sense of mothering.
This mothering is not as personal, intense, or myopic. It doesn’t hover, it doesn’t obsess, it doesn’t fret. It frees them “to be,” and is based on an immense sense of trust—in myself, in them, and in the universe at large. In God, or Tao, or some divine presence or higher power that embraces all of us, and gives each of us the capacity to mother each other.
I find this kind of mothering works best when I embrace all around me with the same mothering spirit. Not just my children, but all children, all people, all things—my home, my community, my work—even the individual objects that fill the space around me and the space outside my window. When I’m able to actually feel and identify with that potential, to “be” the “Mother of the World.”
The images in this post capture some of that universal and spiritual kind of Mothering, not only of love, but of unity and wholeness—two in one, and one in two. Two overlapping, enveloping, and yet distinct identities. “Not-two” is the way a Buddhist or Taoist might put it.
The painting by Sikorskaia at the top of the post shows this beautifully. The mother’s body wraps about her breast-feeding infant and fills the whole space with the solid, four-square wholeness of her presence. Her dark head is bent, attentive, surrounded by a halo of light-colored flesh. Her arms, open hand, and bend back form another circle, encircling the first. Her feet tenderly touch each other, and with the raised and lowered legs form a triangle of unity, the base upon which the mother sits.
She is grounded and centered, while the child is loose in her arms, able to move and to feed freely, but blending with the mother’s flesh, showing how closely knit they are even while separate beings. The dominant lines creating this painting are round, curved, circling each other. Mother and child are one in body and being. Two in one. One in two.
The following image by Barnet is similar. Mother and child completely fill the space and overflow it. They are facing each other, mirror reflections of each other. She sees herself in her child, the child sees itself in the mother. Her hands are wrapped around the child, but open, as is the child’s hand, reaching up toward the mother, toward its other surrounding self.
Will Barnet, Mother and Child,1993-2006
The painting by Irwin below also creates the powerful feeling of oneness and unity. Here we see the indistinct features and form of mother and child surrounded by a shadowy, indistinct background. The vertical figure is centered and reaches top to bottom, nearly bisecting the page. Clearly it shows two in one, one in two. The soft, indistinct edges of the form feather into the background, soft and permeable. The Mother and Child are one with each other and one with the surrounding environment. The whole painting is a study of unity and wholeness.
Madonna & Child by Holly Irwin
Two-ness is more evident in the next paintings.
In the first below by Harmon, mother and child again fill the space. Wholeness, oneness, is still the dominant theme. The mother’s face seems blissful, as if she is drinking up the scent of her child, savoring her closeness. The sea surrounds them, symbolizing the womb, the place of birth, of oneness. But the child’s dangling legs, the soles of her feet, denote her readiness and ability to separate from her mother. The restless waves at their feet foreshadow the coming parting, when the mother puts down her child. We can imagine them walking hand-in-hand down the beach.
In The Ocean Air by Johanna Harmon
We see this close unity and foreshadowing of separation in the following image by Sorolla as well.
Here, the sea as backdrop both unites the figures of mother/child and introduces the element of separation in the layered waves and wayward boat. The deep shadows and strong light also denotes two-ness–the pairing of opposites. The towel flung over and around mother and child unite them, but all that takes place behind them foreshadows separation. It seems a beautiful, tender, but fleeting moment in time. Unlike the first three images which seem iconic, timeless and eternal.
Sorolla – Masterful colorist “Just Out of the Sea” 1915
This last painting by Larson is probably my favorite among these six–for so many reasons. But first and foremost because it captures that golden glow of late afternoon on the beach, when the strong light casts shadows so deep and dark. The light shimmers around them and through them, uniting them, and revealing a transparency that we see in the figure’s back-lit clothing.
Mother and child are clearly two distinct individuals now. Still, the touching heads and hands form a circle of unity and closeness. Even the shadows at their feet flowing upward through the two figures form a second circle of unity. We still have two-in-one and one-in-two, even while the separate individuals are clearly defined.
There is something nostalgic about this painting. A tender sweetness underscored by the foreshadowing of separation as the two move apart from each other and this singular moment is lost in passing time. We cannot stop passing time, but we can capture it in these sweet moments, and preserve it in our art and our memories.
“Beach Treasures” by Jeffrey T. Larson (1999)
And I suppose that’s why I find all these paintings so powerful and profound. They capture universal and primal experiences we all have shared at one time or another in our journey from one to two and back again.
Mothering, I’ve learned, is a capacity that anyone can embrace: man, woman, child. You don’t have to be a mother, or have children of your own, to mother the world, to feel that oneness, or two-in-one. When we adopt that stance, all things become our children to nurture, cherish, support, love—to help bring to their full potential.
Here’s wishing you all a lovely day of “mothering.”
My body, now that we will not be traveling together much longer I begin to feel a new tenderness toward you, very raw and unfamiliar, like what I remember of love when I was young —
love that was so often foolish in its objectives but never in its choices, its intensities Too much demanded in advance, too much that could not be promised —
My soul has been so fearful, so violent; forgive its brutality. As though it were that soul, my hand moves over you cautiously,
not wishing to give offense but eager, finally, to achieve expression as substance: it is not the earth I will miss, it is you I will miss.
A New Beginning for Our Ending
I too feel a new tenderness toward this body that holds me so tenderly in return, within its soft, wide confines. That moves me and moves with me wherever I go. That holds within all that I am, memories and emotions that ebb and flow, that mere touch, taste, scent, releases. And even now, after all this time together, when a foot or knee fails, when bones creak and muscles sigh, and the weight of you seems too much to bear, still, still, you gather me in your arms. You hold me near, breathe me in, lift me up, and lay me down. You try so hard to be what I need, to do what needs doing. Too often I have railed against you, dismissed you, disowned you. Let me see you now as friend, as lover, as mother. As dear to me as sky and earth and tree and sea. Let me cherish you as you have cherished me, and when the end comes, let us rest and rise together.
They say opposites attract. That was true when my husband and I first met. I found in him everything I felt missing in myself—he was strong and brave, adventurous, self-confident, practical, capable, a man of the world. I was shy, timid, uncertain of myself, a romantic, an idealist, inexperienced. I was a senior in High School. He was a marine returning home from two years in Viet Nam. I thought I had found my soul mate, we seemed to complement each other so well, like two halves of a whole, yin and yang.
The truth is, we were just what we needed at the time. This dark, moody often angry young man who could also be so sweet and loving fulfilled a romantic yearning in me to sooth the savaged soul—Beauty and the Beast, after all, had always been my favorite fairy tale. And he was sorely needing the sweetness and innocence he saw in me, after the things he had witnessed in war. We fit together perfectly in each other’s arms. We still do.
But now I no longer believe in soul mates. I discovered that all the things I was attracted to in him, that seemed to be missing pieces of me, were really undeveloped parts of myself, and a sense of “completion” could not come from outside me but from within. Once I realized that and began to discover that I too was strong and brave, adventurous, self-confident and capable, I no longer yearned for a soul mate. I could stand upright and free even while fully committed to our marriage. We did not need each other, but we chose to be together. We were committed to creating a life that we both could love and enjoy together.
I had always loved what Kahlil Gibran in The Prophet had written about marriage, and came to see the wisdom of his words:
“Let there be spaces in your togetherness. And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart. And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.” ― Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
I also came to realize what Anne Morrow Lindbergh in Gift From TheSea” wrote:
“When you love someone, you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. It is an impossibility. It is even a lie to pretend to. And yet this is exactly what most of us demand. We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships. We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb. We are afraid it will never return. We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity – in freedom, in the sense that the dancers are free, barely touching as they pass, but partners in the same pattern.
The only real security is not in owning or possessing, not in demanding or expecting, not in hoping, even. Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what was in nostalgia, nor forward to what it might be in dread or anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now. Relationships must be like islands, one must accept them for what they are here and now, within their limits – islands, surrounded and interrupted by the sea, and continually visited and abandoned by the tides.”
And finally, I whole-heartedly embraced what Madeleine L’Engle in “The Irrational Season” wrote:
“To marry is the biggest risk in human relations that a person can take . . . . If we commit ourselves to one person for life this is not, as many people think, a rejection of freedom; rather it demands the courage to move into all the risks of freedom, and the risk of love which is permanent; into that love which is not possession, but participation… It takes a lifetime to learn another person… When love is not possession, but participation, then it is part of that co-creation which is our human calling, and which implies such risk that it is often rejected.”
My husband and I are celebrating our 50th anniversary today. Here’s what I’ve learned about lasting love:
That marriage is a journey, not a destination, and the way will be hard, and filled with obstacles and challenges and heartache. That real love is not “true love.” It’s not a given. It doesn’t come ready-made. You have to fight for it, you have to work for it, you have to shake it out from time to time, and mend it and keep adding stitch after stitch, row after row, if you want to make it big enough and strong enough to last a lifetime.
Our marriage quilt is a tattered thing, but beautiful in its homeliness, in the places where its obvious rips and tears have been mended over and over again, the places where it’s grown thin and threadbare and had to be reinforced, as well as the places where it’s warm and soft and scented with memories that bring deep pleasure.
Loveliest of all are the stitches we are still sowing day by day, moment by moment, hand in hand, together.
I will end this series of posts on love and marriage with the last love poem I wrote my husband, two years after our marriage had almost ended. And two years before we began our grand adventure of sailing around the world with our kids for 6 1/2 years. But we’d already done some warm-up cruises on bare-boat charters in the Caribbean by then, which this poem mentions.
It is a simple, playful poem, meant to please a man who is not a lover of poetry, but loves the woman who writes it.
To Dale, On Our Twelfth Wedding Anniversary
Sometimes you ask me if I truly love you, Like the answer’s hid behind a lock and key. You are my love and all the world must know it For it’s scattered ‘cross the land and half the sea.
There’re winds and waves much sweetened by our pleasure, Rocks and sand well smoothed by hips and thighs, Grass that grows much greener from our nearness, And trees that rustle still with our sated sighs.
If you climb a certain stream that flows near Big Sur, You’ll find a rock well made for lying on, It knew our love before it was made sacred And longs to feel our lover’s urge again.
While high along the rugged spine of Baja, Where boney cliffs fall far to find the sea, We saw the world stripped bare of all but beauty And we alone like Adam and his Eve.
The moon once tipped the hills beyond Coyote And laced Conception Bay with fluorescent light, We swam out naked through silken waters where You wound me round your hips and held me tight.
And cupped within the palm of Virgin Gorda Lies an island and a secret, sandy cove, where We waded from the sea like mating mermen And stretched upon the sand to prove our love.
The wind once made an early morning visit As we rolled upon a hook in Carib Bight, While sweeping down the hatch it caught us naked And added its cool breath to our delight.
Now wind and sea and rock and tree can tell you The answer that you say you do not know, You are my love and all the world’s a witness For its sung wherever winds and waves do blow.
NOTE: This ends a series of posts celebrating 50 years of marriage,an anatomy of love as it evolves over time, exploring married love in all of its manifestations: Innocent love,erotic love, disappointed love, love lost, love renewed, and love that lasts.If you missed any in the series, you can read them by clicking the links above.
Not long after I decided to leave my husband I met someone new. I was working part-time at a book store and he was a publisher’s rep. We would go for coffee or walks in the park and have long, stimulating conversations. We spent hours on the phone talking about literature, philosophy, the arts, religion—things I loved but my husband had no interest in. I could feel myself falling in love with him, thinking perhaps he was the “soul mate” I’d always longed for. He seemed to feel the same way about me.
I had already asked my husband for a separation, suggesting he move out. He only laughed and said he wasn’t going anywhere. I knew I would have to be the one to go and began planning my escape. Soon, I thought, terrified by what he might do if he knew I was already seeing someone.
Then he found out. When he confronted me, I told him the truth, that I had fallen in love with someone else. I was astounded by his response. It was so unlike anything I had imagined. He said he did not blame me. He had always known that I was “too good” for him, and if this man was better, he’d step out of the way.
But after confronting the man too, after meeting and talking with him, he said the man wasn’t good enough. He was the better man, and he wanted me to give him another chance. He was sure he could make me fall in love with him again. And while I knew that was impossible, I felt I had no other choice but to let him try. We had been married ten years by then, and I felt I owed him, and our marriage, at least that much. I figured eventually he’d realize it was futile, and then he’d have to let me go.
It was hard at first, to stop seeing the man I felt I had fallen in love with. I felt I had put my real life in limbo, and was living a lie. I mourned my lost love. The life I imagined spending with him was like a shadow that followed me everywhere. I feared it was a life we might never realize together—at least in this life time. That’s when I wrote the following poem.
It’s amazing how you multiply as time moves Everywhere I see your face appear It grows more clear the longer we are parted Like time itself conspires to bring you near.
Sometimes I feel your presence close behind me Where I could turn to find you standing there Turn toward arms pressed close about me As if mere motion was the answer to my prayers.
Sometimes your presence seems to float before me Upon a sea of bright tranquility I watch my soul swept out to meet you And marvel at mind’s sweet complicity.
Sometimes I feel as if I were a twosome And one of me moves never far from you, The other is mere exercise in motion Eclipsing everything in me that’s true.
Someday I pray that we shall sit together Before a sea resplendent in the sun We’ll eat a little morning meal together Before we rise into new life as one.
Eventually this sense of sadness faded. My husband and I began “dating” again. We spent long leisurely weekends together going to concerts and museums and strolls along the beach. We began cultivating a taste for California wines and listening to jazz music together. We chartered sailboats in the Caribbean and renewed our dream to sail around the world together.
Little by little I began falling back in love with him. It began with a deep respect for how he had reacted when I told him I’d fallen for someone else. There was no anger, no accusations, no recriminations. No jealousy or hurt feelings that I could tell. Never did he hold it against me, or try to make me feel I had wronged him. He absolved me of all blame. All he wanted was the opportunity to prove he was the better man, prove he could love me enough to make me want to stay with him. How could I not love that?
I realized I had deeply underestimated him. He revealed a strength of character and depth of love that I hadn’t realized he possessed. A dignity and humility and gentleness I hadn’t seen before. This was the foundation upon which the renewed love I felt for him grew. And it was the stronger and richer for it.
Now looking back, that period in our marriage seems like an aberration, a mirage almost. I barely remember the name of the man I thought I’d loved, and his bitter assessment of the whole affair—that I willed myself to love him to have the courage to leave my husband—may have the ring of truth.
Despite this happy ending to that episode in our marriage, it wasn’t the last time our love was tested and bent near breaking. But never again without the hope that this too would mend in time and make us stronger. And it did.
Love is the hardest thing we can ever do—love for our spouses, our children, our parents, ourselves, each other. Love for the world we live in. Love for that which created all of this. If we think love’s easy or should be easy, that it won’t have radical mood swings, won’t lift us up and throw us down, won’t drift away when we’re not attentive, won’t wither if we’re not feeding it, or spring back, full and fresh, when we water it with patience and kindness, then we don’t know love at all. And maybe we can’t know it, until we live it, and let it live in us.
(To be continued) In celebration of April as National Poetry Month and our 50th wedding anniversary (yes, I was a child bride), I’ll be reposting a series I published here years ago,an anatomy of love as it evolves over time, exploring married love in all of its manifestations: Innocent love,erotic love, disappointed love, love lost, love renewed, and love that lasts.