I can count on one hand the number of images in the Love's Freeway gallery whose subject I cannot identify by name. This was one of them, until two days ago.
At seeing my neighbor's post-Christmas-for-three-young-children trash and recycling lined up in wait at the curb for the next day's collection, I was reminded to take mine to the street as well. This eventuated in my engaging in a sweet, impromptu visit with said neighbor and his youngest. The baby had much to say about the glue stick she held in her left hand, forgetting the toy cell phone in her right. And though I couldn't make out a word she said, I was enchanted by her joyful enthusiasm and generosity of expression.
As it happened, the mom and the two older children arrived home then--from Disney on Ice, she told me. It was her indoctrination to Disney, she said, since she and her siblings had been prohibited from indulging in what their cultured British mum deemed empty and unworthy of their time. All were clearly delighted by their Disney adventure this day, and my neighbor-mom's delight spilled out into her thanks for my Christmas card and gift.
I'd thought the card might especially please them; one day in mid October, I'd snapped a series of shots of the lipstick-looking vine which twined their wrought iron fence along the sidewalk. Late-day sun gave the flowers a special glow, I'd thought. Two of those shots landed on Love's Freeway cards. And one of them was delivered to their door by yours truly on the eve of Christmas Eve.
"Its common name," she told me, after relating the proper, botanical name which did not stick, alas, "is Exotic Love."
I smiled. How appropriate, I thought, for Love's Freeway.
"We couldn't find it here; we ordered the seeds from England. Only four of them survived."
The conversation went on, complete with her offering a vine to me should she succeed again next year in producing them; but as she spoke, all I could think of were those words: exotic love.
Ah, the sound of them, the notion. In this season of great rejoicing, no less: exotic love. I want to cry as I feel the implication of those words now. Of all that is suggested by them.
I have wanted for days now to write here. December has been drawing to a close, and even with my loose (apparently) commitment to myself to blog at least three times a month (I know, I 'failed' last month, too), I hadn't written a word. Yesterday, I made a resolve: today's the day. The day came and went, and I still couldn't bring myself here. I was sure I had nothing good to say. Nothing that belonged in the annals of Love's Freeway. But still, come this morning, January was even closer. I had to--didn't I?--write something in December. Especially--didn't I?--in this season of wonder and comfort and joy. The trouble is this: I have been feeling estranged from wonder and comfort and joy. Nevertheless, I started today with the same resolve: today's the day.
Snow came and went. My year-end clear out and make-ready and tying up of loose ends was spiritedly underway, but still I knew I had nothing 'good' to say. Dusk began to gather, while I read distractedly from the book in my lap, and I thought: I know. I'll know before the night is out what I want to write, period. Less than an hour later, I was off the couch in search of a notebook to jot some things down. And less than an hour after that, I was climbing the stairs to my keyboard with three pages of notes and--wonder of wonders--something to say. One reason that (this) happened is this: I remembered I had declared to two friends about a week ago that I would begin the Freeway book (details to follow--stay tuned) by the end of the year. And given what I know of the content, which is a lot, "Exotic Love" and its story sprang immediately to mind.
As for my lack of wonder and joy, I've been sad. Me who knows--I mean really knows--that there is always, every second, something to be wondrous of, awed by, even ecstatic about. But wait: I must go back to go forward.
Last New Year's Eve, I wrote, as I do every year, the events and experience of the coming year 2006 as if they had already happened. I wrote, if you will, what would happen, but not from the standpoint of wishing or hoping or goal setting or the like. I wrote from the place I will take on the love seat tomorrow night at around ten p.m., fireside. I wrote from December 31, 2006. I wrote this year--my amazements, my breakthroughs, my trials, my expansions--before it had materialized. When I wrote, I knew nothing and I mean NOTHING about Love's Freeway, at least as an entity, a concept, a blog, a creative expression/endeavor, a mission. Still, I wrote this:
“Love, have your way with me.” I invited that one year ago, on NYrs Eve. I “propositioned” Life, you might say, and Life, of course, said YES:
“Yes, then, thank you. I shall indeed have my way with you.”This has been a year of Love having its way with me...
That, in short order, was followed by these lines:
Love deserves to be celebrated, that a new way is found for its full and true expression—that deserves celebrating. So we are celebrating. This is a good as a marriage—the best of marriages, Love taking Life’s hand, at last, and working as it has always hoped, tried, wanted, through me.
Love’s Way: a theme for the year as well, and that took a firm hold last NYrs Eve also.
The source of my sadness is so clear to me now. As is the source, of course, of my ultimate, inevitable, steadfast joy.
To commit one's life to Unstoppable Love is to stir the ocean's floor, if you will. To upturn the cauldron and pull forth long-sleeping, lazy, contendeds who exist solely to guffaw in the face of Love. Or so it feels.
I have been living in Love. Not "in love" specific, but rather "in Love," nonspecific. What does that mean?? Well for one thing, I am clear that I am no more separate from you and you than I am from the whiskers of the ripe white raspberry or the whorls of the oxalis. The "trouble" is this: I be (most say "am") that way with "strangers"--familiar and loving--as well as my most beloved others and "Oooeee!" and in both cases, I'm either accused of getting carried away in romantic fantasies, or cloying with "the urge to merge," or worse, I get no response at all. Not even the dignity of a reply. The person with whom I've been engaged for a time spontaneously, summarily disappears.
I think of that great line of the then Jane Siberry:
And begged the difference between love and open.
I say there is none. No difference, that is. But evidently, some folks aren't comfortable with open (and some aren't down with quantum mechanics), or being around so much of it. Surely it is no surprise to you that some all but refuse to be loved. I should know. I'd long been one of them. And though I have thoroughly, unceremoniously, irrevocably removed to the root that gangly and ultimately poisonous plant, it would seem that ghost limbs have still been collecting some scraps of the old here and there which blow about in forceful but fickle winds.
I am not sad tonight. I have seen this for what it is. I have been, like an employment, diligently brow-sweatingly, achingly, unfulfillingly trying trying trying for decades to draw blood from a stone. And not one stone, but stone after stone after stone after stone after stone. It has exhausted me, but I didn't realize that, any more than I realized what I was doing or why. We can't see what we can't see until we can see it, after all. Now, I see. And it is so simple: I am the fool if I come across a stone and then ask something from it. That is to say, stay and keep asking something from it. Something it cannot give.
Even until a week ago, I had colorful explanations for the various disappearances, for the beloved other's holding me at arm's length. Etcetera. But now, tonight, I see the true explanation, source, lies in that New Years writing. I propositioned Love. I made a deal. And Love is holding me to it!
In some ways, I have NOT been a willing partner. I have been bucking the 'unkindness,' the 'disappearances,' the 'carelessness,' even as I have cooperated well in saying clear No's when they are called for. No's which are from another angle, of course, profound Yesses. But tonight, I fully surrender. And in the stillness of that surrender, the vast beauty of this year, culminating with the past three months of the glorious extraordinariness of Love's Freeway, opens out like a tundra in full moonlight, and everywhere, for as far as I can see, there is only perfection, sparkling like countless diamonds, only more precious.
A woman in Spain welcomed her firstborns today--twins. At 67, she is the oldest woman ever to give birth. I read in the Rowe Camp catalog that Grace Paley is giving a writing workshop there in March--still going strong at 84 or so, born three years before my mother in 1922. My mother has started using her age as a reason to do less, to stay close to home, to be tired, to forget. My father, one year her junior, has just received a cancer diagnosis after a year of ill health. He will die this year with (not from) cancer, or he will not. If he does not, it will not be due to a "cure." He will either choose to live and live, or he will choose to go and go. Meanwhile, on Christmas Day, he took my hand where he lay in his sick bed and squeezed it hard.
"You're a good girl..." he said, teary "and you're beautiful, too."
I beamed, squeezing back, never leaving his eyes.
"I know. That's 'cuz I take after my father," I said welling up, pointing to my widow's peak. "See?"
I do believe that is the first time my father has held my hand. It was certainly the first time he's told me I'm beautiful. And in Barcelona, a woman of 67, after in vitro fertilization, by cesarian section...
I've been sad because I've wondered where was the Love in all this cancer and careless-
ness. Silly me. It's all Love's way, of course. The contours...
I just didn't know they could be so exotic.