(The Duxbury Reef, Bolinas)
This year marks my first Fall in Bolinas. I’m in a constant state of romantic-ness.
The leaves have slowly gone gold and red, brilliant against the deep evergreens, each effortlessly making the other look more radiant. Birds cover the surface of the lagoon and head out to sea at sunset, continuing their migration, chasing warmth.
The air is crisp, a different kind of coastal cold – drier. Until the rains come. With them the mist. And the desires…to snuggle, build a fire, have pots of soup going and muffins in the oven. To head out when the sun breaks through, snatching the rays and heat before it sinks so early these days. To gather with goblets of red wine, candles lit, as the rain drenches the earth for the first time in months.
The clouds return after a summer where the focus is fog. They swirl and ripple and snake towards the golden star. It feels unlawful to not make the journey to the sand and watch the sun sink into the water. The sky blasted with peach and lavender, then pumpkin orange and the perfect blush, dripping in gold at the horizon, turning to smoky purple as it darkens the shore…creating a perfect moment to steal a kiss, warm a nose. Sunsets in the fall capture the essence of this time of year – triumphant, then sleepy.
Fall is ridiculously romantic in west Marin.
After an initial burst of desire for romantic liasons, I’ve come to understand what my Mom and about a million other people all tell us discarded spouses – wait. Wait. Wait. Wait.
But what if your marriage has been over for years? And you chose to leave.
Which is what I expressed to a friend this past weekend who is recently seperated by choice, without betrayal.
Unless you can’t. In that case understand that the connection you make, the person you attract, will have a lot to ‘say’ about you and where you are in your journey. Listen closely. Observe intently. And do not expect (or force) a fairy tale.
Have people tumbled out of failed marriages, those that implode naturally over time or with the swift kick of betrayal, and right into the arms of their forever loves? Yep. And they could all fit around your kitchen table.
More often than not, as in nearly every single time, the lover taken during marriage or the one taken on the heels of a seperation, is not there for the duration.
Which is probably a good thing. And why it’s not a bad thing if you can’t wait, under the right conditions.
Life is lab. We pour this into that, swirl it around and see what happens. Some write it down in a spiral notebook, others ponder the results while they stare at the stars and others forget the importance of observing and developing hypothesese out of outcomes.
For them, the cycle often repeats.
I was not willing to repeat what I had created with my former spouse. But it took a hell of a lot of self-control and the dedicated tough love of the HGM kittens to keep me on track. Or get me back on track. Like when I thought I had developed feelings for Mr. Jackpot. Or got lost in the shiny of Mr. Viking. I never leapt, but I looked over the edge a number of times.
And there I saw my Mom. She listened as I talked my way through the maze…as did all of you.
What if I am ready? What if I am creating the perfect situation? I’ve basically been a single Mom for years. I’m ready for a casual relationship – nothing heavy.
My Mom gently extended her words of wisdom. I heard her. You told me my healing wasn’t going to be a linear journey and to be cautious. But I didn’t shut down or retreat, nor did you want me to, which is why I was fortunate to have some very cool encounters. Encounters that were magical, emotionally challenging, tested me, and many that became mirrors so I could see me. They helped lead me to me.
On July 4th, just before the Bolinas Tug of War, I stood in front of my bathroom mirror and smiled. I was in the beginning stages of acknowledging my Ego and its power. That moment, the moment when I smiled, was pivotal. It was then that I realized I wasn’t smiling at myself. I was looking at myself smiling as another would see me. I was more concerned with how I looked to others than I was with pausing to smile at me. To see me.
I was posing. I wasn’t just checking to see if I had a stalk of broccoli in my front teeth, which is just good manners. I was smiling at me as if I was me smiling at someone else.
I can’t do that anymore, I thought. The focus is on the wrong thing there, Cleo. That’s a symptom of the Ego being in control. Which prevents me from relaxing. From being comfortable being me. Being accepted for me. And the only person that is not willing to accept me for me is ME!
Or, more accurately, my Ego. Because it always has to be on guard, ready to defend, secure the top position, the best seat in the house, be the life of the party or the one who makes everyone else feel at ease. Or tell you exactly how you don’t make the grade, you aren’t good enough, not lovable just as you are.
Being in isolation for the last several months has helped to give me time to bench my Ego and learn how to be without it. It’s kind of like being naked, but almost right away it was good naked. Like when the candles flicker and the light is soft. And the right eyes are looking at you with love, appreciation, not judgment.
I suppose I’ve successfully negotiated a key level in my journey, because it seems that my days of isolation are over. My fairy godparents have returned from tres romantic France. The Calmmune is alive with activity as if a grand event is being planned. Pruning and cleaning and renovating. I even washed my windows. The lane that connects our homes is the site of many impromptu conversations about life, travels, books, art…
My fairy godmother is a romantic. She says she brings like minds together for the greater good, not to create love affairs. But she loves a good love story. I can see it in her brilliant blue eyes. The other day we spoke of our plans for the holidays. They are going to head north to see a friend.
Now he would be a very good source of men for you, she said.
As if I was looking for a retailer of men.
If I was, she would be my choice for a personal shopper. Because she knows that happiness doesn’t come from being coupled up, it comes from being happy to be alive, coupled or not. (The second time in a few weeks that this message has been directly communicated to me without prompting – the first time was from Mr. Wild Card.)
The attention of a man isn’t nearly as exciting or fulfilling as a spirited conversation that goes beyond the mundane. Conversations that make things happen – whether inspiring an action or a new way of seeing something or a journey to plan or book to read. These are the joys in life.
She loves her partner for many reasons, one being that he doesn’t need her. And she doesn’t need him, evidenced by watching her take down three dying trees in succcession with a chain saw.
He loves her. Because of who she is, not because of how his Ego feels when he is around her.
I ventured to the Duxbury Reef in Bolinas during low tide, just before sundown on Saturday. As the water retreated I tiptoed around hermit crabs and sea anenomies. Two star fish remained, both ill, arms missing, days from death. An octopus hid among wet rocks and sea grass waiting for the water to come back, bringing with it his mode of transportation. His ticket to safety. The sunset held me spellbound, breathless.
I told my fairy godfather of my time at the reef upon my return.
That’s the beauty of exploring alone. Sure, it’s nice to come back and get someone excited by your story and wanting to go explore it with you. But you’re just as happy having simply experienced it.
Romance is not a fairy tale. Romance doesn’t need to involve a man.
My recently seperated friend asked me if I would date someone older.
How about younger? How young is too young? Short? Bald?
When you look around the room do you know who you find attractive?
I looked around the restaurant we were in so I could answer her question. I wasn’t compelled to rest my gaze on any one person.
I don’t see them in that way. (I was surprised by how unaware I was of who was in the room throughout our evening.) I’m not looking. But I’m not not looking either, I said.
…he’s not here, I thought. Here is not where he would be.
I feel like I’m finally coming to the end of deprogramming myself of the need to close the book on one fairy tale and immediately seek to start another. I’m being unconsciously competent at not seeing everything in life through a glass slipper. I’m not looking to implement Plan B as much as I’m committed to learn why Plan A resulted in divorce. Not so I can have a better relationship in the future, but so I can have a better relationship with me.
My Plan B is my Plan A.
The arrival of the most romantic time of year leaves me excited. I don’t fear being alone. The only way to get to this point was by being alone all these months, and discovering how romantic that can be. My reward for going the distance? More signs…
A fox, a bobcat, a bat and a magician.
Who also happens to be a man.