This has never been a confessional blog. It can verge on poetry, turning with sharp eye and quick witted tongue to the forgotten sides of a story, but it is not a place where I have chosen to share the things that unsettle me and keep me off balance. I am one who turns the inward focus outward, recasts the personal as universal. I go into my head, away from my heart. I show what I want you to see.
Ah, but that is really an untenable position for a writer (and one who writes in a public forum, no less). And though I have been resisting it for a number of months now, I find there is more to share. Though it frightens me to go to this place with you, on this Good Friday with every bud bursting with new life I find that I can.
My marriage of 14+ years (and a relationship since 1991) has sadly, inescapably, run its course. It is coming down around me like hard rain outside my window. Much still remains between us - affection and care and fierce loyalty to our children - but there is no getting around the fact that our love is gone and she no longer wishes to be my wife. How empty that feels, not to be able to set things right as is my natural inclination. To have to be my own redeemer.
And yet the longer I live with it (and I have been living with this knowledge for many months now), the more I come to feel that it is the right choice, even if one I never would have had the courage to initiate. My default has been to settle for less out of fear of losing more, and fear of middle age (for I turn 42 in a week's time), of admitting that what began with such hope and expectation has been a mistake, and of being isolated and alone.
This is no Gordian knot that a sharp legal ax can sever - we are going slowly, slowly, toward a time when we can afford to have separate places to live and continue to share parenting. It will not happen this year, but it will happen the next.
Our home life proceeds much as before - the children mercifully unaware as yet of what we are planning - and working together with counselors has actually given us the skills to be together now, in this transition, that at an earlier time might have sustained our marriage. But at night we go our separate ways (she to the bedroom we once shared on the floor above, me to a futon couch on the floor below). We will do this for the foreseeable future while she seeks the additional training and paid work that will allow us to disentangle and move on to separate households and whatever our altered lives may bring.
Like Spring, I took my marriage on faith, but like a fool who plants the seed and neglects the garden it withered on the vine. Did it slip like the ring from my finger, or did I withdraw my hand as from a dog that snapped, singe my wings on a maddening flame? I knew at some fundamental level where this was leading, years and years ago, and refused to accept it as possible.
Mine will be the first divorce in my family, among my aunts and uncles and cousins of the first degree, though the pressure to stay came from me alone. I bore up and took on greater burdens these many years, and added my own measure of salt to the soil, but I am still reckoning the cost in spirit. And I am lonely, and my faith in myself - let alone a feeling as vital and frightening as love - is often hard to keep in view.
When she and I met in Africa, we discovered a shared love of birds, but my eagle eyes and open stride far out-ranged her own. ThenWe had other children who found a wilderness of discovery in our small backyard, who began by short rambles before scrambling up mountainsides. They offered me fresh eyes, soaking up my woods lore and stories unfolding in every found moment. They became my companions in the natural world, while my wife seemed content to stay inside. Yet she yearned to be present for the firsts in their lives. She could not bear to sit reading on the deck by the cove while we hiked to the cliffs on the far side of the island and so that place was lost to her. Life pressed down, containing that sparkle that had captivated my heart. I felt it, and recoiled, and the distance widened. sapped her stamina, her lungs filled with pollen, our first child was born still and she fell further behind. She turned instead to the growing things that stayed in place, content to observe what lay by the path rather than seeking the next bend in the trail. She taught me to see the quiet glory of the smallest flower, the riversmooth stones and the drones of bees. She told me my head was in the treetops, while her eyes were on the simple things below that others overlooked. I preferred to think of it as me giving our marriage high beams and she low, but they got sadly misaligned along the way.
In the first months of this new transition, I wasn't sure that I would tap the backyard maple tree at all this year. I didn't know if I would still be in this house, or whether I would be alone. I am grateful for the meager output of sap I was able to reduce to syrup this disappointing year. I expended more energy in boiling than the monetary value of the product of my labor, but that is not the right calculus. Each ringing drop in a galvanized pail said to me " here we are...in this moment." I was the only one outside to hear it, and I remembered that when my son Elias was learning to speak his first observations included; "Bucket, drip, drip, drip."
Now I am planning a garden and know that while my divorce is a certainty the timing is at least a year away. So I imagine spading the earth, working in compost provided from a neighbor's dairy herd. I think about the seeds my children and I will press into the soil, laying out hopeful rows for bright, growing things. I think about where to transplant tomatoes in hope that the late blight doesn't return, and dream of salsa and gazpacho and heavy fruit on the vine. Anything is possible before you begin.That is all still weeks away, of course. We can get killing frosts in late May. But the propagative urge is strong in Spring, and it overrides the hard fact that harvests and marriages fail. Life's slow accumulations will bend your back and overfill your cup. What we prune away and what we carry forward can lighten a buried heart. But still I miss the human touch, the mature feelings once had for each other alongside the fierce and sacrificial love of parent for child.
So much for me now is about letting things in. I write with these highly sensory words - plangent, tactile, alliterative - turning them over on my tongue to taste the sour and sweet. I do this, just now, because I am detached from sensory acts of touch and shared exploration in a sexual sense, but more specifically because in matters of the heart and spirit I go into my head. I stand watch, and wary of what I feel, of what feelings are directed my way. I do this while appearing outgoing, for I am not shy, but vulnerable. I feel fiercely, but I do not trust the raw emotion in me or those I am close to. Too volatile, too unpredictable. Too much learned long ago. This may explain why I write poetic prose - that, and a love of language and wordcraft.Something is giving way, now, like pelvic bones parting in the passage of birth. Like a clot of blood, root split rock, blue ice calving from the face of the glacier. Will lungs clear, or will parts shear away that have withered from long neglect? Will love be the ghost limb that aches at the stump? Will there be quietness with the cleaving, something new that remains? Will I take her arm some day at other weddings, too well known to wonder whether the passing years have been kind to us, or cruel?
I don't know, and I won't know until I come to those places that cleanse or further clarify. But I am aware, and present, and letting the wind blow through my open door. I have all the big questions and all the doubts but I am here in the stream, head above water, not standing on the bank of that dark river. Even though I tread water I do not stay in place. Maybe my destination is the far side, or maybe I will fetch up at some landing downstream or even somewhere across the bar out in that bright salt water.
Anything is possible at the beginning, and life is full of beginnings.
"One door opens, another shuts behind
One sun sets and another sun she rises
Love comes to you in old familiar ways
Love comes to you in shadows and disguises"