Monday, August 31, 2015

A Wondrous Journey (Ch. 2): "First Dates, First Impressions, First Love"

"Love is but the discovery of ourselves in others and the delight in the recognition." (Alexander Smith"

The story of the first time Deborah and I met is a special memory to me, and not just because it was the beginning of a beautiful relationship that still blesses me today. What also made our first dates memorable was that at times I acted completely "out of character" for me. The lonely, shy, careful bachelor did things that were impulsive, brave, and romantic - revealing a side of myself that I didn't know existed.

The truth is those characteristics were always in there. As Mr. Smith says above, I just needed the right person to come along and reveal "me" to Me. It's funny to think, at times, just how little I knew about myself until Love came into my life in the form of a petite, pretty, sassy Italian blonde 10 years ago.

Deborah and I had continued flirting with each other through e-mails and instant-messaging prior to our first date. I don't remember exactly what we would say to each other. I just remember sitting eagerly at my computer in the evening, waiting for the first message from her, and then excitedly returning to pick up where we had last left off. We would tease each other; share intimate secrets; talk about the day we had, and make each other laugh. I was captivated by just how full of life Deborah was, and couldn't wait to meet her in person. My wish was answered sooner than expected.
On the Thursday night before our first date, as we were finishing our nightly tryst, Deborah surprised me by saying, "I don't want to wait to see you. Come meet me in Grants Pass tonight!". It was "way past" my usual bed-time on a "school night", so I was shocked to hear myself reply, without hesitating, "Sure - Just tell me where!". We agreed to meet at Applebee's - a local bar/restaurant close to the highway - which was the only place in Grants Pass that I knew how to get to. As I jumped into my car for the 30 minute drive (at 10:30 pm), I shook my head and chuckled, "Crazy man! What are you getting into?"

I was the first one to arrive. I sipped a beer at the bar and waited. I don't remember feeling really nervous - but was definitely excited and curious. Then she walked in the door. My heart jumped, and a whispered "Wow" slipped from my lips. She was shorter than I expected (just 5' tall), dressed in a tight white top and jeans that showcased every enticing curve. And her eyes were bright and green and instantly drew me in as she introduced herself and we sat down together.

I felt an "electricity" between us as we chatted, face to face for the first time. There was an attraction evident in both of our eyes - and even more apparent when our knees and thighs would gently, seductively bump together as we talked. Again, I don't remember what we talked about, but the hour we spent together mesmerized me and left me happily emboldened. As I walked her to her car, we stopped and kissed for the first time - not a polite peck - but a kiss with surprising passion and heat that left a smile on my face the whole way home.

Our first "official" date was the next night, December 10th 2005. Though we had already "broken the ice" the night before, I was nervous as I drove back to Grants Pass. It didn't help that I got lost trying to find Candler Avenue and her home - but I finally found it - and we were quickly off to "Vinny's Italian Restaurant" for dinner.

When we got there, something happened that I will never forget, and I think it was the moment that I truly began falling in love with Deborah. As we walked from my car to the restaurant, Deborah very naturally and gracefully reached over and held my hand as we walked. This simple act, done without words, touched my heart and soul. It was as if our hands had been waiting for each other - and knew when it's "mate" had been found. To this day, we hold hands almost everywhere we go: instinctively, intimately, lovingly. The rest of the date was kind of a blur. Deborah remembers me as being nervous still. I probably was. But not even walking out after the restaurant closed and finding I had a flat tire could spoil my mood or the evening. I calmly handled it - got the tire changed - took her home - and a special night ended.

Our 2nd date the next Friday night was memorable as well. Deborah invited me to go to class with her at the Life of Learning Foundation in Merlin. She had been going there for 13 years to listen to an Inner Life/Spiritual teacher named Guy Finley. I had never heard of him or the Work he did, but I was excited to go with Deborah to something that I knew was special to her. The class was a special one because it was the Foundation's "Sacred Holiday Music Concert". Their choir sang beautifully and Guy gave an inspiring talk.  Again, my heart was touched. No one had ever asked me to join them in a spiritual activity before. Deborah revealed to me a deep, rich, thoughtful side of herself that made her even more attractive to me.

"In all the world, there is no heart for me like yours. In all the world, there is no love for you like mine." (Maya Angelou)

Those three dates that December changed my life forever. There was no doubt in my mind that I had found someone special and that I was falling in love with her. I didn't know what would happen next, nor what I could do to win Deborah's heart, but I was determined to do so. Whatever it would take, I would do.  Deborah still says to me today, "I never had a chance, did I. You were after my heart."

Yes, my love. I was - and always will be.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Finding Time For A Mandala Or Two

"To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart." (Phyllis Theroux)

When was the last time you received a good old-fashioned letter? Written by hand...on special cursive...delivered by the mailman, days after it was penned?

When was the last time you sat down and did the same? Probably been a long, long, long time.

The art, and joy, of letter writing and receiving is, I'm sure slowly dying away. And that's too bad. It's a pleasure - and a courtesy - that just doesn't seem "to fit" anymore in our digital, high-tech, texting, Insta-gramming, selfie-taking, IPhoning, Facebook-liking, say it in 140 letters or less tweeting, #whosgotthetime, #whattheheckiscursive, world.

But lucky me. At least once a month, I still get to savor this antediluvian treat. My mother still regularly writes me still, and her letters are always gifts of love that I treasure. I got one just a couple of days ago.

I always enjoy reading them. Each one is a "paper potpourri": filled with all sorts of news, musings, thoughtful reflections, questions, sometimes a poem or two. As I read each squiggly line, I can see her sitting at her writing desk or at the kitchen counter; head cocked, pen gently scratching. I can hear her quietly chuckling when she recalls a fond memory. And I feel the touch of her hand from across the miles as I read what she ends every letter with: "Hope to hear from you again/soon. Love, Mom".

What I'm most grateful for is that her letters keep coming, no matter how infrequently I respond in return. They are truly gifts, sent freely and generously. I often think of them as my Mom's "mandalas": carefully crafted, sent, then let go of. Nothing held on to. Nothing expected in return. Pure expressions of love.

When I do take the time to reply, I often send her back a letter: typed on my computer, attached to an email. That's where I spend most of my time, writing and corresponding. It's quick; it's easy. Click "Send", and it arrives in Scholls, Oregon (300 miles away) in seconds.

But yesterday, I decided to sit and write back to her as she had to me. I took paper and pen, and sat out in my backyard, and scribbled and scrawled a few pages in return. And as I sat, and as I wrote, I learned some things that are easily missed.

There was real pleasure in the physical sensations/skills of writing with pen and paper. I was forced to slow down. Forming the letters required greater presence. Leaving a scribble or scratch-out, or seeing my lines gently slope across the page, conveyed a real "human-ness" - something a typed letter could never do. And I also knew that when my Mom received it, the same "human-ness" would be appreciated. She would caress each page as she read it, lingering and re-reading parts of it she enjoyed. When was the last time you ever did that with an email?

I also was reminded that real Love holds nothing back for itself. When I finished with the letter, I sealed it in an envelope and slipped it into our mailbox. A little while later, I caught a part of myself wanting to re-read what I had written - for the sheer pleasure of enjoying what it had created. That same voice also sighed impatiently, "I wish she had the letter right now. I wonder what she'd think of it".

But I could do neither.  My "mandala" was gone. There was nothing about it that I could "keep" for myself or enjoy immediately. Love was what nudged me to slowly craft it - and then it was Love that would carry it to its destination, in its own time.

"Letters are like wine; if they are sound, they ripen with keeping. A man should lay down letters as he does a cellar of wine." (Samuel Butler)

In the end, I think what I appreciated the most was the reminder that there's still beauty in being an "Ink and Quill" soul in our Digital world. I want to remember to keep finding ways to slow myself down; to give freely; to not always do what's easiest, or most convenient, or most pleasing to myself.

I want to remember to take time for all those things that a part of me thinks it doesn't have time for.

It's likely my Mom will read this blog before she receives the letter I wrote yesterday. I know she will appreciate both; one will not spoil the other.

It's easy to fill one's days with so many things that in the end aren't worth a fraction of what one moment of kindness, contemplation, or love can give. The older I get, the clearer I can see this.

What am I putting up in "my cellar" each day? What am I giving my time, my energy to? Two questions worth asking each day.

I bet my Mom didn't realize that her letter would spark so much in me. I didn't realize it would myself.

But I'm grateful for the gift, and the Pearls delivered on "Pooh" paper. Thanks, Mom.

Love, Jon