One of my friends recently sent me an email in which he asked what's really been happening in my life this summer (outside of what he's been reading in my blogs). I suppose Richard knows I keep many things to myself, and when there's too much time in-between Open Road posts, something's up that I'm not revealing to the public. It's grand to have people in my life who read me very well, and even better to have them gently open the door so I can disclose things I wouldn't write about outside of my journal. Gratitude does not begin to describe how lucky I feel to have a kindred spirit like Richard, who's also a creative writer. I only wish he lived closer, but alas, the west coast is where he calls home while I'm still planted here in the Heartland.
Yet I'm blessed to know another fella right around the corner (well, five minutes away) who understands what it feels like to be an author all the while living within the boundaries of time, space, and numerous responsibilities. I've known Matt for close to fifteen years. I've known his wife, Cheri, for longer than that, and from the moment Matt joined my Saturday morning yoga class, it was as if the Universe said, "How 'bout I send you a great gift you'll get to discover over time?" For time has proven to ripen our friendship into something better than fine wine.
I imagine we all have friends like Matt...people you may not see as often as you'd like, but the minute you get together, it's as if no time has passed at all. Someone who joyfully celebrates your light and fully embraces your shadow. Matt and I are both teachers and I've been honored to be a guest speaker in his classroom, sharing my love of yoga with stressed-out teenagers who seem to magically open up the moment they're in Matt's presence. That's no surprise, for I can't tell you how many times he's allowed me to peel back the prickly layers of who I pretend to be in order to embrace the softhearted center inside.
We both bark our shins in trying to avoid the pitfalls of life and with our writing projects. We struggle and fail. We begin again and gain momentum. We share our stories and find common ground. Matt's lyrical and highly eloquent style is very different than mine, and yet we both write intuitively, tapping into our inner worlds with enthusiasm. And when the well's dry, we'll meet for a walk or a cup of tea and talk about gardening, relationships, and most anything else.
For Matt's more than a muse...he's become one of my favorite mirrors.
Last week he stopped over in the midst of the mayhem I've been living with since early May. New gas lines are being installed in the neighborhood and I was told three months ago that the work would only take a couple of weeks. Yet it's the middle of summer and my front yard is still torn up, the gardens are a bit jumbled, and more often than not, when it's not banging away at concrete sidewalks, a huge digger has been parked on the curb in front of my house. Not exactly a peaceful setting for a yoga space...let alone one that allows for long stretches of silence so I can write.
I'm fed up...but not with the work men. They've been consistently kind and respectful. They've tried to salvage my flower beds and have done their best to keep the destruction to a minimum. They've been in and out of my basement so many times to check or move the gas meter, to scope out the sewer line, or to dink around doing God knows what, that I'm getting to know them by their faces, if not their names. But I'm tired of being wakened by the sound of loud motors. A thick layer of dirt coats every inch of my windows and I feel trapped by the heavy machinery that trolls up and down the block. I used to really enjoy summertime...but not this year.
So when Matt arrived on a sunny afternoon, it was heavenly to say, "Let's sit on the sun porch in the back of the house so we can watch the garden grow."
We enjoyed an afternoon of jasmine tea and trail mix while a few of the utility workers moved my gas meter from the basement to the north side of the house. While they buzzed and drilled and tore another hole in my yard, Matt and I talked about everything from which perennials are best to plant in the shade to the ins and outs of a natal astrology chart. As always, time slipped by effortlessly, and before I knew it four o'clock had rolled around.
"Thanks for sticking around while the guys were here," I smiled.
"No problem," Matt replied.
"Do you know this is the first time in nearly twenty-five years that I've had a man around the house while work was being done?"
"You want me to make sure they did their job right?"
"Nah...it's just nice having you here so I didn't have to listen to it all by myself."
Matt hugged me good-bye. "Any time."
I imagine he knows me well enough by now that what I really wanted to say was, "Thanks for being the man of the house so I didn't have to...again."
For Matt knows all about my history and often asks questions that invite me to appreciate just how far I've come, especially in the past year. He's kind and compassionate and earnestly aware of how his own life's journey is evolving as well. Even though we're two very different people, Matt and I share a love of language and the joy that comes from spending time alone honing the perfect paragraph (if there is such a thing). And it's always amazing to read what he's written and turn the kaleidoscope in my mind so that I can see something from his perspective.
In the days following Matt's visit, I realize that it's more than the construction that's jostling my nervous system. For when he was here I didn't have to be hyper-aware of the slow and steady changes my neighborhood has been experiencing in the past several years. It's not that I don't feel safe living here on most days, but I've seen and heard enough to know that, although I love my little house dearly, it's time to get ready to move on.
"Oh, you can't go, Kate," one of the fellas up the street said when I told him I'm planning to leave within the next year or so. "You've been a great neighborhood watch dog."
I thought, Well, I'm dog tired after being vigilant and proactive for more than fifteen years. Let someone else do it.
To be honest, I'd now rather live in a place where I can wave to my nearest neighbor from half an acre away. Unlike most people, the older I get, I'm less set in my ways. But I'm also becoming more fiercely protective of my privacy...which is why I've been looking at properties in Berkey and Whitehouse and Waterville, places on the outskirts of town with modest-sized houses on larger plots of land. In the past I've wanted to escape my hometown, yet now I find that northwest Ohio is the home of people I dearly love, so there's no reason to abandon a place which has given me strong roots and opportunities to grow my own wings.
I love the change of seasons, the fresh water lakes, the farmers' endless golden fields in the fall. So I don't need to run away...I just need to run toward something more peaceful and nurturing. Spending time with friends this summer only reiterates my desire to do so...and has lit a fire deep inside that motivates me to make that yearning a reality.
I'm sure when I finally find a new place to call home, Matt will always be welcome to join me on the porch for glass of lavender lemonade and lovely conversation. In fact, I imagine that when the time comes, he'll already be there with Cheri, helping me unpack my things as we celebrate a joyful harvest whose seeds were planted on the afternoon we shared some jasmine tea and talked about the hope of new beginnings.