As I said at the time …
Whatever I have stirred up here seems to be in its right season – for me, at least. I had no intention of delving into this before the holidays, but a free moment here, a delay on something else there, and an extended Indian summer that allowed me to spend more time in the barn loft than would normally be the case, got the ball rolling. And it’s been unlocking a lot of buried emotions, with a flood of relief and even stretches of deep grieving, in some vague healthy release.
A few days after dispatching the big letter, I read ahead through a few more journals and stopped dead in my tracks as I noticed a very brief entry at the ashram of an event four years earlier, of studying with my rat lab partner at her off-campus apartment. I clearly misinterpreted her invitation, in which I would have lost my virginity two years earlier than I did – and then I wondered why she gave me the cold shoulder two days later! As I finally connected the dots, I realized how little I knew of her, other than she was beautiful, and wondered just what we’d said or done that would have brought her to invite me at all. From the little I’ve learned since, she was two years ahead of me, but only one grade level – having lost a year somehow between high school graduation and her first year of college, in which she was elected secretary of the freshman class. So was this the “older woman” you’ve suggested? I think her father was a university vice president in her hometown, but no positive connection appears. Again, a flood of “what-ifs” – making me see myself empowered where I’d previously seen only poverty/disempowerment/victimhood.
What it’s really done is open up a “pain button” of the sort I found so crucial when I was undergoing therapy – here, I have a point where much of the denial (or, as my wife would say, my obliviousness) can be pushed away. Or as a note reminds me in writing/revising, “Steer into the pain,” rather than trying to evade it. And, as I’ve mentioned, somehow, I find myself grieving, deeply, without knowing quite why, but that it’s good. Grieving as much for me and the lost years and my failures as anything – admitting, at last, a lot of the smokiness into the picture, when I’d sought only brilliance and sharp light. And yet, through it all, there’s a sense of inevitability in landing here.
And then, a week after that big insight, I was at a Saturday afternoon wine tasting downtown, where the conversation was bouncing around – M’s gay Puerto Rican friend who works there, described his table of candles in the sunlight in a way that made me joke that it sounded like something in the first act of La Boheme, even if it would have made lousy poetry, and then one of the women tasting said, “This might date me, but I grew up in New York, and my mother took me to the Met for Pavarotti’s debut in Boheme,” and I then told about the sensation he’d made in less than a week on the Bloomington campus, “So I guess that dates me,” and the woman’s female companion then asked when I was at IU, and she responded, “That’s when I was there.” Turns out we’d known each other and even gone to a few movies or concerts together. No sparks, though, and at last I know why. We met via the ride board that first semester I was there – she was trying to get to Antioch College, while I was going home for the weekend. So! She lives here in Dover, of all places, and claims to be a published poet. Not that she really remembered me, nor have I been able to find any of her work online. Still, sometime after the holidays, we’re hoping to sit down together, swap poems and conversation.
Maybe it’s true, we learn from our mistakes. At least sometimes.
I’m also trying to remember now: when you came with me to Ohio that time, did we go on to Bloomington together? And did we stay with the Ostroms? So much blurs! The AP photos of Lin in Stockholm are amazing – she was radiant, wearing a Third World batik dress while everyone else is in formals or ties and tails. Absolutely perfect. And some of the photos of her husband, Vince, at the IU sendoff are marvelous – at 90, he’s too frail to travel, but his delight in her is infectious … just in case you remember them.
Couldn’t help but reopen the hippie farm novella, either, despite the fact I ought to be doing other things before Christmas here, but I am finding this new perspective gives me a marvelous new color in the palette, however richly dark it proves. Much of the story flows better than I’d remembered, which is a relief, too.
So did you ever consider yourself a “hippie chick”? The much bigger question asks just what was it, precisely, that hit the country – and us – and why can’t anyone seem to admit its impact or potential? As well as what’s been lost.
What interests me ultimately is transforming events now, which means building on some past. One of the things I love about R, by the way, is that she can be a hard-nosed liberal. For that matter, M gets so upset with young activists who have no sense of what it takes to get things done, who prefer instead just to look cool or trendy. She’s quite the organizer.
There’s also a curious twist to the date we met, September 17. It’s the same date, utterly by fluke, R and I married, 29 years later. And the final piece on the program, Beethoven’s Kreutzer sonata, was on the turntable the first time C and I had sex. Coincidences they may be, they’re also the sorts of leaps I could never create as a writer. Make of it what you will.
Well, I am looking forward to a big rambling letter from you after the holidays. Hope you have some fun with it, too. Who knows what you’ll turn up.
Stay well, indeed.