26 July 2009

Love and the Lonely Traveler

I fell in love with a place. And like all love affairs, reality sets in over time and one is faced with the choice: to stay in love, to leave, or to determine if in fact being in love, even if not true love, is good enough. I like to believe that good enough is good enough in many things – parenting for example – but when it comes to affairs of the heart, good enough may be settling for less when something else awaits. Ah, but the risks of the search grow weary over time.

There are those who suggest that being in love is infatuation. It is the thrall. The romance. Even the honeymoon. It is not the essence of love. Loving is infinite. Loving is tumultuous. Loving is commitment beyond the magic. Intimacy beyond the surge.

Love is what keeps us in place, more than what draws us. Love is often saying you are sorry and meaning it. Love is day to day, moment to moment. It is beyond any one need, beyond ourselves. It is not the all encompassing passion but the all encompassing emotion.

I speak of love of all forms. The enormous and profound love for children. The love of parents, beyond their flaws and beyond mortality. The love of spouse or partner, which sputters and spits on a continuum that too often ends too soon. The love of a pet which is easier than perhaps any other love and is thus powerful beyond explanation. The love, sometimes begrudgingly I observe, between siblings, with which I have not been blessed. The love for friends which, for me, has been as powerful or more so than others because my dear friends are my family. I have created my own set of siblings, brothers and sisters, with whom I suffer and spar and delight in their company as much, perhaps more so, than if they were born to me.

The love between people that extends over time becomes the page upon which our history is imprinted. We are witness to our loved one’s lives and in so being we perpetuate and accentuate their sense of self. Those of us with small or no families to serve as witness rely on friends and it is this distance, from those who know us best, that threaten our identity. Who are we, in effect, without those we love? Who are we without love. If you stumble into the forest without your nearest and dearest, are you really there?

I fell in love with a place. Makes no sense, but in the absence of lovers and the distance from grown children, a place opened its arms to me. A place filled with warmth, hillsides and vistas, and the ever-present power of the sun and sea. A place can welcome you home at night, but only in spirit. A place does not warm your bed. Neither does it challenge you to be your best or applaud your achievements. Rather than reflect your identity, and in so doing enhance the best in you, a place absorbs you into itself. A place has always been and will always be and you simply stumble into it and stay, or go. Depends, like all things, on the nature of love.

01 July 2009

Morning Reading

Early morning. I sit at Dana Point harbor, following a long walk along the pier, among tourists or friends meeting post-yoga or breakfast meetings, and enjoy an iced-tea while I read. I prefer fiction to start the day. Others prefer the newspaper. I have never been one to devour the news first thing in the morning. Too dour. Too much fodder for introspection. Although, in the interest of full-disclosure, my mornings begin with NPR, which is a kinder gentler voice of news and often delivered as story.

I prefer stories. Enlightenment well beyond newsprint. I do keep an eye on breaking news via the internet, although prefer the fuller version via NPR or PBS. And I remain devoted to the hard copy of the Sunday New York Times, perhaps more tradition, or habit, providing context to my week – the opening moments of the day of rest which will close with 60 Minutes, another great storyteller. Every page is another story.

I read today a novel by an unknown but accomplished writer who tends too much to looking inward rather than description. What writing teachers decry as “show don’t tell.” What booksellers fondly refer to as “navel-gazing.” This particular writer, Charlotte Bacon, tells a great deal, but what she has to say is worth reading. Still, I find myself often longing for story. This look-at-me and listen-to-me style is a by-product of the Gen Next generation more than boomers, who observe the world only through their own lens. The writing is strong, many opportunities for notes in the margins or underlining, which I still do as a way of remembering what is otherwise lost moments after the reading. I have never been good at holding on to the words, only the essence. Fiction is the purview of essence.

Voyeurism seems to me pervasive these days, but not the sort of witness that gives rise to great literature. Rather the Facebook world where we share our lives moment by moment, thought by thought, as a way of defining ourselves. Look-at-me is slipping into fiction as well, a natural evolution of the late 20th century obsession with memoir and the new millennium madness for reality television. Everything laid bare. No nuance. No metaphor. Essence eclipsed by mirrors reflecting stark action and reaction. Feature writing dismissed to blurbs. Stories to Twitter. Personal essay to blogs.

And here I am, captive to blogging now as a means of self-expression. I write only for myself, expecting a mere handful of friends to join the journey, and these are already familiar with my own navel-gazing. Have all the best stories been told? Biblical, mythical, classical literature having examined every theme, so that all that remains is derivative? Jane Austen would have been a great blogger, but what might we have lost if she’d had the choice? Then again, it’s ever so much easier to be published these days, at least for a nano-second.