You Found Me, Didn’t You…My Long Lost Lover Returns

“Message!” The phone squawks.

I pause journaling and take a look.

His name conjures an instant memory: the dining room of a turn-of-the-century duplex in a sketchier part of downtown Minneapolis. A group of us around a huge table, eating, drinking, laughing. One is the sender of the message. Another is a lawyer. We’re dating. I’m twenty-five and these are my friends.

But I had neither seen nor heard from any of them in over forty years.

The text was one sentence, almost cruel in its brevity, telling me the attorney had died that morning.

Suddenly I wanted to know everything. Had he been ill? Did he suffer? Was he still practicing law? A wife? Children? Was he happy? But I limited my response to, “I’m so sorry. Did he have health issues?”

Throughout the day, memories shadowed me like a visitation of ghosts. Our relationship had been playful, light, steering intentionally away from anything that smacked of responsibility or permanence. Eventually we found others but the friendship endured. He was a caring presence through an exceedingly difficult time in my life.

Then I married and we lost touch.

With a heavy heart, I wondered if I’d hear anything back. Messenger was quiet.

First thing next morning, the reply came with more answers than I’d hoped. He’d bought fifty-five acres near a small town in Wisconsin and built a studio where he could paint. He moved there permanently when he retired. There was no electricity and no phone service – he was ‘off the grid’ as my friend put it.

Then he developed heart problems. A few years ago he’d had a pacemaker put in but it had recently been doing more harm than good. He told the doctors to turn it off. They warned him if they did it wouldn’t be long.

And it wasn’t. He died a week later.

I left the phone and stared out over my garden picturing him, his dark hair and neatly trimmed beard framing electric blue eyes. A butterfly floated past. I’d never seen one like it before. The wings were outlined in black. The centers almost vibrated they were so intensely blue. “Hello, pretty thing,” I said, and watched it dance then flit away.

Curious about the Wisconsin town, I googled it. Around the same time my old lover had retired and moved there, I’d nearly purchased a B&B in Maidenrock, eighteen miles away. Strange coincidence, I thought.

I scrolled though photos that looked like the main street in a Western film.

Then, for no particular reason, I clicked on area parks. There were frozen waterfalls, hills and trees covered with snow. I flipped through the images and suddenly stopped, backed up, and telescoped in for a close-up. There, sitting on a fallen log, was a butterfly identical to the one that had visited my garden just moments before.

I gasped, then shivered as goosebumps peppered my arms. A Wisconsin butterfly…in Bali? The rest of the photos were scenery, not a squirrel, bird, or another butterfly in the bunch. Sadness evaporated.

“You found me, didn’t you?” I chuckled. “On the other side of the world…after all these years…”

Photo credit: Laura Stocker

My Other Lover

When you have a lover, every sense is heightened, every sight, sound, and scent floods your heart with joy.

I have two such paramours. They exist on opposite sides of the world. Bali was my first. We met in 2010. I was besotted. We’ve been together for eight enchanting years and my passion is stronger today than ever. But another has haunted me. I’ve wondered, imagined, desired, refrained…

until now.

When we were introduced I wasn’t free. I hid my heart and left. But I couldn’t forget the force of that energy, the longing to explore, to learn, to cast caution to the wind.

At seventy I’ve returned. It’s like yesterday, but the intensity of feeling is ten-thousand times stronger. Perhaps because now I know what I want and I don’t compromise. Perhaps because Bali has been a kind and gentle companion and is there to go home to. Perhaps because I know time is short and life is a gift that mustn’t be squandered.

I’m inviting you along to share this adventure. Meet my Italian lover. Like Bali, this one is also a place…

Praiano, on the Amalfi Coast of Italy.

The cliffs, the clouds – around every hairpin turn is a vista of excruciating beauty.
I was in jetlag haze – maybe this is Vico Equense, or Sorrento, or Positano, or…? All of the towns we passed are jewels along the road to Praiano.
When I was here before it was high season. This road was bumper-to-bumper traffic. What a difference in February.
These views take my breath away.
The architecture, ancient walls, stairways…be still my heart!
Nicola, my Airbnb host, unlocked the blue gate at the street and we started up the steps…
112 steps to be exact – to my front door. There’s no other way in…or out…112 steps…!
The view over Praiano and the Mediterranean from my terrace. The stuff of dreams! The two-storey blue building in the center of this photo is the nearest market. I needed food and met Angela, the owner. I asked if she had eggs. She thought she had eggs…
“Please wait,” she said and ran out the door. In a moment she returned with 3 eggs. She’s delightful! I’ve found a new friend.
What do you do when you arrive in Italy after 30 hours of travel?
Night is as seductive as day.

So what do you think? Is this one a keeper? It’s going to be an amazing month! Best of all, with lovers like this, no one gets jealous!

Jealous Lovers — Too Much of a Good Thing

There’s a happy place between not enough and too much that yields peace. It applies to just about everything in life. Like the story of The Three Bears – the chair can be neither too big nor too small, the porridge neither too hot nor too cold, the bed neither too hard nor too soft. For ultimate satisfaction, everything should be just right.

When we strike that balance it’s like catching the jetstream. Moving forward is effortless. Doors open. The way is clear. We know where we’re going and how to get there. There’s time for family and friends, for satisfying work, for self-nurture.

That pretty much describes my life for the past seven years. There were times I was pulled a fraction off-center but when that happened the discomfort was acute and I’d hastily course-correct.

Then an extraordinary event took place.

Nervous unsettledness had plagued me for several weeks. On the day of my birthday in January, I pricked a pinhole in a piece of paper and squinted at the moon passing in front of the sun. That Capricorn solar eclipse delivered an unprecedented explosion of energy. I was slammed with possibility, power-packed potential that rocked my foundations.

In the days and weeks that followed a geyser of ideas spewed forth and I implemented all of them. I queried fifty-five agents hoping to get representation for my memoir. I changed the voice of several of the characters in the novel I was working on. I started writing a self-help book. I formulated a new business plan for a friend. And that was just the beginning.

The energy of that eclipse carried me for months.

Then I lost the desire to query, so I stopped. The tangled plot in the novel defied me. I left it and worked on the self-help book. That reached a sticky point. Muddled, mired in my plethora of projects, I lacked inspiration for any of them.

Sleep came easily at night but exhaustion overtook me the moment I dragged myself out of bed. So I napped and read, read and napped and left the house only when I had a previously arranged commitment.

The situation, so out of character, bewildered me.

Each one of my ideas had seemed brilliant at the time and I was still keen to develop them. But they all required intense focus, attention to detail, and loving care. I could summon zero motivation for any of it.

As I journaled those thoughts this morning, my pen returned to the word focus. I slashed lines of emphasis beneath it. Focus was what I couldn’t do right now and more than anything else, that’s what was required. I glanced at my desk where stacks of tablets, folders, a clipboard, and three pens bore silent testimony to the clutter of unfinished tasks.

I’d become entangled in too much of a good thing.

Now I’m faced with having to choose what gets shelved for a while and what goes forward. It’s painful. I decided avoidance was the best approach and wrote this article. There’s nothing like procrastination to delay the inevitable. And yet, describing my process has brought a new level of self-awareness.

I’ve realized I’m not someone who goes lightly into anything. Writing pulls words from my gut, runs sentences through my heart, and produces sweaty pages of honest prose that undress my innermost being. I demand it of myself. Each project is a jealous lover who requires my all. Knowing that, it’s probably better to be faithful to one at a time.

Do You Dare to Dream?

It’s getting better. I resisted my middle-of-the-day nap today. Went instead to Costco for a few groceries. BIG mistake! I was quickly overwhelmed by the abundance of people, products, everything. But I did manage to walk out with the vegetables and rice I needed to make Indonesian food, and that was the goal.

So this afternoon I boiled the rice, chopped the veggies, opened one of the precious packets of Gado-Gado sauce I brought home with me, and sat down to pure delight. The flavor was exactly as I remembered it and I savored every delicious mouthful. Then I pulled up my e-mail and found a note from Brigitte, my German friend. She told me how much she misses Bali, how she had started crying and hugged the guide who had taken her all over the island when he dropped her at the airport. She said she is planning to return in October. Her confession made me feel more normal.  I am not the only one experiencing separation anxiety!

I love the Amalfi Coast of Italy. The fiords of Norway struck a chord deep in my cells. Luxumborg inspired one of the best poems I’ve ever written. At Unmunsa in South Korea I simply wept from a too-full heart. In London, Paris, Lucerne, Budapest, Simrishamn, I embraced the cultures and the people with intensity and joy. There are wondrous places all over the world where I have been inspired and delighted. But Bali feeds something much deeper. Bali is the perfect lover and I have been seduced. Voluptuous and warm, it generously gives with no thought for itself.

Where is it in the world that speaks so eloquently to you, dear friend? Do you dare to wonder? Do you dare to dream?

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