Thursday, May 13, 2010

Dear Michigan (Let Me Tell You Something),

So, I imagine you might be wondering what exactly I see in her, this enigmatic woman I love (and for the sake of identification, let’s call her Q). After all, each time I write to you, I’m really writing to her. It’s only fair that I let you know a little about her and about how I haven’t been bewitched or enchanted by some spell. That’s one of the most exciting aspects about this thing called love when it comes slow from seed and grows from the roots up, blossoms of its own volition, before you even realize perhaps what it is (not because you’ve taken any of it for granted, but because you didn’t even know that particular seed had been planted). I saw a photograph once of this rare wild orchid growing all vibrant and colorful in the middle of a swamp, not from where you might expect a flower to grow, but halfway up a bent tree, in the crook of its shoulders. Not another orchid for miles and miles. Exactly how that happened could probably be traced back, could be scientifically explained. But the act itself, that unexpected bloom was, in a way, quite magical. That’s what I’ve found with her. And each time I see her smile I feel that bloom inside me, each time my fingers find their way to hers, each time we kiss, each time we share our thoughts (and we have so many thoughts about so many things, so many ways we want to breathe life back into you, Michigan, one breath at a time).

We met in grad school. It wasn’t love at first sight, although I have to say, she is stunning. We passed each other several times a day, exchanged our brief hellos, but circumstances had us on our own journeys. Never once did either of us think those journeys were really just two parts of one longer journey. It’s not much different, I suppose, than this thing between you and me. I spent a few days driving from New York to Wyoming on my way to an artist’s residency, drove along your border, but I didn’t realize then how strongly I’d one day feel about you. Isn’t that part of the beauty, though, of living, the fact that, just like Robert Frost said it would, we take whatever path we take and in the end it makes all the difference? We often end up somewhere we never intended, somewhere we maybe never even knew existed. And sometimes what we discover along the way is a part of us we never even knew existed, a part we may have never allowed ourselves to know. And that’s another wonderful thing about love. We sometimes form this image of what it is and we spend our lives trying to match up each new relationship to that image (we’re taught, after all, to find the foot that fits the slipper). Truth is, when it happens on its own, when you’re not really looking for it, you give yourself a chance to just be and you give that other person a chance to just be, and what you find is that the image you had of love doesn’t even begin to compare with the real thing.

She’s a poet. And one of the most brilliant people I know. We talk about everything and I can’t even begin to describe how exciting that is. How, no matter what we start talking about, we always find ourselves going somewhere profound. Yet, she’s funny too. We laugh and we laugh and she completely embraces the dork in me because she’s got a dorky side too. But isn’t that the way you are: beauty and brains, strength and sweetness, a little awkward at times, but able to laugh at yourself, to realize there’s nothing to be embarrassed about when you’re with someone who truly loves you? Did I mention she’s the most remarkable mom? Yeah, she is. And, if you ask me, that’s sexy! The way she encourages her kids to be adventurous, the way she fosters creativity and love, the way their happiness is the source of her deepest joy.

When I first sat down, tried to write about her, what I came up with was a list of superlatives. But like you, Michigan, she’s much more complex than that – like your best wines, there’s an earthiness to her, a naturalness that isn’t intoxicating so much as it is undeniably delicious. And maybe the best thing about her is that since day one she’s been herself with me. And, at first, you might think that’s because when we met we were on what seemed like different paths, but every day I’m with her, every day I’m with you, I realize that’s just the way you are, both of you, unabashedly, unashamedly, unequivocally you. And, as I wrote before, that might just be the greatest gift, that genuineness, because it invites the same, it encourages us to just be us. Only then can we truly fall in love.

Next week, Michigan, I want to write about you, about Ann Arbor, about Black Star Farms up north, about searching for a job, about so many things. I want to tell her what I see in you. But I thought maybe you needed to know a little more about her first. Of course, now she knows, too, since she reads the blog. This is her response so far:

“There’s a special innocence about it . . . like when you watch a child enter a wonderful space for the first time and they're running around touching everything, laughing, sometimes standing still with their finger in their mouth just wide-eyed . . . but it's all so new, seen for the first time ever. You do that with love somehow. . . . I'm sitting here reading the blog thinking ‘wow, wonder what it's like to feel love that way’ and then I snap-to and realize wait, I AM feeling love that way with and through him directly and also through his writing about it. . . . I love you!”

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