Windshield Time

I spent four hours today staring through a windshield.  I have a friend who travels a lot for work who calls this “windshield time” and I like the phrase.  It’s a contemplative time, but one that allows for multitasking  - namely moving from one point to another while thinking or talking.  Today our point A was Fruita, Colorado – an adorable town on the western edge of the state.  Our point B was Denver.  So our morning was spent traversing the state, quietly, together with Adelaide in the back seat – her eyes fluttering in and out of sleep.  We were all contemplative – Rick was doing some reading for school, Adelaide was dreaming (I imagine)  about the pasture she in which she woke this morning, with purple wildflowers and heavy dew shimmering in the early light of morning.  I was listening to “Going Driftless: An Artist’s Tribute to Greg Brown” and staring out at the buttes and mesas of Western Colorado, to the twang of a slide guitar, contemplating the trajectory of our lives.

Tomorrow I start a job that I am thrilled about.  It is a unique and special opportunity and I’m very thankful that the stars aligned for my resume to fall into the hands of the right person who could offer me a chance to combine my background in natural resources with a stronger communications role and an opportunity to be at the cutting edge of natural resource conflicts.  I am thrilled to begin a new chapter, and to take a slightly different angle to the natural resources issues I have been working on for several years now.  I cannot wait.

That said, it is sad in many ways to bring this past six months of transition to a close.  Since we left our jobs in Brisbane, Rick and I have travelled throughout much of Australia, moved back home to the United States, travelled the country searching for the right place for us to settle long-term, spent time abroad, and after much deliberation, some drama, and a bit of soul-searching we found ourselves right back where our story began in Denver.

After much contemplation, our perfect path was the one of least resistance and the one that led us to unpack our boxes in a peach stucco home flanked by flowering cherry trees in Lincoln Park.  And in settling here, we opened so many new doors – jobs, a home to expand in, and an opportunity to look at each other and be thankful for our many blessings.

So, this morning I was reflecting on everything that brought us to this point, and I won’t lie, I did a bit of happy crying.  As I steered our way back and forth over the frothy brown Colorado River, under the watchful sentinels of the rust-colored buttes, through Glenwood Canyon and on I-70 into the snowcapped peaks of Summit County, the light from the east cast shadows over the dusty slabs of mesa and snowcapped mountains in the distance.  Rick and I reminded ourselves to never become immune to the beauty of this place we live.

So often as I drive I listen to music, really listen, and try to take in a timely message and there were so many today – Greg Brown’s songs are raw and raw was in perfect tune with my heart today.  Raw and joyful.  We are burgeoning into a new phase of life together and so many small changes are happening daily that indicate we are in the right place and doing the right things for ourselves.  This morning we woke in a three person tent in a dewy field with our puppy snuggling between us. We all grinned and murmured in the orange light of sunrise knowing our first night camping back in Colorado (with puppy) was a success. Tomorrow I begin a new job and Rick begins the hunt for teaching roles – a whole new ballgame for him.  Our lives which have felt so in flux are finally setting down roots.

If gratitude ever gets old on this blog I am sorry, but I have never felt more blessed than over the last week.  Thank you for sharing it with me.

 

Home

We have a home!  I am sure you’re all aware that this has been a difficult slog of rootlessness for me.  But, after a bit of deliberation, and a LOT of work, Rick and I decided to make his old bachelor pad into OUR home in Denver.  

I think it was hard for him to re-envision the home he’s owned for seven years and lived in with all of his friends as OUR place.  But, I am honestly thrilled he came around to this idea.  The house is huge, beautiful and historic, within walking distance of downtown Denver where I’ll be working, within walking distance of a grocery store and a park, there’s a dog friendly brewery down the road, we have other friends in the neighborhood, it has a fenced yard for Adelaide, and we can walk a couple minutes to the light rail.  In many ways this is our ideal place.  It has hardwood floors, exposed brick, a huge back patio, and a fireplace.  The chances of us finding all these things in a new house or a rental were slim – and with a little time and a lot of energy the house has begun to look like ours.  Rick’s mom helped us a LOT by painting almost the entire inside of the house, we just got new carpeting, and now that we have unpacked our furniture, and (finally) opened up our wedding presents the place is beginning to feel like home.

I am so beyond thrilled to be back in Denver, but also to be settling into a home with Rick that we know will be ours for some time.  As I sit writing this in our bedroom I’m awash in sunlight from the afternoon sun, which warms up the room and casts a pinkish light across the cherrywood floors and brick walls.  I am looking at the cherry tree outside our window and counting the days until it blooms in a delicate pink like it did when we were first dating in his city, four years ago.  I am so in love with life right now.  :)

Off to a bachelorette party weekend in Breckenridge – another perk of living here!

 

 

Going deep

Delving into the intricacies of one’s relationships, spirituality, and personal interpretations of the world can be complicated territory as a writer and someone who blogs.  I’ve often struggled with how to use my blog to interpret and delicately communicate these issues to my audience without sharing too much of myself or appearing to be gossipy.  I believe that our relationships past and present are crucial components in making us the people we are, and I’d like to talk about mine in greater depth.  But it’s a struggle that often ends in me writing about the schedules and events of my life over the feelings and emotions that color my personal perspective. I hate that.  I think that privatizing and shielding our experiences and reactions – the joys, sorrows, and lessons – is denying ourselves.  Not everyone agrees with me that our feelings and experiences deserve so much time and space.  But, if I am honest with myself, I truly believe that our feelings, joys, and struggles are what makes life the adventure it is, and I want to document that.

Life has been tumultuous of late.  Rare is the moment of calm in my current storm.  Between home renovations in Denver, having family in town for weeks, traveling to visit other family, interviewing at a blistering pace across the west, moving cross-country without knowing whether it’s temporary or permanent, and beginning to consider longer term plans for home ownership, etc. – there has been a lot to think about!

So, we’ve been busy.

Add to this the unexpected and extremely unlikely scenario of running into my estranged ex-boyfriend and his wife few weeks ago at a hot springs in Montana (where I was interviewing for a job) and a whole extraneous existential element is thrown into the fray. I haven’t really talked about this since it happened, because the whole thing broadsided me so completely.  But, I guess I feel far enough away from it now that I can address my feelings about the exchange.  Plus, it feels inauthentic not to discuss the incident since this blog is devoted to examining life and love through my own personal lens.

I was with my friend Meg in the hot springs on a Sunday night.  We’d been lounging for a few hours after an afternoon of backcountry skiing.  We were preparing to leave when I looked up and saw my ex and his wife walk in.  I knew that during the weekend I was in Bozeman I risked running into them, but by the time Sunday night rolled around, I felt confident that the chances of a run-in before my early Monday flight had narrowed to nearly non-existent. The hot spring was small, so once in the pool they were mere feet away from me. But, it was dark so assuming they hadn’t  noticed me, I continued to soak while I strategized with Meg as to how best to approach the situation over the last of our beers.  I was pretty shaken up by seeing them for a few reasons.  First, I hadn’t spoken to my ex in about 2 years at his urging, with the exception of a brief interaction just days before my wedding where he reached out to me with a long email.  I, therefore, knew that though we hadn’t spoken in a long time, he still cared about my, missed me, and wished there was a way we could still share in each other’s lives some way.  Then, there was his wife, who in her last exchange with me had promised that if I ever saw them again, the situation would not be pretty.  So, I was at once terrified and confused and felt as though the universe had definitely thrown me a curve ball.

But, curve ball as it was, the universe had placed me in the same hot spring as them.  And, I felt compelled to acknowledge it.  Not to her, but to him.  To just make my existence in that space known.  After all, if I was going to have my stomach drop and my heart racing, he should share in my terror too.  Why should I suffer alone?  Rick and I had developed a bit of a strategy for me, in case I did run into them:  acknowledge the situation, say I couldn’t really talk, but say hello, and make my exit.  So, when I saw him get out of the pool to buy a beer, I exited the pool, walked over to him and said his name.  He looked sidelong at me (through an enormous beard), recognized me, and then his face grayed with a wave of what appeared to be terror.  He looked down, his eyes darting back over me again and again.  I said, “I really can’t talk to you, and I know you can’t talk to me.  But, I saw you walk in and thought I’d say hello to you before I left.  I’m just heading out now.”  He looked into his beer and mumbled that he couldn’t talk to me.  Out of my peripheral vision, I saw his wife quickly approaching, nostrils flared.  Seeing his fear and her obvious defensiveness, and feeling like a criminal for that measly conversation, I turned and walked into the dressing room.  From there, I heard Meg jovially say to them, “Bozeman’s a small town, eh?”  as she walked in to join me. And though I was still shaken up, her lightheartedness reassured me that the awkwardness of the exchange was, after all, short-lived.

It’s hard to talk about the situation that exists there.  Nobody is thrilled with the outcome. He was my best friend and my partner for many years. I still deeply respect him and care about his well-being. I know he feels similarly.  I don’t hate him or have lingering negative feelings toward him.  But, we don’t speak anymore.  It was not my choice. He said it was what was needed for him to move forward. Though, it probably is for the best.

Right before my wedding he reached out to me. I was very touched by what he had to say.  It appeared to have been a long time in the making – as such things tend to be, I suppose.  But, I was bothered by his timing.  It felt malicious to contact me and disrupt my happiness just a few days before my wedding. I called him, and told him that.  I told him we had to maintain our non-communication for the sake of our own sanity and our partner’s.  Then I put it out of my mind and went on with my life for a few months. It’s hard to lose a kindred soul, but it is harder to attempt to maintain an extremely complicated friendship.

When I ran into them in the hot spring and had the world’s most weird exchange, it stirred up old feelings about the how and why the situation came to be.  It seemed such an unlikely scenario that after years of deliberately not talking and being on different continents that there in the hot spring we were standing just a few feet apart. To me, the fact of our meeting seemed meaningful in some way, and I did and do continue to wonder what that meaning might be.

Though it ended horribly, that relationship catalyzed such immense pain, growth, and change in my life that I feel it deserves a lot of credit for making me who I am today.  In many ways it taught me how to be a better partner – because I did a lot wrong the first time around.  It eventually led me to better understanding and compassion for others, better delineation of my goals and life plans.  It helped me to become a stronger, healthier, wiser, and more loving person.  Its demise also catalyzed many discussions and learnings that helped Rick and I grow closer and learn to be open and honest in our relationship together.  It helped me understand and to fully be present in our relationship.  I think I never would have been ready for Rick had I not been through what I went through with my first serious relationship.  So, obviously, the run in in the hot spring touched some nerves for me.  In my inspiration to share the feelings that came out of this run in, I am guided by a beautiful quote by Ernest Hemingway: “Write hard and clear about what hurts.”

Later in the week following the hot springs incident, my mom asked me to clean out my boxes from the basement as I prepared to move west.  In doing so I unearthed about 30 letters from the same guy.  In the letters, as compared to our encounter in the hot springs, he was anything but terrified of me. The contrast was startling.  

As I re-read some of those letters, I couldn’t help but think about the several happy years together, followed by several years of turmoil and drama while attempting to remain a part of each other’s lives.  Our interaction at the hot spring – benign as a passing conversation – was all that remained of my first love and one of my best friends.  All that could survive the fallout.  It was a poignant reminder of the ephemeral nature of our lives and relationships.   It forced me to confront the impermanence of even those bonds that seem to be the most lasting in the moment.

Sure, I guess we all know that life is short, nothing is constant, change is inevitable.  We are meant to be present and enjoy the journey.  And, certainly, I do agree with that.  But, I think it is human to long for something that defies that entropic nature of life – something eternal and unchanging. It made me a bit sad that our brief exchange was all that was left of a bond that had felt so strong at one time.  It reminded me of his words in the letter he had written to me just before my wedding – “I have only the sweaters and boxes and letters to show that you are even real.”  And it is true.  There is nothing more.  And that eats at me in more of an esoteric fashion than a personal one – why do our connections fade away?  What is the purpose of our suffering in life?

Yoga, through hinduism, tells us that the reason for this experience of life is that the universal spirit, or supreme being, seeks embodiment for pure entertainment. Shiva danced the world into creation, and in doing so created the mayas, or veils, within which we perceive reality. To have the omniscient, and omnipotent power of the supreme consciousness masked behind these veils of chronological time, embodiment, and attachment hides the transcendent nature of ourselves.  The universal spirit seeks entertainment in experiencing life behind these veils, so we live with the understanding that time constantly progresses forward, our bodies define our beings, and that our feelings and attachments delineate real barriers and challenges in our life.  But, the masks, the chronology, the bodies that contain us are illusory.  To pierce the veil of these mayas is to recognize our true universal and eternal nature.

I try to remember this as I struggle with these sorts of day-to-day challenges life presents, where you’re confronted with real hurt and lingering sadness that seems hard to shake.  I try to recall this when I get a bit down about lost friendships and the fleetingness of life.  I try to reason that my attachments and perceptions are illusory.  Or, as my friend Katie once said “This shit ain’t real.”

Perhaps this confrontation with my past was simply a challenge to my understanding of the way the world operates.  It was perhaps a test of how much I have internalized the learnings I’ve gathered over the past few years about life, love, compassion, and detachment. Perhaps, it was there to confront whether I really accept life as an adventure of spirit.

But, here I am, mayas notwithstanding, a spirit making its way through this journey, and riding the waves as they come.  That incident presented me with some important questions to answer for myself. But, when I look around me at Rick and the life we’re building, I know I’m on the right path. I smile and feel grateful for the road that brought me here, challenges included.

Big changes

Outside my window the snow falls in torrents.  I sit in an upstairs bedroom at “The Wolf Den”, the place my mom is renting for the month up in the mountains. (The name Wolf Den was not her doing – that honor goes to the unit’s owners.  I wonder often at who these wolves are in real life.)  Below me are the voices of my mom and some of her oldest friends, all together in Colorado for some hiking and girl time. It’s wonderful.

I feel a fatigue in my bones from a month of hard work and busyness.  I have complained at length on this blog about the tyranny of uncertainty in my life.  Today, I aim not to complain but to observe that perhaps the uncertainty is ending – and feel a sense of gratitude in that.

This has been a week for the books.  Rick and I became the proud Aunt and Uncle to a sweet little baby, Mary.  So, Lisa (Rick’s mom), Rick, and I dropped paintbrushes and sandpaper and flew home to New York for a few days.  Our arrival timed perfectly with the new family’s return from the hospital.  We came, filled up their living room with tears and smiles, lots of cooing over the precious baby, and heaps of freshly cooked food.  Rick and I were so elated to have a kitchen (after months!) that when we weren’t holding the new baby we cooked most of the meals for the family and guests while we were there. We took turns holding the little one in her perfect swaddle and pondered about when this all might be a reality in our lives.  I picked their baby nurse’s brain to learn about the challenges and joys of her job with new families.  I observed the new parents, and watched with such joy as Rick snuggled the newest addition in his arms and gave her lots of sweet kisses.  It was such fun to have a short reunion with his brother and his brother’s wife in this precious time, with the newest little baby, and before they move abroad later this spring.

In addition to this wonderful news, after over a month of interviews with an engineering firm in Denver, I received an offer this week for a position that I am thrilled about.  Though there remains much to determine, it is beginning to look like our lives may take a more permanent form here in the very place that they melded together. It is a welcome event.  Though we have looked in many other places, Colorado feels like home, and fulfills many of our overarching desires for a long-term place to settle.  We are meeting with a realtor tomorrow and beginning to look into giving this move some permanence. Joy!

By way of observation, I have witnessed many friends undertake the unpacking of dreams and plans that follow a marriage.  It sometimes goes quickly and sometimes slowly, but in every case it is fun to watch two souls building their lives together.  It is such a joy to be undertaking this process with Rick – working to accommodate his needs and mine, piecing together the pieces of a bigger picture that only the two of us have a clear vision of.  I find that each day I am floored that I am actually a participant in this process, that I have somehow found myself in this place.  I look at my finger and I am astounded to find that I am married, building a life, and acting the part of an adult, even if I sometimes don’t believe I’m qualified for the title.

 

Springtime feelings

My feet slid a bit as I tried to climb over the ice-covered snowdrift and into the dog park. I looked up and chatted with a man passing by. “This is getting treacherous!” I laughed.  He pointed to the microspikes on his boots, indicating they were the way to go – I knew I should have worn mine too.  They are the only sure way not to end up flat on your back on an icy footpath these days. Snow is melting and freezing. The winter has reached a certain tipping point – you can feel it in the air.  I know it’s daring to say this, but though the polar vortex (#3) is upon us again, I can feel spring in my bones  The tell-tale indicators are here.

1) Birds chirping.  I heard them.  They were out in the afternoon as I returned from a run yesterday.  They felt it too!

2) Distinctive changes in snow consistency.  It’s getting hoary.  Ice is sublimating.  The snow is crunchy and crystalized.  This is good.  This means it’s getting warmer – at least for a portion of the day.

3) The light is changing.  We have reached a tipping point.  The days are BRIGHT again – not the muted gray of midwinter.

People, it’s ending.  I haven’t had a real winter in a couple of years.  I haven’t even experienced most of this one since I spent a month in Colombia.  But, even in the short time I have been here, this winter has been a rough one.  There has been little break from frigidly cold temperatures.  Thus, you’re either outside freezing you a$$ off, or you’re inside having hot, dry air pumped at you from the heating vents.  It makes me crazy.  I never realized how hard this was growing up here.  It just was.  It was reality of life in Wisconsin. We suffer.  We do.  It’s not fun to be cold.  And it drives people batty by the end of the winter.  And I love the cold, and boots and hats.  I love scarves.  I love winter activities.  I have always been a lover of winter.  But, I’m ready for warmth.

Everywhere I go, people chat with you about the cold. That, or their upcoming trip to somewhere warm.  I haven’t heard this much about Sanibel since I was a child whose Grandma spent 6 weeks there every winter.  People are done with winter here.  Done.

Today at yoga my teacher lulled us all into relaxation describing being on a raft or a surfboard, floating in a warm sea, with warm breezes on us.  I had a physically painful pang in my heart for life in Australia where this reality existed, and where I was more often than not, sitting out on a surfboard in the warm water, with warm breezes blowing on me – unconcerned with layers, and footwear, and hats.  “Why did we leave!?” I thought. I remember then, that I had professed to miss the winter.  And I did.

And now here I am, missing Australia.  You’d think I was impossible to satisfy with this rambling, but in reality I’m so content.  I know the winter is long and dreary and cold, but I like being here and suffering with my people.  I like the shocking cold of opening the door to let the dog out. I like having to gingerly walk across terrifyingly slippery ice on the sidewalks when I’m out running.  It toughens us.  It makes us jollier and heartier than those who don’t fight this yearly battle with the elements.  It encourages us to share a warm beverage, a sidelong glance, or a frozen conversation with a stranger at a stoplight.  We are all in this fight together.  And we’re in the homestretch.

For me, this week has started out quietly, but beginning tomorrow things get hectic.  Appointments, interviews, travel, and lots of selling myself to people.  I am eager to get back to work.  I love work.  I love having a purpose and a schedule and coworkers. I love projects and goals. I always thought I’d love to work from home or go out on my own, but the reality is that I love the structure and community of a workplace and I miss it badly.  I know there are still several things to wrap up and arrange in life – houses to fix up and sell, boxes to pack and then unpack.  I know Rick and I are still well within the timeframe we have given ourselves to transition to a new life – with him back in school and me taking on a new role. We have some adjusting to do.  As our schedule fills up for the year ahead with weddings and travel weekends, baby births, showers, and all kinds of activity, I am savoring these moments of quiet at home.  Spring is almost here.  The world is waking back up from a long winter.  My life feels like it is beginning to accelerate and soon it will be busy again.

I am holding my tea with both hands, blowing off the steam, and savoring life’s slowness and solitude right now.  The end of winter brings a certain energy, best absorbed through quiet mediation, dog snuggles in the morning, and warm blankets by the fire in the evening.  I am doing all of these now, knowing this moment is short and soon the pace of life will pick up with the winds of spring.

Fireside living

I packed up my husband and new puppy into a U-haul truck yesterday, along with all of our worldly belongings.  They are now on their way to Denver, to become settled for the foreseeable future in Rick’s house as we prepare to sell it.  I am left at my parent’s, tying up some loose ends and house-sitting/dog-sitting.  It’s been a long time since I had this kind of freedom, and I like it,

It’s amazing that dog-sitting in my parent’s house feels like freedom and autonomy.  I guess that just goes to show how hectic life has been over the last few months.  And though I miss my budding little family (MAN do I miss my puppy – and Rick too!),  I’m sitting at home alone in front of a giant old brick fireplace, tucked under a wool blanket, reading, catching up on emails, quilting (yes, I said quilting), and generally taking ME time.  This is bliss.  I’m cooking my own food, getting in runs and yoga, sleeping well, and relaxing.  I have consumed at least 6 cups of tea today.  I went shopping.  I listened to Van Morrison really loud and danced with my dog.  I took care of long-delayed things.  I slathered my face with coconut oil.  I took a looong shower.

Since getting a puppy and being on 24/7 puppy duty without Rick’s help for a few days, I’ve begun to grasp the all-encompassing nature of what it might be like to have children.  I recognize the difference, of course.  I do.  But, if a small dog can whittle away so much of my personal time, how can one function and make space for their mental health while raising children? Yikes.

So, there you have it.  I am entirely relishing being home right now, sitting on a couch with a book, tea, and a snuggly dog.  I have my suspicions that life might not give me all that many more opportunities to do this going forward.  I’m soaking in every last second.

Puppy love

Missing her Dad on the way back from dropping him at the airport

Adelaide, missing her Dad on the way back from dropping him at the airport

I’m smitten.

For weeks, Rick has been utterly obsessed with the idea of getting a puppy.  And, though I love dogs, I was pushing back on the issue because I thought we should wait until we have a bit more stability in our lives before adding a little ball of chaos.  Maybe I was a bit scarred by our loss of little Elsa last year.  I don’t know exactly what it was but I had the brakes on, HARD.

Puppy yawn!

Typical of Rick, he kept up his pursuit without my support, incessantly raking the internet for nearby puppies  and coming back at me with new puppies and new rescue dogs almost daily.  I was going along with it, but nothing really piqued my interest until yesterday.  We wanted a rescue in many ways, but I really wanted a puppy too.  I also am extremely partial to Australian Shepherds and Heelers, but we were finding a lot of lab mutts in the rescues.  We just weren’t hitting our stride on the issue – then suddenly we found a small rescue that had 8 week old Australian Shepherd/Heeler mixes – and it was just 30 minutes from my parent’s house!

He finally has his puppy!

After a crazy weekend with Valentine’s Day, selling my baby (my first Subaru!) on my birthday on Saturday, and my whole family in town for an engagement party for my sister, Max, on Sunday, by Sunday evening Rick and I were ready to take some time to ourselves and look at some little puppies.

We went to the Muttley Crew rescue and met the whole litter of pups from a pregnant heeler who was rescued from an abusive situation just a day before she gave birth.  The puppies were all sweet and playful, but one seemed to latch onto us – Garnet, so named for her eyeshadow-like spot over her eye.

It didn’t take long for us to decide she was the one for us.  She was energetic, friendly, and eager to play.  After some paperwork, a little microchip shot, and a trip to the hardware store for a crate and other dog gear, she was on her way home with us!

Puppy’s first trip to Farm & Fleet

I fell for her faster than I ever would have expected – as Rick drove, I zipped her into my puffy jacket for warmth and she nuzzled into my armpit and quickly fell asleep.  It slayed me. I have been nuzzling my face into her soft puppy fur all day,taking in the distinctive smell of puppy.  Rick too, is over the moon.  Last night as we put her in her crate he gave her a pep talk about how proud he was of her on her big day.  I fell so in love – again – with both of them.  We decided to call her Adelaide – a tribute to Australia and an adorable name.  Little Addy – my baby! 

 

I will try not to obsess too much about her going forward, but hell, this blog is about love, right?

Addy sleeping in my jacket

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Naptime today