seven ~ forever is composed of nows

at this life stage, i like to go to the grocery store fewer than once per week, but i went two consecutive days in a row last week. rich asked me to buy him some ricolas, and at the same time we realized we were getting low on t.p. (low for people in middle age, so with about 3 rolls to go; closer to out than we want to be at this aforementioned life stage.) since that night would be the opening night of rich’s play, i also bought a bouquet of flowers. cough drops, t.p., and flowers really felt like a shopping list snapshot representation of love, seven years in.

on my way home from quinn’s band concert that night i hired the person tending the performing arts center lobby as my flower delivery elf. i was banking on knowing the person performing this job, and sure enough, he was a guest at our wedding.

between gratitude and herbs and twinkly rainbow tree lights and camp boss love meals, i’m hanging tough through my least favorite season, but every way i can boost self care, i do. the next morning, i picked some cards from my animal medicine card deck, as i’ve found it to be a reliable way to reconnect my spirit. the card i picked for rich was crow the “sentinel” but i hadn’t seen his play yet, so i didn’t even realize how fitting it would be.

other reading and reflecting has to do with a certain man i met at yoga class 7 years ago…

actual words i typed before asking him on our first date:

omg my tummy is so butterflies right now i can barely type. lol. one hour till i leave to go do laundry.

third date:

he doesn’t seem afraid at all to tell me sweet things. so far he seems so willing to say basically yes yes yes i like you, yes more being together, yes more phone calls, yes. there is no holding back or thinking something is not ok to say or feel or do…

i loved finding that “yes yes yes” before i ever went to country fair with him and stood under yes yes yes banners and added yes yes yes songs to our mix tapes… fun to find evidence that it was always there. it was never a maybe or a let’s see for either of us. we weren’t messing around.

on friday morning, rich was reading aloud about a high surf advisory on the beaches. crow is a watcher and protector.

me: “so i’m hearing take my camera to work today so i can go to the beach and take pictures of big waves?”

“um, no.”

“go to the beach with my camera, right?”

“do not go to the beach. well, you can take pictures, but you have to stay up high, not go down on the beach.”

“on the jetty?”

no! do not go on the jetty.”

it has been fun remembering together. “seven years ago this friday morning i was blowing up lauren’s phone with how we gave each other backrubs in yoga and how you ran away out of class and i couldn’t ask you out. but i knew we’d both go do laundry on monday.” he was laughing and calling me a stalker, which i owned. he said, “i didn’t run away,” but i disagreed, “you basically jumped into your socks and shoes and sprinted out the door.”

he went out the door to work friday morning at a leisurely pace, but i hadn’t made him any tea and i had been trying to keep his throat happy for the play. he said it was okay if i would just make him some that night before the show, and he stuffed some ricolas in his pocket. after he left, i tucked a quart jar of tea in a fuzzy wool cozy, and dropped it off in his truck. i had to check two locations but once i located his truck at the port, i snuck tea into it with a note, “making sure my stalking skills are still intact.”

the set for rick bartow: in spirit was magical, with alder branches lining the “walls” and animal sculptures nestled among the branches. the floor was covered in sawdust and wood chips, the perfect workspace of a loved and respected local artist. at the start of the play rich was alone on stage, sweeping wood chips, and immediately there was no fourth wall, he spoke directly to the audience. his opening lines spoke of “when i returned” referring to rick’s time in vietnam. he was drafted, came back “a walking wound,” and wore bells on his arms and legs to be able to hear his parts moving.

rich set a grounded and warm tone over the whole room (no surprise here, that is the effect he has on me all the time). he stopped sweeping and picked up a discarded piece of pipe, some twine and a twig off the floor, and turned the pieces into a crow.

three other characters came “out of the stacks” at the library and they interacted with bartow. in a distinctly non-wronging way, rich’s character corrected a lot of the misconceptions about being native american. emily dickinson could relate, and took the opportunity to dispel various myths about herself. next, he interacted with a.e. housman, and was able to break through his defenses (his initial tone was “who the heck is this indian?”) to offer metaphor that brought the agitated poet some peace. rick had done sweat lodges with recovering alcoholics in real life, and would take no credit for any healing taking place, referring back to spirit working through him. the characters discussed the lack of a word for religion in native languages because it’s not something separate from life. his character discussed with brecht how he had a strong attachment to this place, our coastal town. finally the authors were on their way to return to the stacks but rick paid some final tributes:

“but what about the women in your life?”

“those women are Everything.”

“and what about the children in your life?”

“the children are Everything.”

(knowing that rick’s son, who years ago used to skateboard with rich’s son, was sitting in the audience while he said this, was pretty deep. rich’s one condition upon being asked to take on the role was that rick’s son approved.) i also liked having it heard by my own child-who-is-everything right beside me, who proudly observed before the show that, “my step-dad is basically the star of the show.”

on sunday after the final matinee, i helped strike the set. but first i got to witness rich getting greeted by so many people who knew rick and had stories to share, or just loved the play and wanted to shake his hand. he was so gracious and deferred to his fellow cast and director. i told him he is like the quarterback who gives all the credit to his teammates. he got pulled away from three women after they thanked him but one of them recognized me from the farm stand so i kept chatting with them and they were a hoot. they all knew rick from the library or school, one was his second cousin once removed. they were naming actual theaters in portland where they were envisioning the play touring. i said, “as long as i can finagle a way to go along, i think they should definitely take it on the road!” they were tickled that the veggie lady was married to the star of the show.

rich’s process with plays is a bit like mine with writing. he reads my final drafts but most of the time i am doing my own internal process and all he hears is the sound of keys clicking on the laptop. when he does a play, i likewise see the end result, but he learns his lines and does his process internally. it was like a release that evening, finally just getting to revel in the experience and discuss our thoughts on it, hear about what resonated for him in his role, how the experience was for him.

that night i read him the cards i had picked out. about how crow strengthens his voice and uses it to bring light forth from the darkness… flies over with regularity, a reminder that we are not alone on our search to discover the light within. with his strong, loud call he encourages using one’s voice as a tool for knowing and sharing Truth.

in the card i attached to his flowers, i had quoted emily dickinson: “forever is composed of nows.” i think it’s a good description of how we are doing forever together, being fully present in the now moments with each other, remembering the nows of yesterday and savoring the nows of today, not just ending up at the destination together one day, but being here enjoying every little moment together going down the road.

another memory:

it has all just felt so “yes” the whole time and in addition to all the yes it’s also lack of dissenting voices. i asked him if he minded if i fell in love with him and he said he didn’t mind. then he said, “you know that falling in love thing has been on the tip of my tongue.” i said, “yeah, you were going to ask me out too, but you waited for me to say it first” and he laughed.

i strive to elicit that same laugh today.

he already got me a christmas present. when my butt nearly caught on fire one morning a few weeks ago due to my heating pad spontaneously combusting, he helped remind me what to do in my panic (unplug it, sweetie) and quickly carried the smoking object outside the house. when he returned, he made sure i was okay before he even cracked any jokes about my smokin’ hot butt. and a new heating pad was on my chair by the time i got home from work that day.

i may still be a novice at creating my own light, but i will never in a million years be able to make my own heat. luckily he has that covered. but you know, he brings a lot of light in addition to heat to this equation. it has always made so much sense to me that we celebrate our beginnings on the day of the year that the light starts returning.

love you now and forever, rich. happy seven years!

2 comments to seven ~ forever is composed of nows

  • camp boss

    oohhhh… sweet!!! 7 years ago, I remember when you were sitting on my couch and blushing about the budding romance!!! ahhh LOVE!!!

  • this post is so beautiful! and what a lovely thing to look back on. i wish i would’ve known about the play. i didn’t know rick bartow, but i have heard little bits about him here and there. it sounds like he inspired many of the people he came in contact with. i would have loved to watch a play that gave a glimpse into his world. if it goes on the road, i would travel to see it 🙂 love your stalker note. you do such a good job taking care of each other. i need to rekindle that with my husband… thanks for the inspiration.

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