Rainbows

Last night at the theater watching Mamma Mia again, my youngest, Livy, reached over the seat in a poignant part to grab my hand and in the dark I looked to her and her mouth moved in words of gratitude, telling me that, as a mother, I’d always been there for her. And as the screen splashed fiction, we sat there and held hands, sharing our real story, and her eyes were misty and so were mine.

It hasn’t always been wonderful for my girls. One of the most painful memories from my life is after my divorce in 2007. Their dad had moved to VA (to live with Sarah and her young son) and the sudden revocation made both girls insane with anxiety—petrified that I’d somehow just vanish into thin air—until at one point Livy, then 6, wasn’t able to go to school without sobbing for me until she was gagging.

So I started sitting outside her classes to help her ease into stability and she was starting to feel more confident until, one random day, her first grade class were playing a game for P.E. when suddenly Livy broke off from the group, ran over to me—falling into my arms—and in the broken gasps of uncontrollable feelings, barely got out through her hyperventilating, “I (sob)…miss…my (sob)…daddy.” And in the seconds after, her little body convulsed with all the grief I’d lived to protect her from and somehow became embedded in my own, as if forcing me to learn about pain in a way I couldn’t ever understand otherwise.

And some moments stay with you forever. Are designed to. For at that time, on that day, in that gym, patting my baby’s back, telling her “I know you do baby. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry”—my own heart broken—I would have done anything to deliver her from that pain. Because I know the doubts that creep in to hurt us when the lights are out and my heart that day descended with her into all those nights. Into The Great Loss, where we become bound to an event simply because our hearts are too injured to allow expectance of anything better. Into the experiences which don’t leave, even when you ask them nicely, and are a good and “perfect” little girl. When fear shines like a search light, Discovering all the little pockets of emptiness, all the wounds, and tells that story over and over of running to mama because we can’t do this; there’s too much pain.

But There are secrets to life that the intervening years told the truth about.

Because that same child sat next to me in the theater last night, whole, intact, emotionally available— even at only 18 years old—and feeling and expressing realizations and resolutions, while not wasting any time living her authentic self and the consistent nurturance she has for this world. And that these two memories exist within the same life experience—within the same 12 year span—reveals that there are stories which resonate more deeply than The Great Loss.

For in the shadows of heartbreak, doubt, abandonment and running to mama, there lives “help me” and someone rubbing your back, until the colors of this existence are shades of rainbows and fall leaves that in the contrast creates the entire more-beautiful experience. Where Life waves at us as if from the shore and we calibrate to protect ourselves until blindly against rocks we’re hurled and from the chaos—stretching out and towards our love for one another—we get to rise Into and then out of the great loss into another story.

And I did not know that then but it’s been a magical unveiling I can see the irony of once wanting freedom from.

For from spontaneous unwritten moments and the shine of a movie screen, pain and heartbreak now can illuminate the story of deep love and empathy. The story where Livy and I hold hands in the potency of misty-eyed remembrance then, after, normal life continues, and as we drive home, we hum the same song in the breath of a summers night.

 

From my “Me” page

I once read that “Om” is the sound that was made at the inception of the universe. That when the entirety of all things was somehow formed out of a void, Om was the vibrational emanation that erupted when the energy transferred from one state to another.

And “Om” is deceptive, for when said clearly, it’s actually three sounds, “A”, “U” and “M” and it’s in our haste to utter it as a cohesive unit that it often comes out–incorrectly–as only two.

And of course, to believe the universe made a sound at it’s “birth” is a story right there. The “big bang” is the current working theory explaining the universe’s known physical properties and it’s hard to imagine such a bang not making a sound but because the emptiness of space doesn’t carry “sound” (current science: except for gravitational waves) we would actually have to redefine sound in order to understand it. What can something say if it can’t be heard? Begging the question of the deep existential unknowings, asking who is the observer in this? Who is the one who hears? Is there a consciousness humans don’t have that experiences energy and light as it explodes into being? Questions which probe our growth, bringing us back to “Om” and the communion of heart. Where cross-legged on the floor we make space for the quiet, and in so doing, come to chant those three emanations from our voice box which no matter what the science or philosophy reveals is actually and truly the universe creating the sounds of itself.

The site title “Aimless” is a moniker I received from my AP Economics teacher Mr. Rosen at Aptos High School (CA) in front of a class of my peers–who didn’t know me except as the shy, new girl whose face turned red when she had to speak. The moniker which hit an emotional target that’s taken me over 30 years to fully understand. Because I was someone born looking for the deeper meaning. I read spiritual books at an early age, took religious studies courses as my “fun classes”, and purposely-geared my University of California, Davis psychology degree into the “pseudo-science” of what consciousness was, simply because I respected science enough to see that the full arc of its story is that science is ALWAYS in its infancy. So the description of being “Aimless” was not only an insult but a fear. For to be “Aimless” was like saying I’d never find the enlightenment the Buddha described, or walk the earth in love with humanity like Jesus. “Aimless” was someone ambling purposelessly along a road of meaninglessness, the glancing blows of love and experience barely reaching into the deepest significance of who I was and what I thought was possible. But now at 52 years old, I see things more clearly.

Because over the course of my life, I did feel aimless. I’ve lived in four states–moved in and out of towns and cities, and relationships. Became a single parent in 2007 after a savage divorce, went back to school for a masters degree in teaching and started a pet sitting business to supplement my income then graduated in 2011 into Life’s cosmic sense of humor where I didn’t get a job, experienced unemployment, financial hardship, the traumas of my beloved daughters, irreparable rifts with the unkind judgment of those I thought were family, and all the other full catastrophes (grief, fear, isolation, desperation) until I began to question the validity of a life which could deliver such experiences. Who cares about deeper meaning when things are so hard and why do I even want to be here for this cruel social experiment known as “humanity”?

But one night while sitting on the stairs of my former home–the wreckage of my life hitting with an incomparable loneliness–I somehow reached a stillness. And from that stillness I rose knowing that within the external circumstances of my life—within the hardship I was still actively engaged in— rests the opportunity to see the profound purity of the love I’ve offered this world. And that it is in fact the ego-less love any of us offer this world that is our only true possession–the only thing we ever get to keep– and is what turns back to speak to us on the carpeted back stairs of 1531 Garfield Avenue during the depths of our dark night of the soul.

And it wasn’t magic. It wasn’t some voice from the sky. It was my self, and my muscles, and one moment free of ego, showing me/us that love is bigger than Amy and her family, and her goals and her loneliness.

I currently live in Salt Lake City, UT (no; I’m not Mormon), was 52 on 10/1/2020, am a single parent of two girls (Julia, 22 and Livy, 20), a business owner/pet sitter, an animal lover, a teacher, a writer finding her voice, a devoted believer in the emotional freedom that comes with complete authenticity, and an aimless soul intent on expanding into the ever-changing self of a single second.

Because the search for a deeper meaning to life is actually an unsolvable logic puzzle unless we can find a way to not “be” anything. For you can’t be anything or go anywhere or see any truth until you find a way to be alive inside the peace and unity of just one moment. For that is the only meaning we ever truly are.

And such it is that all these years later, I bow to the wisdom of Mr. Rosen, the painful clarity of emotional targets, and the dark nights of the soul that forced me to explore the deeper significance of no thing and no self.

Beyond this site, I’m scattered around and nowhere. But here’s some more pics of my life. Thanks for coming by.

Aimless/Amy Palleson. (Permanently: TBD).

Yellowstone

And it was a shapeless voyage. Underplanned; underfunded. Like that time in my twenties when my boyfriend and I camped up and down the California coast. Freezing our asses off, we were whipped into submission by the frigid ocean wind, and—guided by no plan— moved east, north, then back toward the coast in a zig zag of unrepentant spontaneity. Landing once in a campground a few miles off I-5 that was so dusty it’s dirt never heard of rain and still yet was such a small fare to pay Life in order to feel free and unencumbered.

And the original Yellowstone vacation had to be scrapped because of a June blizzard, but somehow the girls, mom and I are there and it’s morning—June 15 2008 (Fathers Day)—when we’re stopped at the side of the road watching the grizzly bear eat the baby elk. The snow had melted into the pasture and the bears grey fur blew in imperceptible breeze, and as the tiny carcass (certainly still warm) became the backdrop for our first trip after daddy moved, Livy cried softly—“I bet the mommy elk is looking for her baby right now!”—in the tender, knowing way that would become her trademark.

Because on that day, my daughters and I bore the mark of unresolved grief. Where their dad cheated then moved to the opposite coast to live with his girlfriend and her young son, leaving myself, our two daughters, our pets, our life, threatening with lawyers if I contested our decree then bringing his girlfriend back to town a few months later—to hotel rooms they’d share with our girls—asking them, “why can’t you stop being selfish and just be happy for me?” They were 9 and 6. But he had his new family and the urgent need to justify his actions.

And I’d withstood the tears of my self and my girls from rejection that cuts the soul and had come face to face with truths we weren’t ready to handle, and watching that field, my little girls and I felt rooted to those truths. Stuck by the still-knife of temporal events which repeatedly wound us until we remain inside them, as if walking beside the ghost shadow of ourselves.

So on that day—on that slight hill, next to at least a hundred other spectators—I briefly joined Livy in wondering about that mama elk. About the world that Mama and I live in. Wondering how she can see and carry this. Wondering about the inherent indifference of it all and how we can find the strength to survive this world.

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[One of the great mysteries of existence rests with the moment of the “big bang.” If that event had obeyed the currently-accepted laws of our physical universe, the Big Bang would have created matter and anti-matter in equal amounts, a circumstance which should’ve been so condensed that matter and anti-matter would have annihilated one another, leaving only energy. But that’s not what happened.

And given enough time, it’s hard not to make everything the domain of the bittersweet. Impossible, really. I was walking through the grocery store writing this, thinking about how the struggle for my girls didn’t stop after that Yellowstone day or for years after yet ours is still such a beautiful story, now making the seemingly-disparate aspects of it connected as two conjoined truths.

For that there are tangible experiences of predation—bears eating babies, daddies creating emotional wounds—is the easy-reader version of a story. But the stars we look upon glow as matter conceived via a known improbability, and in so doing, pass on to us legends about who we are and the poignancy resting inside every tangible experience, as one aspect of truth forever looking for its other].

*********

The 1988 fires of Yellowstone twenty years before had made scars that settled into the landscape. In that 1988 summer, thirty-six percent of the park had burned, and trees fell like sticks on each other, resting now in 2008 as in permanent homage to the dignity of their past.

That fire year, new aspen groves—waning in the park before the fires—sprouted up miles from their burnt foremothers. The seeds for the shoots had been carried on wind and water and popped up only days after the fires, so to now—on our hasty sojourn through Yellowstone—they could grow proudly beside their ancestors like a lesson. As if Time is a benevolent gift which purposely withholds wisdom for a reason.

Standing near me, my mom—a pragmatist—lifted Julia in her arms to look at the bear. In 2000, the year Livy was born she’d told me that God never gives us more than we can handle. Julia—born in ‘98–had been challenging; hadn’t slept longer than two hours in her life, was colicky, every arriving tooth making her wail and sleepless, and James was constantly gone either physically or mentally, and I feared for what the second child could bring. Mom isn’t religious and neither am I, but in those simple times, “God never gives you more than you can handle” was enough. Yet now I stood with the knowing that it wasn’t enough, and never had been. Such words are inert— placeholders passing for lore–and shaped by hope into a feeling just good enough to persevere.

The park rangers were directing traffic overlooking the meadow, and I held Livy in my arms. I wanted everything for my babies. To feel loved and safe. Free, unencumbered. Wanted them whipped by ocean winds daring it to make them cold. Wanted their only miseries to be courtesy of choice and adventure.

And the 1988 aspen groves that had burned were direct clones of groves mammoths and camels had probably grazed on, And it reminded me of something I once read: that the pull of gravity from the sun is precisely what’s needed to keep our planet from flinging itself into the abyss. That for billions of years beyond placeholders, the sun has anchored us to the safety of our Earth as we eternally balance, falling always into the sun but forever missing.

And in the bright sunshine of a June day in 2008 that bear’s fur blew in the breeze, floating in air I didn’t even know was moving. Perhaps whispering to me about mysteries of Nature as Julia comforted Livy—“Maybe that bear also has babies it needs to feed”—among RVs and tripods and foreign languages.

And maybe there are moments that stand still on one point, as if Time can pivot and catch. When you’re standing on the earth in the sunshine with your daughters and also falling into the sun and forever missing.

Because in the absence of a deeper knowing, the power of our love must be taken on faith but when we shield one another from the emotional brutality of our darkest truths, we bear witness to pain as an infinite-love seeking the comfort of itself.

And so it was that my soft-hearted seven-year-old child–Livy, her eyes red from love for that elk family—was in my arms comforting her stuffed panda, and her older sister—Julia, then ten, surveying the adventure, calling us back into stronger selves —comforted us both.

And inside a tangible scene, we welcomed ourselves home to the surety of our deepest safety, growing from and into each other—free and unencumbered in our devotion—our love filling in the incompleteness of a burned landscape with groves of trees now in full bloom.

Failures RIP

My day: 1) Shannon’s dogs won’t come out to pee in the rain so I stand outside the door and try to lure them with treats but they know they’re just milk bones *yawn*cough*not worth it* so I now feel very wet and failure;

2). I can’t get blood from Stella’s ear to figure out her insulin dosage so we sit there and she comforts me which tastes vaguely of her self-destructive victory.

3). I see a Snoop Dogg post and rally because life is too short and too long to suffer and most people don’t truly know one another anyways and if we did, there’d be no jealousy and we’d all be rooting for each other. Life is good

4). I bend over (like a dumb bitch, wtf, Amy?) and hear my 20 yo Sundance pants rip/RIP and now here’s my butt like she doesn’t even know enough to be ashamed but I’m feeling her vibe so strong that suddenly I’m transformed and I’m pretty sure I can pull off lunch at Oasis Cafe before heading home to change them.

Witness

If you told me as I was snapping these pictures of my girls all those years ago that our world would crash and burn—that we’d be Navigating waters of hardship and heartbreak—and become so vulnerable we’d feel buried under the suffocating ruins of our own lives, I might have given up. And yet had I done so, I would not have arrived to their adulthood so to see the humor and empathy of two humans unquestioningly relying on their shared strength, holding space for each others’ tenderness, and wearing one another for warmth during cold times.

It’s incredibly powerful and I’m blessed to have endured hardship that I could witness such love.

Muh Earl

Some pics belie the tenderness behind them. Because when I met introverted Earl–whose history included the passing of his former owner, the relatives for whom did not find new homes for his cats and Earl was put on the street–his eyes seemed almost too sad to overcome the emotional hesitation.
 
And as a pet sitter, everything is always temporary and short-term. For a few days, I come in, feed, stay for a bit, leave and don’t see them sometimes for a long while between their families trips. And because of this, good connections with sensitive animals who’ve experienced abandonment are challenging to manifest. Since animals become world-weary just like humans, and know better than to get attached. For although circumstances change, once we experience such a loss as Earl had the fear usually settles into even our muscles, so Earl had made his whole body part of keeping distance, revealing his skepticism and hurt as he’d let the other house cats crowd before walking off as if giving up.
 
But I understood Earl. Knew his grief. And in the justified sadness of a sweet cat someone shooed outside as if they were sweeping the floor, I was called to act. So I made time to find him each visit, to sit with him, to specifically bring him into the circle of my attention (even with his extroverted sibs crowding around) because I wanted him to know he was important to me. Wanted to make an event out of “Earl”. Came into the house hollering the refrain “Where’s muh Earl?” so that he knew right away I hadn’t forgotten between trips that he was that tender guy I wanted to see.
 
Because we’ve all looked out upon the world with sad Earl eyes, many of us coming to exist within the immovable sense of not feeling safe enough to trust the world won’t hurt us, for, in fact the world has—Purposefully, Unashamedly—until sometimes we want to even flee from this life. And while these are harsh realities I can’t erase out of existence, I didn’t want to accept that that’s all there is. And Earl didn’t either.
 
For sometimes sadness and grief seem solid as if anchoring us permanently into them. Yet from mutual loss flows a compassion and nurturance for our fellow humans and creatures until somehow, one day, we’re sitting on the couch and old man Earl suddenly climbs into our lap and nuzzles his face in our hair.
 
And there are yet mysteries to solve, but events often become bits of truth constantly discovering itself, and when sweet Earl jumped up that first day—cat hair like love floating delicately around—I think it seasoned us both in what to do with this Life. In how to stand inside the new love we weave into existence as we survive this world more powerfully within togetherness.

Recalibrating

And I didn’t want my face to be puffy—and don’t like to upset the animals—but I was crying as I took this first picture.

For various reasons that day, I couldn’t hold back the ocean and—as Killian and Smudge moved about their deck—painted my face with loneliness and afternoon sun.

And science says tears carry stress hormones out of the body, leaving us more chemically-balanced but I wasn’t feeling that hope at that time. For life is so thick sometimes. Like windshield smeared with dirt—like the air in Salt Lake City, white snow on the ground Alpine-wholesome while the mountains disappear into 55.5 µg/m³ smog—and true sight is lost inside microscopic complexities and forfeit to sudden worrisome torrents, unseen mountains masked by chemical-laden water breaking free (finally) to flow down slopes of pine needles and skin.

And Killian is an orange kitty with dementia, who is a sweet, playful ham until his parents get home—when he runs and hides as if he’s never seen them before—and Smudge, the black and white is normally more aloof so after this picture—taken exactly 30 days ago; a vision of idealism–I decided to delete my Facebooks. To give up the charade. To celebrate having had a good run—sharing my authentic and whole self, seeing others do the same—and to honor that the world is a dynamic place where I’ve changed, and where tears falling from eyes hold sorrow as it leaves the body.

And today is the last day I can go back and retrieve anything—in where like I’m imagining you log on and are immediately faced with “I told you so,”, and maybe I’d apologize to Zuck personally via email?; I mean, I just don’t know, it’s so awkward and uncharted—but the interesting thing is that I posted so many things, so many pictures, so much fluff, comments, etc. but there’s only one thing that I specifically remembered to go back and save, and that’s the picture of Livy falling asleep in my bed after our night in the ER following her first grand mal seizure at Classic Skating. Pic 2. Julia had seen it happen—I wasn’t even there; they were with their stepmom—and was hysterical/having a panic attack, so Livys then-stepbrother Taylor rode in the ambulance with Liv because their stepmom had to drive the rest of the kids behind the ambulance to the hospital. And the picture itself is nothing really; of a teen girl—covers messy, on her side, face angled towards the mattress; worn, spent, exhausted, alive, safe in my bed after a dangerous day—but it’s everything.

Because some things you can’t ever truly savor until you let the pain bubble up and through, until the mountains are masked and you feel so lonely you’re crying on a Republican’s deck. Until the terror that you’re watching your baby sister die—paramedics hovering over her, asking if she can remember her name and how old she is—gets recalibrated into driving up to Ogden after work to get her from college because you miss her. Until you see your child breathe in your bed, knowing that the deep gift of sorrow and redemption is that your life can now be as profound as you’ll allow.

Until your fairy child has epilepsy (and also depression, anxiety and a micro-tumor on her pituitary) and your firstborn loves like a big dream and a kitty named Smudge is the risen humanity you desperately need, who with paws on your knees one lonely day, asks “Are you OK? Can I help?”

And Time itself dilates—science says that too—and all things have the hope for bearing us back into the sensation of love. So right here, now, today, this year, and [emboldened by gravity’s warping of Time] over this entire life upon this planet, I move towards Julia, Livy, Smudge, Killian, tears, writing, pictures, mountains, sorrow, healing, gratitude, creativity, and all forces yet unknown breaking our culture of loneliness, their black and white fur earnestly checking in with chemical-covered faces and afternoon sun on early November days.

[Edit, 12/11/2019:  And when I say I’m lonely, I don’t mean for human companionship. You can be with someone, married or otherwise mated, and still be lonely. What makes me feel lonely—or did on that day—was “the machine”. The march of humanity blindly forward towards their Truman Show; what makes me lonely is the assumptions we make about others, the misguided envy; how hard it is to stop from saying something hurtful and how we find it perfectly acceptable to not reach out, to help. It isn’t that I believe people are bad or selfish; its actually that I believe they’re good and just can’t be quiet].

The Dead

Pic 1: “Ladyfinger, dipped in Moonlight, writing ‘what for?’ across the morning sky.” May this day and all others see us into skies speaking songs to the calm of a gentle world.

DD2 and I were talking the other day about the 27 Club. It started because she’d told me how much she liked the song Santeria by Sublime (though Waiting for my Ruca is clearly their best one, duh) and I told her the lead had OD’d then we veered into Kurt Cobain’s death, and I said he was a feminist and an LGBTQ-ally and that it must have been hard for him to breathe so to speak and maybe that’s why he did it. For that was when America made trans people the butt of jokes and when “coming out of the closet” embraced the ridiculousness that being born gay was somehow controversial, and I reflected that for someone like him—an artist, an ally to those treated unfairly—to be popularized and even idolized by often-vacuous people hip to a scene rather than a bigger purpose—who knew of him yet did not really “know” him nor probably ever could—must have felt so empty. Because to be “front page” to such a society would be lonely, knowing you’ve achieved “the dream” only to have that dream consist of the barren hollowness of speaking profound ideas into a world that only loves to hear itself talk.

Anyways, that line by the Grateful Dead always makes me think of Stephen Trig (not his real last name); a few years ago, I made a meme from it and he’s the only one who recognized where the lyrics were from. The GD are the epitome of living your best, most real life because they released all the “shoulds” and just flowed. And yeah, they crashed at the end but sometimes I think crashing is actually when things get so real you have no choice but to shed the vacuous bullshit and uncover your most profound self. That’s how I see it anyways. And Stephen always had something authentic to say—it wasn’t just the same meaningless bullshit talking about himself that makes up the majority of our culture—and when he died of a heart attack while mowing his lawn (not long after I posted that meme) I felt his presence a few days after, and know that all these years later, he’s somewhere more befitting such a self

In an Oops/Fuck World

That moment when someone you haven’t seen or heard from since you were 13 years old messages (you’re not FB friends) to tell you that although his politics are near-polar opposite yours, he’s been checking in on your Facebook for over a year to see if you’ve got any new political commentary and in the process realized that he’s envious of you because you have a clear gift for wordcraft.

And for a millisesecond, you experience the peace of a simple act of generosity, then he adds: “except for all of those obscenities, you’re an amazing wordsmith.” Then, in way of explaining— perhaps just to himself, for I didn’t inquire—why he has kept coming back he adds, having clearly resigned himself to the defects, “But: that’s just Amy.”

Thank you. Really hits the spot. Now tell me, random acquaintance: do you like me better with eyeliner or without, smiling or more serious; should I wear low-cut sundresses or is that too flashy? What exactly can I do to make your experience of me more comfortable?

And even just a few years ago, I didn’t used to cuss as much as I do now. I took great care to stifle my own expressivity so as not to make waves, going out of my way to avoid offending someone because I not only didn’t know how to make space for myself, I also didn’t see my self separate from the societal conditioning that raised me.

But experience paves new roads to truth. And in the last few years things have gotten loud. Child trafficking, the meat “industry”, the double-barreled crises of anxiety and suicide, whales dying with tummies full of plastic and Trayvon, a kid, killed for wearing a sweatshirt…., all existing as cattle prods for evolutions. Since within the sights and sounds of this suffering world is the sights and sounds of a society structured on toxicity and denial which now must do better.

For the real shit of all these implanted social requirements is the starving polar bears, reduced arctic ice to reflect the heat of the sun and 12 years to unchain from lifetimes of human assumptions we were clearly mistaken about. And the truth of this world is that we clutch pearls about cussing, and not about some homeless person pushing his dog in a shopping cart. We speak our offense about a women saying whatever she feels is best but not about wealth inequality or a planet so imperiled we’re counting down years from only the number 12 to when we won’t be able to exist here anymore. We grant tolerance to a wordsmith and allow ourselves to miss that our opinion on the subject might be just a big pile of useless bullshit clearly enunciated.

And in panning out—in making the next 12 years our potential entire lifetime—we’ll all need to cuss—panic, rage, topple—and speak anger free of the societal constraints that have previously anesthetized us. Because conformity won’t get us to survival and when everything we said, thought, and did were all wrong, we now get to save ourselves by allowing one another the space to be all the things we never were.

The beautiful complexity of algae

And it was a time of great vulnerability.  But I didn’t know it then.

Because at age 20, away at college, and in love with the future, I couldn’t yet see anything except through the embedded resilience of youth and the dream that I knew myself well enough to be able to navigate hardship.

So we danced into experiences—he and I—becoming family in the rental in Davis, walking my dogs, brewing fancy coffee, drinking Bailey’s—becoming grown-ups—setting up the Scrabble game to Led Zeppelin; laying in on the weekends, lazy Saturdays spent with the SF Giants on AM radio, Steve tinkering under the hood of his 1967 Mercury Cougar in homemade t-shirts satirizing society (“I DON’T work out at Golds’ Gym” or “I’m High On Crack”).

Us both making a world for ourselves, living a love story we were writing every day.

And we were so tender, he and I; had lived inside lives unbecoming our gentle hearts–his as love for a sweet father who seemed to know deep grief, mine as the oldest of a family who exploded into divorce the second I’d stepped off for college—and we were perfectly-timed, growing towards one another as we lived within a protected sweetness our families hadn’t always modeled. Removing selves from the life we didn’t want to see, reflecting back to one another the safety of kindness and humor and gentle days, Fool in the Rain playing as letter tiles were chosen, him leaving funny poems on my pillow in the morning (“your eyes are the color of pond algae”), me writing my first name alongside his last in my Cognitive Psychology notebook.

But October 17, 1989 came, and the Loma Prieta earthquake stirred all I’d been pushing away, until in mere moments the entire trajectory of my broken family burned inside me. Dad crying in the armchair, mom telling me I wasn’t welcome to come home, dad moving out, mom unstable—making my younger sister Alex do the Ouija board—then that summer ‘89 day Alex ran away from the house (which in just two months she’d be inside when it shook into its death) with me following, trying to fix the world I didn’t want to end, petrified of what would happen to mom if I let her go. Me wanting to save us all from brokenness and still not being able to, for even the earth knew it was too late, and tossed the house down the hill, making everything cockeyed and wobbly, and smelling of the remnants of a dead family. Rotting food from the tipped fridge, moldy water, smashed perfume bottles, and the beloved Angel fish lying dead on the floor.

And it was suddenly too much.  I’d seen too many broken hearts—had lost too much—for dreams to still come true, and pushed Steve away in the disbelief that good could even exist. And in the breakups aftermath, he cried—tears on the lashes of lovely hazel-blue eyes—and asked me “why?”, believing I guess that I would actually have an answer even though I didn’t know anything, and wouldn’t. Not for so many years.

But, as if we both needed an answer, he stayed with me.  For during my lifetime since, I could not stop thoughts of him, and did not want to, and shuffled around a feeling of grief for what I’d done and turned from—dreaming of him at night; 30 years worth–struggling with bewilderment at the feeling that I was irrevocably chained to an ever-distant past, existing in my marriage to James in subconscious reverie for the intimate connection Steve and I had shared huddled all those years ago in college in Davis, warmth and humor and hope and respite from a damaged world. And I could not shirk it no matter how painful it was to remember, and did not know why.

Yet life is mysterious until the wisdom of one single moment calls, and here as I stand in the shadow of all these years, I am every day a new person able to see it now for what it offered me.

For it was magic. That time.

I loved him and I knew he loved me— the “me” that I was at my most deepest and significant self—and in reflecting goodness back to one another, we walked together through the shadows of grief, loving with open hearts against all probability, and nurturing a sweetness so seductive that even at 50 years of age I can still taste and smell the impossible magic that it was.

And for so long, it was a loss—a regret, hurting this sweet man, creating a hole inside me of unknown depth—but even in the remnants of 30 years and the passing of a million lifetimes, I know that he was and always will be a gift to me.

Because he changed me forever—danced upon my soul–beckoning me to emerge towards the safety of himself, and in bearing witness to his powerful love for me, I became stationary within a beautiful moment, and existed in perpetuity as witness to joy and happiness and the affirmation that I could be loved.   And it was an impossible gift that I will carry with me forever.

So on this, his birthday—February 28, 2019, his 51st–I just wanted to say:

Happy Birthday, Steve. You were a safe place in a terrible storm. Thank you—my dearest friend–for showing me how to love myself.

[2/28/2019; I write and revise this every year, and have until this year called this neverending evolution of self “Closure” but I woke up this morning, said “Happy Birthday, Steve,” knowing that you can never achieve closure from something that changed you forever. And so it will be that I will always grow with it and merely hope he’s found his way as the sweet person he always was, and continue to satirize society with humor-filled letters sent in lavender envelopes]