Two Years On the Road

So here we are at the two year mark….

Where are you going?
Where are you going?
Can you take me with you?
For my hand is cold
And needs warmth
Where are you going?

I packed this difficult week pretty full, partly by coincidence, partly by intention. Last Saturday I danced the Cider Days tour with the team, and managed to walk away with a sore arm from all the stick clashing. Last Sunday I decided to sign up to sing at Yule with the choir I can’t quite seem to quit even though practices are two hours west of my new place. One more month of Sunday evenings blocked out, but this really probably is the last of it. Thursday the youngest daughter and I went to a Bruins game, and Friday I came west for Tea, then stayed overnight to attend a wedding.

It was a wedding between a member of my team and the Wake Robin women, the second one of those we had this year. Both teams danced at that earlier wedding in June, and the Robins danced again yesterday. There was in fact a lot of dancing, and so much music that at one point I had to choose between being three different places. The bride is the daughter of one of the leaders of the contra dance revival in New England, and he called most of the contra dances. It was one hell of a party.

But that’s not why I was really happy to attend that wedding on the eve of the unhappy anniversary. Heidi and Jerry both lost a spouse to cancer, and that shared bond connected us in ways that surprised me.  No matter how different the rest of your life may be, a loss like that cuts so deeply to the core that all the surface choices we make about how we live our lives just don’t matter at all. We don’t talk all that often, but when we do, we can say more in one sentence than I can in an hour with most of my friends, even the closest ones. And I really hope it stays that way, because I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, ever.

It was a very informal, non-traditional ceremony, officiated by a friend. Before they exchanged the vows, she talked about the different paths they had taken to get to where they were, their parallel paths and how they came together.  Afterwards I thought about this journey of my own.

Far beyond where the horizon lies
Where the horizon lies
And the land sinks into mellow blueness
Oh please, take me with you

Thirty-two years ago I was taken by surprise by a girl with incredible stories about a life lived in a hurry against a background of seemingly endless unfair challenges. She was a story that had to be told, and I wanted to hear it all. For thirty years we walked together, and I tried to shield her from all that as much as I could. Two years ago the thing I feared all along came to pass and we were parted far too soon.

Her stories are mine to tell now, and I do often. We added a bunch together along the way, but somehow they seem more hers than mine.

Let me skip the road with you
I can dare myself
I can dare myself
I’ll put a pebble in my shoe
And watch me walk (watch me walk)
I can walk and walk!
(I can walk!)

When I proposed to Barbara I asked her to skip the road with me, a somewhat out of context reference to the song “By My Side” from Godspell. I named this journal An Unwelcome Journey, but really this isn’t a new journey, it is just an unwelcome parting from the travelling companion I chose, and who chose me. We had our own paths, and chose to walk together as long as we could.

I shall call the pebble Dare
I shall call the pebble Dare
We will talk, we will talk together
We will talk (chorus) about walking

Several months ago as I was packing up the house I ran across a twelfth-century book titled “The Art of Courtly Love” by Andreas Capellanus, which includes his “Rules of Courtly Love”, which among other things prescribes a two year mourning period for a surviving lover.  I actually started writing something about that at the time, but scrapped it. By then I had learned not to try to make plans or schedules for myself. Two years is a completely arbitrary milestone.  This trip reveals itself to you as you go along, and plans keep getting rendered moot. Directions to point the way may be useful, as long as you are willing to change direction later. But schedules, those are meaningless.

Dare shall be carried
And when we both have had enough
I will take him from my shoe, singing:
“Meet your new road!”

What matters is the journey itself, and the company you find along the way.

Congratulations Jerry and Heidi, may your road together be long and happy. You both deserve it. It has been a joy seeing you two come together.

As for me, I’m lacing up my boots and walking on, wondering what I might find around the next bend.


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