Amidst the tumult of my new life, I have encountered a number of heartfelt moments that have brought me inordinate pleasure and great hope for the future. I have professed surprise at the constancy with which these small pieces of joy pop up, but a dear friend finally convinced me that this is due in part to who I am and the way that my life was meant to be right now.
What is truly surprising to me is that I have also discovered love.
I was not looking for it, but like much else that has happened to me recently, I have come to embrace it wholly, without expectations. It is enlivening, it is great, and it has contributed mightily to the fearlessness that is the bedrock of this new world I inhabit.
A beautiful, caring woman walked into my life when I was hovering near the lowest point of my grief. We met in line at a coffee shop, and struck up a short conversation about books (I had the wonderful novel, The Art of Fielding, which I had just finished, with me) while waiting for our coffee to come. There was no ‘bolt out of the blue,’ no incandescent flame that sprang from some depths inside us. Instead, there was an honesty to our connection that was refreshing, direct and familiar, and it felt comfortable enough for each of us to continue our conversation. I ended up giving her my book, and we swapped email addresses and went our separate ways for the day.
Susan and I corresponded for more than a month after our initial contact, mostly talking about how we had each come to the current places in our respective worlds. For someone unmoored by death and craving normalcy, this conversation was like the North Star to me, a familiar piece of the night sky that always returned my bearings, no matter how adrift I felt.
Susan’s kindnesses and compassion in dealing with my loss were tender and true, and, through our correspondence, we developed a close friendship. When we met again for coffee in late September — I called it a ‘practice date,’ much to the bemusement of the few who knew about it — it was as if we were two old friends catching up after some time away.
Through the fall, Susan and I spent more time apart than together, continuing our rich conversation while living our own lives. And each time we were together, there was a level of comfort that encouraged us and ultimately fed a spark that grew into a warm blaze by the time we headed into the holidays.
During this time, I had the occasional (and understandable), “What am I doing?” thoughts, but a few close friends — and Susan — kept me grounded. In the end, I chose to let my heart be my guide, and I am glad for it.
If that were all I told you about this — and there is so much more that I could say about this remarkable woman — it would still be the lovely story that it is. But Susan has also returned something so precious to me that I still can’t fathom it, something that I thought I had left by the side of the road years ago: the desire to write.
In a world where I have been given great gifts of beauty and love, I cannot tell you how special this inspiration has been. The pieces I have written here, and the ones I have yet to publish, have had their start in the conversations between Susan and I. And the words have flowed with an energy and care that is greater than the sum of all the writing I have done in my life to this point. It is so different that I feel as though I have been reborn as a writer.
And, much like finding love, I am surprised by something deeper: I am writing poetry again. Since it started in October, poetry has tumbled out of me in torrents. At first, I resisted, believing it to be a wasted exercise, especially in the context of the prose I felt I had to write, but I have since come to understand that the poet is at the core of who I am, and it is time for him to return.
I consciously stopped writing poetry 30 years ago because I felt I was incapable of writing anything of real beauty. When asked about it, I would say that I chose instead to live life as a poem. But now, as I survey the world that was, and the world that could be, I am emboldened by it all over again. I see beauty everywhere, and I want to commit great acts of beauty myself, in words and actions.
I know that this might all seem crazy to some, but it is not to me. As I look back over the past few months, I feel as though I have emerged strong, confident and upright from the ashes of my loving old world. I am carrying a pack with my dearest possessions and memories from that place — it doesn’t need to be much more than that — and have turned onto a road that is full of life, adventure and now, love.
When I pause to reflect on that, I am humbled and awestruck by the majesty of it all.
I did not look for love, but I cannot tell you how much joy I have in my heart because of it. As Susan and I have remarked to each other on more than one occasion, life is wondrous and beautiful.
It truly is. Be fearless, my friends.