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The morning has dawned in Philadelphia, and I sit in solitude waiting for her to awaken.
The newly-formed snow sits nicely on the trees below, and the sun shines through skies wounded by the evening snowstorm. I can hear the bustle of people below clearing pathways through the winter gift, trying to get somewhere or even nowhere at all.
“Sleep in,” I want to say to them.
“Meditate,” I wish to yell.
“The snow will melt, and you will find the sidewalk again,” I want to write on the healing sky. “Get grounded, or else the ground you shovel back to life will be nothing but dirt and gravel. Please…”
My inner voice trails off, realizing I am not speaking to them, not even figuratively. My heart is speaking to my mind; a wise sage cautioning a student in need of such advice. I am in disarray this morning, and I need to clear last night’s snow from my mind to find the ground again.
So, I write. I write in a fevered pitch. Words are spilling out of me faster than my fingers can follow. It seems I need a catharsis and, as always, I turn to the creative fire within me to burn away those layers keeping me from that truth.
A lyric comes to me in the silence, perhaps acting like a small crack in the opening to the catharsis I seek.
“And I wished for so long. Cannot stay.
All the precious moments. Cannot stay.
It’s not like wings have fallen. Cannot stay.
But still there’s something missing. I cannot say…”
~ Pearl Jam, “Long Road”
I haven’t heard that song in a while, so I’m not sure where the words are coming from. Perhaps it is from some other realm, the realm of guides and cherubs, where songs sometimes seep through cracks to be explored and emotions to be addressed. Perhaps the lyrics are like candles those angels have lit in the night sky guiding me somewhere I need to go.
“I’ve wished for so long…cannot stay…”
I’ve become a master at repressing feelings when necessary, but I’ve also become familiar with energy that wants to rip those stars out of the sky and embed them in the pool of my existence. I want to know the truth, feel the truth, be warmed by the presence of a fire so intense that without life’s tempering, I would turn to ash in the flame.
I want my higher self to guide me, be the truth of me. That desire means my soul cannot stay in one place for very long. It is always searching for ways to find the truth.
But alas, I am a human, doing human things in human ways.
I often succumb to the voices that I have collected along the way, voices that scream out, causing me to cover my truth with snow and ice. The fire so dampened, I am left without much to light my path. The fire so dampened, the angel’s flames above me are easier to find. The darkness truly can reveal a flame, even if that flame cannot warm the breath of me. It is there I often find the truest voice within me, the one I dare not ignore when it speaks.
“All the precious moments…cannot stay…”
I exhale the type of breath that carries a burden into the ether. I will soon, once again, be separate from my heart’s other half. In less than 10 hours, I will board a plane to return to my western mountains.
The realization saddens me and throws a blanket of melancholy over me. In less than 10 hours, I will go back to the life I’ve known, walking snow-covered and muddy trails alone, speaking in tongues to those around me while wishing I was reading poetry to her.
Soon, I will begin another countdown to our next encounter. I will do my job, and do it well while trying not to get lost in the fact that I will not be eating dinner next to her. I will not be watching television while hearing her lightly breathe as she’s lost in slumber. I will not find that hug around the corner, or that kiss just waiting at the other end of a sentence.
I will be, in fact, returning to life as usual with the wonderful presence of her in my heart even if I cannot find her in my arms.
“It’s not like wings have fallen…cannot stay…”
Even through the chill, I know I am a blessed man.
I have found love—the type of love that runs deep and true even in the thick of ice and snow. I walk with a beloved even when we are apart, and I stay true to the fire of love that seems unextinguishable. Still, as I mentioned, I am a human doing human things, and in that humanity, I often put aside my blessings to focus on the absence of her hand, on the loss of her lips and the pressing of her flesh in that beautiful embrace.
“Parting is such sweet sorrow.” I believe Shakespeare had it wrong. There is little sweet about parting for this Romeo.
My soul may know better but my mind just wants to dance in the newly-laid snow of sadness. I know, deep within me, that I am blessed to have such a feeling of sorrow, but I feel little sweetness in the experience of it. Like a honeybee in search of nectar in a dying field of flowers, there is little I can hold on to.
Yet, the sage within me rises to the occasion. “How much do you need to hold on to? What else do you need but the love you know is there?”
The student responds, “I need her breath on my face. I need her hand in mine. I need to know that she is safe and that I can be there to protect her. I need to hear her call out to me to see the sun rising, have her hand me a book that she has written in to read the passage. I need her head on my chest and to see her face light up in a smile.”
“You have all you need. Agree to that and you’ll never want again.”
“But still there’s something missing…cannot say…”
The student within me trails off into silence, and the sage just sits patiently, waiting for the lesson to sink in. The only sweetness I can find is in the promise of meeting again soon, and the promise that one day our moments of separateness will be less than our moments of togetherness.
The sage cannot wait. “Then you have found the sweetness! If you must hold on to something, try and hold on to that!”
The student wants to argue but knows there is no point.
“It is fine to be sad, my love. It is normal. But just as that fire of joy is dampened by the cold of sadness, what happens?”
“The stars become brighter.”
“And what can the stars be used for?”
“To guide my way.”
“Exactly. So when the sadness of separation comes and the fire of your joy is dampened, let the stars guide you. They will lead you back home. Remember, all you should require of yourself is that you do your best in the brightest truth of the moment, whatever that best means, no matter how dark or bright your sky may be.”
Perhaps there is no sweetness in the parting, but there is sweetness in what cannot be parted.
I can, if I choose, taste the bitterness of the lemons of our departures while drinking the lemonade of what can never leave. I can be both sage and student, soul and man, love and fear in equal parts and still have the most wonderful experiences of my living.
I will return to my mountains and walk the muddy trails alone, always praying for the day when there are two sets of footprints embedded in the earth. I will stare in awe at the views I am so gifted, breathing in the possibility that one day I will share them with my beloved, holding her hand, sharing a kiss in the light of a newly-risen sun, holding each other while softly remembering the days when we would be counting down the moments to our departure.
Nothing can teach the value of life like death, and nothing can teach the value of togetherness like separation.
And that song? Well, it continues to echo in my mind.
“Will I walk the long road? We all walk the long road.”