Blogging, Creative Nonfiction, husbands, Julia Shipley, Marriage, poetic essay, riffing, riffing on writing, The Toast, Willa Cather, writing
Serendipity, it’s sometimes called. Those happy coincidences that lead to some unexpected pleasure or insight. Or synchronicity. Those meaningful encounters that, touching tangentially upon something you’ve been musing upon, spark a new way of thinking about it. Then off you go, riffing on the topic the way jamming jazz musicians will do.
Here’s how it happened recently. I was grazing on Twitter and found a link to an essay that sounded interesting, taking me to new site called The Toast. The essay that drew me there did not pan out, but I found a link to something else that sparked my interest: “Some: Poetic Essay” by Julia Shipley. So I went there.
Now the essay starts out talking about horses and cows and the poets who write about them. Normally I’m not much interested in barnyard animals, but once when I was looking for a particular poem by Hayden Carruth, I came across his “Cows at Night” which I loved so much I blogged about it. (Another example of serendipity.)
Hoping that Shipley’s essay on cows might provide a similar unexpected pleasure, I continued reading. That’s when I came across these lovely lines and immediately tweeted my pleasure to others.
“The names of the herd tell a story, the way a group of stars makes a constellation.”
As I continued reading, the essay took an interesting turn, morphing from a mediation on cows, to a mediation on men, or on prospective husbands, to be exact.
A line about how some couples “pull together” in a marriage “like a pair of horses working in a synchronized pace” caught my attention. I’d been musing a lot lately about marriage, how it goes through different stages, and how while my husband and I still pull together in the same direction from time to time, more often than not we wander off in different directions. It’s becoming apparent how little we have in common.
While we both took early retirements, and we’re both home bodies, we seldom see each other and do little together. We eat at different times mostly, take walks at different times, swim at different times. We watch different shows on TV and pursue separate hobbies. Our paths cross only intermittently throughout the day, and while those crossings are pleasant enough, they are usually unplanned.
Sometimes I worry about us. Our marriage. Do we spend too much time alone? Is this healthy? Should we try to find ways to spend more time together? But then I realize: I’m quite content this way. As a writer, I like having time to myself. I like knowing he doesn’t need me or feel neglected when I’m off by myself. We’re alone, but not lonely.
I’m coming to think of us like the lines in a sparse drawing. We rarely touch, but we cross now and then, and our crossings shape our days and our lives and fills up the space that surrounds us in meaningful and comforting ways. Spare lines and plenty of white space, but pleasantly so.
Shipley writes about all the men she met over the years and cultivated relationships with, but who never turned out to be the husband she was looking for. She thought perhaps she was in love with the idea of love more than in wanting any particular man.
I wonder that myself sometimes. I like having a husband, I love him deeply, but I’m not “in love” with him. I am, however, “in love.” It’s just not with a man, or perhaps, more truthfully, it’s with so much more than the man. It’s the man and the life and the kids and the cows at night and names like constellations. And the walking and swimming and writing. Just this, right here, right now. Riffing about the things I love.
Her essay ends with something similar:
“Once I approached another heroine, former dairy farmer Gertrude Lepine, who never married or had children, but farmed with her sisters in a Vermont hinterland called, Mud City. I asked if she missed her cows. Her herd was famous, her registered Jerseys attracted buyers from as far away as California when she retired. Sure there were some favorite cows, she told me, But it’s The Land that I love the most.
Yes, I’m in love with The Land too. The Land, and all it holds.
Just before her essay ends Shipley quotes a passage in Willa Cather’s O Pioneers :
The passage describes Alexandra, who took over her father’s Nebraska farm and coaxed it to glorious success, and who is now a single middle aged woman.
“ . . . she lay late abed . . . luxuriously idle, her eyes closed, she used to have the illusion of being lifted up bodily and carried lightly by someone very strong. It was a man, certainly, who carried her, but he was like no man she knew; he was much stronger and swifter, and he carried her easily as if she were a sheaf of wheat.”
What held her lightly “as if she were a sheaf of wheat” was something so much more than mere man. I feel that way too sometimes. Like I’m being tenderly picked up and carried away. By life. The joy of living. These unexpected, serendipitous pleasures. By the act of writing–taking chance encounters and spinning them into something else, tossing them out into the universe, watching them drop down into a poem, a painting, a song. A blog post perhaps.
Here’s wishing you today many serendipitous pleasures that pick you up lightly and carry you away.
j.h. white said:
This is a wonderful post Deborah…so beautifully wrought… thank you…. and something about certain aspects of marriage and relationship that I’ve been trying to articulate for myself. It has also given me a key to unlocking the gratitude I have for my former partner of 30 years. This is a considerable time to be “falling into the arms of life” together, though it wasn’t as mutual as assumed, and our marriage ended as silently as we lived together. I needed a hit, not only of that gratitude, but a reminder of how lovely it is to fall…
Dear Jana, I’m so glad this spoke to you. I love the way you put it – “falling into the arms of life” together. Thank you for coming here and sharing your response.
cindy knoke said:
this is so well written and thought provoking~
Thank you Cindy.
Many thanks. I’m so glad you enjoyed it.
Alex Hurst said:
Love the lines about the sketch. My relationship isn’t anything like that (we can hardly be separated, like forever spiraling helices), but I could completely relate to that idea, and see the “poetry” or “love” in it. Very nicely stated. 🙂
I like that–spiraling helices! We all create our own unique patterns in life and marriage. Thank you for sharing.
Great piece Deborah. Since I have just read another great essay that really touched me on the nature of long-term marriage, (“Thank You for Last Wednesday by C.J.Gall -https://thesunmagazine.org/issues/463/thank_you_for_last_wednesday),
and because my youngest son just turned 18 and I have been thinking about the my own 23-year-old marriage, I guess your post is part of my thematic riff for the week. I really love that apt metaphor – it so captures the nature of how our reading, writing, and life so often form these patterns.
Funny how that works, isn’t it? So glad my riffing is part of a continuing conversation. I’m going to check out that link right now. Thanks for sharing!
Sounds like a dream living situation to me! Ah, solitude – hard to come by in my little house. Maybe this is making up for your time living on a sailboat together? (can’t wait to read about that)
Love your writing and perceptions – so glad you were ‘pressed’ so I discovered you.
So glad see you here, Tricia. We met on another blog I write, less public than this one. Less happy, but still hopeful (I hope). Thank you for the lovely comment.
Extremely beautiful – thank you. Relate very much to the marriage scenario.
Thank you. Always nice to meet a kindred spirit.
Interesting meditation. Marriage/partnership can take so many different forms based on the people involved and what their needs & desires are. There’s no one “right” way to do it, really. If those who are in the relationship are happy with it, then that’s the most important thing.
That’s what I’m thinking too. Marriage (all relationships perhaps) change over the years, and when we notice how they change we have to decide, is this okay? Should I do something to make it different? Or do I accept it and appreciate it for what it is. I’ve decided this suits us. As you say, there’s no right way, only what works.
This is a great piece! Thanks for sharing.
Thank you! And thanks for letting me know you enjoyed it.
What an eloquent look at marriage, writing, and yes, even cows. The lessons we learn come from some of the most surprising places.
You are so right. Thank you for the kind words.
Deborah – how lovely to discover you through your comment! Thank you. The photography here is stunning, teasing nerves from the first retinal impact to cortex landings on the occipital lobe, and in passing, finding that spot on either side of the brain where writers begin. Your “riffings” lead like a musical thread from the very personal humming to the symphony of world out-there, and it feels so natural and familiar.
Mine wasn’t a husband, but ten years with a rediscovered childhood sweetheart. The ten years were just as sweet and never a regret, but a growing realization that we, whose lives had unknowingly run along parallel paths during our 34 years apart, were never meant to unite, but crisscross, weave, and dance. Now we live and love apart, one ocean and a continent between us, but Skype shrinks the distance. We’re both living more authentically and content, though somewhat sad when the reaching for familiar arms produces nothing but a computer mouse.
Thank you for all your kind comments. I look forward to reading more of your work.
So glad to see you here. I love the way you describe your relationship, and the way you write. Your post on the ancient oak and the one on Annie Dillard really spoke to me. Don’t be surprised if I’m not tempted to do another riff based on those reading.
Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed.
It’s always such a lovely surprise when they do that!
The Laughable Cheese said:
I feel that way too. Like the life that holds my family, my husband my children and carries us is what we love. We are together interacting and sometimes alone and it is all good.
It’s a good feeling, isn’t it? Thanks so much for stopping here and responding.
Jan Wilberg said:
I love the parsing out of being in love with the life you have that includes loving your husband and many other people, places and times of your life. And the notion of being lifted up and carried. Beautiful to read on this clear, sunny day on Lake Superior with my husband debating alternative ways of stuffing jalapeno peppers while I write this. Your piece pushes me to write more carefully and better. Thank you!
Thank you, Jan. I’m so glad you enjoyed this. It was a pleasure to write. Sounds like you are having a great day too. All the best
There is a higher wisdom in cows. I have written a few poems about cows. Life is like a cow path, some zig with zags in the middle, all are serendipitous, all in time lead you home. Lovely post thanks.
I love the cow photo too. Hope you got a chance to read that poem I posted on “The Cows at Night.” You will like it.
Reblogged this on mazharabbasjafri's Blog.
Can I just say that this was an absolute pleasure to read. I really enjoyed it and will be back for more 🙂
As far as your relationship goes, I may be young as far as marriage goes (2.5 years and we have only been living together for 7), but a valuable lesson I have already learned is that there is no such thing as the cookie cutter perfect relationship. Hopefully you find your own happiness and perfection in everything your relationship is and if you do then that is fantastic and it is the right relationship for you. Forget about what anyone else does and decide what is perfect for the two of you, let’s face it after years of working you have probably been doing things for others most of your life… time for some selfishness I believe 🙂
It makes me so happy you enjoyed this. May you and your husband have a lifetime of happiness together. It sounds like you have the makings for a wonderful marriage.
Thank you so much, I truly hope we do as I know I would be lost without him and if he didn’t have me he would forever be taking public transport due to lack of keys 😛
prateeksha sharma said:
Interesting Deborah, and I am convinced that the best marriages are those where people have a lot of space between them and yet a scope to return around a common axis now and then. You in fact inspire me to write about my own ‘arrangement’, as a post on my blog, (http://prateekshalaya.wordpress.com/), for if I write it in response to your blog, it will be too long a blog response and too limited in its reach.
Do I sense a sort of ruing about living a life apart from your husband and having not much in common? I always believe that one ought not to hold a marriage and husband as the center of one’s life, and yet a strong enough thread that is visible in most parts of the woven fabric. Making another the center of our lives, we may give away our happiness to them as their responsibility, which women do. To fill our need of companionship, the best solution I feel always comes from women only. Men are great for other things- and not just money and sex. But let us not give them more points than they deserve or deserve to be weighed down under. regards from India
I’ll be interested in reading what you write about this. It’s always so lovely when we inspire each other to do this. Thank you for coming here (all the way from India!) and sharing your thoughts. Very wise indeed.
Paula Reed Nancarrow said:
“It’s the man and the life and the kids and the cows at night and names like constellations.” Beautiful. Glad to have found you through Freshly Pressed.
Thank you, Paula.
Very well put….amazing
I am in love with serendipity or synchronicity or meaningful coincidence. Whatever floats your boat. But it’s totally my muse, my crush, my focus these days. Also marriage. So — ahem — serendipitous, that I stumbled upon your blog today. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed.
Beautiful post, loved reading it.
I enjoyed reading your article and I spent a few minutes reflecting on my own live. I think as you put it, the key is to remain content with the situation. If both parties are satisfied with the quality of interaction then that’s all that really matters. Of course we all know this is not the case a lot of the time. I look forward to reading more of your work.
Reblogged this on devoteddevooght.
Beautiful, D. Posting my my blog’s FB page.
Thank you, Luanne.
Reblogged this on Apps Lotus's Blog.
Made me think! !
everyone has a unique relationship. if you and your partner are content then that is all that really matters 🙂
“But it’s the Land that I love the most.” Thank you for sharing. Your voice is an honest one and very beautiful to read.
I really liked this and yes it spoke to me too. I’ve just been on holiday with my partner and we spent our days doing what each of us wanted and came together to eat at lunch and dinner – and that was perfect . A friend who I was talking to about it sounded worried about the separateness. Interesting to have another’s view… But for us it was a perfect holiday each coming together like birds to the nest bringing scraps if news from our day to share. Love and lots of space. Perfect.
It sounds like the perfect holiday to me too! It’s always so gratifying when we find others who have similar experiences–we don’t feel so alone. Thanks for coming here and sharing.
Dropped in on this from ‘Freshly Pressed’ – the photo of the cows caught my eye. An interesting and astute post. My OH and I have only been together for 12 years (we met late in life after several mistakes on both sides) and though inseparable at first we now spend most of our days doing our own things, coming together to dine and chat about things happening in our lives. It took him a while to understand that I really didn’t mind him pursuing his hobby (music) and going out without me. Truth is, after 18 years as a singleton, I am quite happy in my own company. And I think he appreciates the space I give him.
Sounds perfect! Sometimes I worry about us, but then I think, I’m truly happy, and he seems content too, so what can be wrong? Glad you found me on FP.
good and lovely
Reblogged this on wambuijm2003.
Thank you for sharing!
Susan Ekins said:
Deborah, your post is so beautifully written, but I hope you and your husband will try to do some things together–perhaps eating, walking, and/or swimming. I’m not a professional, but I’ve been volunteering in marriage ministries for a long time and have seen many couples who lead a lifestyle of “married singles” getting separated or divorced. You don’t need to answer these questions, but: are you sure your husband is just as happy being alone? Are the two of you communicating well? Might you benefit from marriage counseling? I write this with love and concern.
Susan, you are so sweet to write this, and I appreciate your concern. In fact, I was wondering the same thing–should we be concerned? Are we drifting too far apart?
But I did speak to my husband about it, and he said he hadn’t noticed anything amiss in our marriage, any growing apart. He thinks I “over-think” things! Which is probably true. But I think he “under-thinks” things, so maybe we balance each other out.
BTW, we do still eat, and swim, and walk together, just not on a regular basis. And we do other things together–not a lot, but enough, for now, at least.
But I think you are right that marriage, as any relationship, needs constant monitoring and adjusting as people change. And because I do “over-think” things, it’s not likely things will go too amiss without my noticing and alerting him that we need to start making some changes.
Susan Ekins said:
Whew! Happy to hear this. I tend to over-think things too (maybe this is an example–ha!) so I comprehend. All the best to you.
Reblogged this on gratefulgill and commented:
BEAUTIFUL, THANK YOU.
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Ronda K. Reed said:
Reblogged this on 'Ritings, Ramblings….