32.

The other day we were sitting at the table and because it was my birthday someone mentioned getting older and I said I liked 32. That I could have stayed 32 forever. And you said, “But that was before me!”

But it wasn’t.

I reconnected with you halfway through 32, we saw in 33 as a couple. Whenever I think of 32 I think of you. I think of the way you blew into my life, unexpected – and I bloomed. You took years off my face because love is a kind of elixir for life. I shone. Sparkled. And people noticed because all my friends would comment on the way I had come out of myself. You could send me a simple text that said, “Hey kitten” (something I thought I would have hated had anyone else said it, you were an exercise in exceptions) and my day was made. I became fascinated by photographs of us together because it felt like I had never seen my real face before. I barely recognised me.

None of this is to say it was simple or easy, because it wasn’t. At first there was so much vulnerability in loving someone. And I fell in love with you so quickly and so hard. I didn’t really mean to but once I started I realised I wasn’t going to miss this for the world. Eyes open. That’s how I fell in love with you. Your attention to detail felt indulgent. Of course I made a study of you too. Hours spent tracing the lines beside your eyes that fanned out like gentle sun rays. I loved them because they spoke of how much joy you could find in life that you smiled so much. I loved them because I felt unbelievably blessed to be lying there beside the man who was once the boy who I had spilled dreams to, almost two decades before. Oh yes, I felt vulnerable in the beginning. When I realised I was falling in love with you I cried to you on the phone. I cried to my daughter in the kitchen. But then I threw all my chips in because I had a sense that this could be the greatest adventure I was ever going to go on and I didn’t want to miss it.

It wasn’t always easy. But your conviction never wavered, your love was a constant. It wasn’t always easy because life isn’t always easy but loving you was the easiest thing in the world.

Why 32? Because 32 was the year I went on the bravest, most important journey of my life. 32 was when I stopped being who I thought everyone wanted me to be and decided to find out who I WAS. 32 was when you slipped your hand into mine and said, “Let’s do this.” 32 was when I stopped letting life happen to me and I chose you with a deliberateness that was breathtaking. I remember lying there and I thought, “Just look at him, one look and you will know.” And I raised my eyes to yours and you held my gaze, a question answered.

Yes.

32.

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Girl in a Yellow Dress.

For years I had sat contentedly in the country thinking about nothing at all and absolutely everything.

When I say nothing at all I mean I never desired to leave. I assumed I would never travel further than a 300km radius from that location. I didn’t long for that. Not really. The thing was I moved like a unit of seven, myself and the six children. I didn’t want to be apart from them and anything I did I wished they came with me. When the house burnt down in 2010 we got a very large sum of money. Over twice what we owed in the mortgage because when I insured it the house was so old that the person on the other end insisted the cost of replacing the house would be a large amount and I grudgingly agreed to pay the extra. We paid the mortgage out and then funnelled the rest into our new mortgage and I suggested then perhaps we take the children to Europe. It was a ludicrous plan because who in their right mind would take six children to Europe? My then husband said he didn’t want to, but to tell him how much I needed and I was welcome to take the kids on my own. Which seemed even more ludicrous because who would take six children to a foreign country on their own? In hindsight I probably should have paid a friend or family member to come along and called his bluff but I was half relieved. Because I had no desire to leave. I just felt I should.

And when I say absolutely everything I mean I would become curious about something and go on this wild bender of research. One day I’m crocheting and the next I am buying a spinning wheel. Then it’s not good enough to buy ready to spin fibre – I need to learn to process the fleece myself. I research natural dyes and mordants and dye my handspun yarn with elderflowers I harvested from my yard. Then I research elderflowers and harvest them for herbal use. Then I research more herbs. Then I research silkworms. Then I’m buying Mulberry trees and before you know it I’m learning how to build a strawbale house with an honesty window and churning my own butter and learning about crop rotations. There was no end to my curiosity about how I could do things myself.

Truthfully, I hate buying things. I want to make everything with my own hands. I was browsing rugs today on anthropologie and kept thinking, “I could probably just hook one.” I’m infuriating. It’s why I struggle with furniture. I hate mass produced and I hate modern and I want everything to be old and sturdy and quirky or handmade. I have no idea what I will do when my couches die because the thought of heading in to Harvey Norman and buying a sofa makes my soul die a little.

Anyway, for years I just contentedly sat around pleased to be in the country and an aspiring self sufficiency buff. And I couldn’t sit STILL. I was bubbling with energy, I couldn’t just read a book. I read a book while I knitted, pausing between knit and purl to turn the page. I spun yarn while I watched TV. I edited images while I sat through a movie. Even when I was sitting I was in motion. Do you know, I once fell asleep while knitting and when I woke from my doze I was still working my stitches as though nothing ever happened.

When I became single I became restless. I wanted the anonymity of the city. I wanted to walk through the bustle of the crowds and be dwarfed by buildings. I wanted botanical gardens, a splash of green between the River and the streets. I wanted art galleries. I booked a hotel room and when I went to pack I was worried I would be bored. I packed about three books, some knitting and my spindle and probably a good 100gms of fibre. Something that might have taken me a week on a spindle to turn into yarn. It was yellow. I remember that. A bright sunny colour that reminded me of the song by E, ‘Yellow Dress’….a mellow bluesy tune where you can hear all the scrappings of his chair and adjustments before he starts to sing in his low soothing voice. (I’ll link it at the bottom of the post in case you want to hear the music that was my life at that point).

I packed all this for two nights. Of course it was a bit of a rendezvous also because I was going there for a date as well. And what happened was we went upstairs to his hotel room (because we had separate hotel rooms and indeed even separate hotels) and he lay beside me on this wide couch and I was still. Hours. Time just unwound before me and through the window I watched the shadows shorten and lengthen again. I listened to the people chattering in a low hum stories below us, cars driving. The whole world continued to race past and I lay still, my head on his chest, his hands in my hair. I spent long stretches of time committing different elements of his face into my mind, etching them there in case he might disappear like smoke. I made a study of him. But I was still. I was calm. I was at peace.

It was only then when I stopped that I realised I had been using all those ‘things’ to fill the gaps in myself of what wasn’t there. As though if I kept moving I wouldn’t notice. When I stopped filling up my life with motion I could allow the stillness of love.

That was what he gave to me. Stillness. He rounded my jagged edges, soothed the tears in me…….It took me a year and a half to finish spinning that yellow yarn.

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Yellow Dress is track number 4.

City.

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Image by Hyggelig Photography – Melbourne

We were outside Starbucks in the city, people walking around us with the sunlight filtering between the buildings. The rush of the city was a shock to the system after so long. Did I really walk here? Nearby is an escalator I kissed a boy on once – a lifetime ago. Would my 15 year old energy still be floating around in the ether there somewhere?

I was nervous to see him, the last time had been in the forest alone and quiet. A private place to unlock the mysteries of his lips. Darkness creeping into the clearing as I slid my hands under his shirt. His lips softer than I expected. He had grazed his mouth slowly along my neck, his eyes closed as though he were drinking me in. His hands cradling my face as he turned it upwards…

But here in the daylight it would be different. He walked up to us and sat down, he didn’t touch me but he proximity had all my nerve endings electrified. The girls left and he asked if I would like to take a walk. When we stood up he took my hand as though he had been taking it for years. Naturally. We stopped at traffic lights and waited with a herd of people for the ‘walk’ symbol to flash green. He came around in front of me, slid his hand up my cheek until his fingers were tangled in my hair, leaned forward and out his lips to mine.

I felt hyper aware of everything. The cars in the street, the people surrounding us, the smell of him, the warmth of the sun, the feel of his lips, his tongue gliding over my lip and my sharp intake of breath…

The daylight was different, but still magical.

The Constant.

I met him the first time through my bedroom window. It was an ordinary weekend when I was thirteen and he was one of three boys who came knocking on my window in the dark to talk to me and my best friend who was staying the night. I don’t recall why they didn’t use the front door or what we talked about or even if I truly saw his face, shadowed as it would have been by the plants outside my window. The first time I met him, the earth didn’t stop spinning and there was no indication something amazing had just happened.

After that day he would often stop by, usually using the front door after that and we would take a walk, joke or lie on my driveway and discuss the stars. He took me into an abandoned building, he drove me too fast in an unregistered car, he sneaked with me into the park near the dam after it was locked up. He never touched me until I asked him to. And that was a surprise because during my teenage years boys would try their luck wherever they could. Announcing their lust with pointed looks, whistles, touches, attempts to kiss you. But he never did that at all. One summer it was so hot I stripped off to bra and underwear and waded into the cool water but he sat on the edge and never ventured in.

I remember the day he told me he was leaving. And there was no warning at all. Why? I asked him. I tried to convince him to stay. I asked why he hadn’t told me sooner. I think when I eventually realised he was truly going I hugged him, and that was the first time we touched. I can’t imagine what he thought when he returned. I guess it was not what he expected. Maybe he thought he would come to the door and I would still be waiting. Maybe he thought he could tap on my window but it was my brother’s room now and I was suburbs away living in the garage of my boyfriend’s house, 8 months pregnant. It is really lonely when you are sixteen and pregnant. No one really talks about that. They tell you about motherhood and labour and birth but no one talks about the months before when your body stretches and scars and how you can’t find anything to say to your friends anymore. That they stop calling. That you don’t really care when they do because you no longer have patience for their teenage romances when you’re becoming the doorway to life. I was surprised when he visited me there. I am actually still shocked at his bravery because it is quite remarkable for a teenage boy to show up at the home of another boy and ask to speak to his pregnant girlfriend. He didn’t know that at the time I wasn’t actually anyone’s girlfriend because my baby’s father had told me he wasn’t ready but I had no where else to go so I had stayed. He didn’t know that for me the days had been spent crying because I had been told all the ways I was ugly now that I was carrying a child. He didn’t know that that day, when he sat on my couch was the first time I had been truly happy in months. He didn’t know, because I didn’t tell him. And after I had the baby and moved back home he would come to see me all the time and his visits were the bright spot in my days.

When he began dating someone I panicked because I realised I didn’t want him to be with anyone else. I wanted him to be with me. And it terrified me deep inside because he was my best friend and what if I was all those things I had been told? And I guess, on some level, I didn’t think I was good enough for him. What if one morning he woke up and saw me for what I really was and he just stopped coming at all? We dated anyway. And I’m going to be honest here, it was basically a disaster. Because I didn’t know how to be this boy’s girlfriend. He knew too many things about me, like that I was scared to be doubled on a bike and I hated toads and I didn’t hold my liquor real well. He had seen me half naked when we were friends so what mysteries could I possibly serve up to him? I had told him everything and prior to that in all my relationships or flirtings with boys I had maintained a clear boundary. I wasn’t the real me with them. And I couldn’t figure out how to be the girlfriend to this boy who had already seen the real me. One day we had a silly argument and he left. I wanted to run after him. But I didn’t because I was stubborn, because I was scared, because I didn’t want to give him anymore of me than he already had because it felt like he had too much of me already. I didn’t understand why he could push me out of my comfort zone when no one else could. It unnerved me. By the time he came back, my baby’s father was at the house. And he left again.

Throughout the years that followed I would marry, have children, buy a house, move to the country. And at times he would drift across my thoughts like dandelion fluff on the breeze. I guess I never really thought I would see him again. He would always show up when I belonged to someone else. He was always too easy to give me up. To think I was happier without him.

When he asked me to meet him I begged off. I made excuses because I was scared that I would see him and he would unbox all my feelings in one swift move. I was scared I would see him and he would make me happy. I was scared I would offer myself and he would disappear like smoke again. And our messages over the years, either brief or long winded and months between would always seem to dance around a point.

When I finally did agree to meet him I knew that the moment I did I would set into motion something I couldn’t take back. I knew that before I went there.

I went anyway.

We met for the second time in a hoop pine forest. It was autumn, the afternoon light was dappled through the trees, I waited for him in a blue dress with a circle skirt I had sewn myself. While I waited I turned circles like a girl, watching my skirt fly up around me. When he arrived, I stood. I didn’t know where to put my hands, I didn’t know what to say. When he hugged me hello I fit into his arms like the missing piece of a puzzle. And a little while later I would think to myself, just look at him, look into his eyes and you will know. And I did. And that time the earth stopped moving and my soul fused with his and what I saw there, in his eyes was that he loved me. I had a moment to be shocked, I thought, “Oh. After all this time? Still?” Time did not stand still but moved in all directions at once, stars were born and cities burnt to the ground in the time that look took. Everything became clean and clear and I saw that every road had always pointed to him. All my heartaches, tears, triumphs, every broken dream, every breath I had taken had been for this one moment. Somewhere inside me a voice said, “So, this is it. This is what you were waiting for.” The ink was dry.

We threw caution to the wind. We cast our fortunes in together. I knew this would work because it was always supposed to. Our love was divinely ordered. It was written in the stars.

And how silly I had been all those years ago to believe I couldn’t be in love with my best friend, I always was. Love is when he is the bright spots in your day, it is when he sees the real you, it is when his company warms your soul and comforts you. Every day with him is a gift. Love is when he will always come for you. He is my constant. I have always been his.

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