When I was young, I fell in the love with the girl next door. Well, maybe it wasn’t love. But she was lovely and it felt like love, to my young heart. It wasn’t about sex, although she was sexy. Color me smitten.
Fast-forward a few years, and I fall again. I’m older, perhaps more mature, maybe even wiser. But I fall just as hard. She’s seductive, and I’m seduced. This time, it sticks for a long while. This time, she’s alluring, attractive, dream-like, sexy, desired by every man I know. She plays hard to get, but I catch her and the dream she represents. For decades, I switch to cruise control, taking for granted the dream I’ve corralled. For decades, she’s always there for me, and me for her. Thinking we’re working hard, we entertain often, buy the expected baubles, and travel when we want.
It’s coming apart now. She’s familiar with the thoughts of Marcus Aurelius, which makes her afraid of the future: “Look back over the past, with its changing empires that rose and fell, and you can foresee the future, too.” I’m excited about the future, and I can no longer live in the past. I’ve done the entire Kübler-Ross cycle of grief, slipping back-and-forth as frequently as I once dined with her.
My denial was profound. How could it be over? We’re perfect for each other. We’ve never really known another, not like this. Please, tell me it’s just a phase.
My anger was brief and deep. Sometimes I look back on those days through my Buddhism-inspired lens, aghast I could have been so ridiculous. It was nobody’s fault, really. We grow. Sometimes we grow together. Sometimes we grow apart.
I still bargain, if only in my mind. What about shorter showers or, better yet, longer showers together? Surely we can merely cut back a little on our excesses, and we’ll be fine. I’m willing to compromise. But of course I know better. There’s no putting the air back in these shredded tires.
Depression visits, too. Trading in the comforts of familiarity for a new and different set of experiences is difficult at my advanced age. Dark nights alone at the mud hut drive me to tears. Tears come on sunny days, too, as I lean against the stem of a big cottonwood tree or lie on the ground near the river, reduced to a trickle by the insults of industry.
Acceptance came late, and skips away too often. But I’m building a new relationship now, one based on trust and mutual respect. It’s not about the sex, though she’s sexy. It’s about love, and she’s lovely. She’s kind, playful, and passionate. She doesn’t judge me, though my inadequacies are legion. She’s courageous and strong, in sharp contrast to my ever-present fear and fragility. I’m a tree-hugging dirt worshiper, and she likes to play in the dirt; when I’m feeling particularly flirtatious, I refer to her as my dirty girl. She accommodates my whimsy, and I love hers. I can scarcely believe she’s the same one I knew, and left, so many years ago. This time, I’ll not let go. I want to spend my remaining days with her.
After constantly taking from others and occasionally giving to me, Athena is dead to me. I miss her now and then, but I’m back with Nature now. Although I was slow to the realization, Nature provides all I need, and all I’ve ever needed. Color me smitten, yet again.
Same-day update: I’m one of a few interviewed for the C-REALM broadcast released today and titled, “The rhetoric of doom.”