Today, my girlfriend broke up with me. So, I do what I do: I hike up on the ridge. Storms have past and the land is vivacious with life; the tender spring flush of leaves on oaks and buckeyes open from winter, pale in their new awakening to sun. Water pocks the valley below and reflects the myriad of colors contorting the sky as the sun falls behind the Mendocino Mountain. I hear coyotes crying for me in the distance. I do not do the same.
Not because I don’t care. I think because the better response is to feel great about the time I did have. Whitman once said, “It may be if I had known them, I would have loved them.”
I am a romantic in life, and idealist and optimist—I won’t change. A friend and mentor was recently telling me about some Buddhist koans—Zen riddles of sorts for meditation, things you carry around and open you up to the world. It went: When times of great difficulty meet us, how do we great them? Welcome.
I have been working on welcoming life to me. I sit on a perch above the canyon and watch the light of sun fade to darker colors, the valley is awash in daylight savings time, alive, verdant, light longer, the sun arching north again. I hear gunshots fire from the shooting range in the park. I used to hate this sound, like the power lines crossing my view of the valley, but I’m losing hatred, working on judgment. Welcoming. It is difficult.
My girlfriend was so different from past women I have dated, some in superficial ways, some in the way she moved in the world. Fake boobs, hair extensions, just opened a tanning salon, and yet, none of this bothered me. She spoke from the heart and left the same way, strong in so many ways. I liked the way she welcomed the world around her. The people shooting guns below don’t shoot because of hatred, but because of love and the fear of losing it. Power lines cross our world to light the homes of millions of families. Prometheus bound to rock, the vultures tear at his insides as if the love could be found inside and ripped from him. Isn’t that the beauty! We try so hard to provide for the people we love.
I know people are different. We all seek love differently. And sometimes the way we love—the protection, the caring, the fear of losing, the angst of the heart—might hurt other people. We don’t mean to do that. Surely, if we knew them, we would love them too.
Chico and I stumble our way in the dark back off the ridge as city lights and lives ignite the darkness: this, the history of fire and love. We get back to the truck as a man is loading his dog up into his jeep. Chico runs over to the stranger as I quietly walk past, but the man responds in soft loving voices to my dog and tells Chico he is beautiful. Chico can smell his dog inside the jeep. He cries to meet the other dog, to sniff and lick, and maybe even love, but I call to him and tell him to load into the truck. Now is not the time. I wish it wasn’t true.