I was heartbroken.
I had spent three months bouncing around from state to state. I had gone from California to North Carolina to Missouri to New York, back to North Carolina, and then California again. In the throes of desperation, I was searching for some solace and insight beyond the internal chaos and chatter. How could someone so dear to me, someone I had shared such deep intimacy with, walk away so abruptly? How did my beloved, who had brought Colorado to California and introduced me to its many charms, turn her back on a love that I had nurtured so patiently and tenderly?
Therefore, it seemed so counter-intuitive to answer the call to pack up my essentials and to drive all the way to Colorado. It did not make any rational sense. But, the mountains had spoken, whispering forcefully and summoning me to the birthplace of my departed lover. Was I still looking for messages on how to mend what was broken? Was it a last ditch attempt to hold on to what had fluttered away? I really did not know. Like so much of my life's movement, nothing my mind offered could provide a reasonable explanation. Something deeper had said, "Yes!"..."Now!"
So, I said farewell to my friends, jumped into Black Beauty, my 1987 BMW convertible, and headed out East, like a modern day pioneer intent on searching for his most valuable possession...his missing heart. Some were concerned that my trusted old mare would not survive the trek. Black Beauty and I had always had a deeper understanding, and I was confident that despite our possible trials on the road, she would pull through.
Over the next three days, traveling through Nevada, Arizona, and Utah, I was resuscitated from my lingering despair by the sight of spectacular natural wonders. The vast open roads reminded me of my own internal spaciousness. The mountains and rock formations helped me to remember my innate strength and wisdom. The clear skies encouraged me to tap into the clarity within. Throughout this solitary journey, life in its myriad forms kept me company, my aloneness rarely giving in to the tug of loneliness. Full of gratitude and curiosity, I looked forward to whatever awaited me in the Rockies.
Two long time friends welcomed me to Colorado - a couple from San Diego who had recently decided to make their home in Fort Collins. The tender love that flowed between them had inspired me to write and to read a poem at their wedding. They were excited at the prospect of having someone they considered as a brother sharing their space, and being present in their lives. Over the next few months, a small room in their basement became the perfect space to detox, contemplate, and re-discover my silence. I had my own little hideaway where, on my own time, I could continue to welcome, accept, and process the flurry of thoughts and emotions that still stemmed from separating with my loved one.
There is no better way to get over the loss of love than to be surrounded by more love in a new setting. The old memories persist, but familiar sights and sounds are not there to reinforce them. Some breathing room slowly opens up. One begins to see and to feel the silence and space that resides in between the stagnant thoughts about the past, and the fearful projections into the future. Simultaneously, the internal landscape becomes populated with fresh experiences.
My newfound family helped me to emerge from my self-enforced shell. We went out bowling and found ourselves laughing at the sudden revelation of our competitive edges. We visited Estes Park and climbed to its highest peak, followed by a drive to the Stanley Hotel to marvel at the iconic setting for the film The Shining. We went on a skiing trip to Copper Mountain, where I enjoyed the rituals available to a non-skier...drinking hot chocolate and watching folks tumble down the slopes. I was coaxed out of my four-wheeled comfort zone to go on a bicycle tour of local breweries, including Odell and New Belgium. We also shared bellyaching, side-hurting laughter watching Netflix comedy specials. All these moments served as therapeutic experiences, while strengthening an already deep bond. Any artificial barriers that might have stood in the way of intimacy and vulnerability dissolved into the soft arms of innocent love and friendship.
And then...there was the cooking! I had always enjoyed cooking, particularly when it took place in communal, collaborative settings. It had taken on even more significance as I had delighted in observing my departed lover conjure up beautiful culinary creations. I had relished cooking with her, mostly taking on the role of sous-chef who took too long chopping vegetables. I had reveled in the simple joy of sitting down for a meal with her. I had fallen in love with just watching her eat.
Unfortunately, the unexpected demise of our love affair had brought my relationship with the kitchen to a sudden halt. I had developed a paralyzing fear and aversion towards the kitchen. It had transformed from a place of creativity, celebration, and togetherness, into a painful reminder of what had been lost. The thought of cooking had become unbearable, eliciting bouts of nausea and an elevated heart rate…
So, it was heart-warming to be re-introduced to the joys of cooking in a loving, familial environment. I began to enjoy preparing meals with friends who thoroughly appreciated the subtleties...the sensuality...the craftsmanship of cooking. I took initiatives to experiment with recipes; like a delectable vegetarian Bolognese, a steak and cheese sandwich with mushrooms confidently replacing the meat, and an Indian eggplant stew that invited several compliments. I delighted in feeding my tired housemates after their long days at work. I fell back in love with just sitting down with others to eat. Love and companionship, in a different form, had not only mended, but also enhanced my relationship with the kitchen. It once again became a sacred space ripe with possibilities.
Becoming an integral part of a larger family as well as having the space and permission to enjoy solitude, allowed me to re-discover myself, and to nurture a relationship with Colorado on my own terms. However, little did I know that these healing showers that cooled my wounds would be followed by sunshine that would nurture the rebirth of my spirit.
It was only a couple of weeks into my Colorado experience that a friend from Denver came to visit me. Since our initial encounter a few years back, she had been adamant that she was my twin sister. Over time, I had slowly come around to agreeing with her, as our interactions had always reflected all of myself back to me...the joys, the wonders, the child, the creator...and the shadows. That night, she showed up with two bottles of wine to welcome me to her home state, and we spent most of the night talking and playing like separated siblings that had finally found each other. Subsequently, she became my Denver tour guide and her playful companionship became the magic potion that soothed my aching heart. Her room in Aurora became a weekend sanctuary where, cradled by another loving soul, I began playing and creating again, welcoming back laughter and celebration as my primary languages. The next few months overflowed with serendipitous events, spontaneous adventures, and creative ideas that had finally found the perfect time for their birthing.
The majestic Red Rocks Amphitheater was the site of our first outdoor excursion, where I valiantly scampered up the steep steps making several stops to catch my breath. My climbing trials were well worth it. The view was spectacular...to the extent that I found my nomadic heart murmuring to itself that perhaps, it had found its home. Drunk with awe, we then proceeded to accidentally walk into a wedding party, garnering puzzled looks as we gracefully maneuvered ourselves out without disrupting the festivities. We visited the little village of Georgetown, peeking our heads into a few galleries displaying mostly southwestern art, one indistinguishable from the other, but each one affirming the locals' pride in the region's rich natural beauty. It was followed by a well deserved break, gorging on some locally churned ice cream and making friends with fellow dairy-loving toddlers. Our drive back to Denver became an unexpected cathartic event, as we allowed an Adele song to penetrate and weave its magic on both of our recently broken hearts.
There were so many escapades around the wonderful city of Denver. I spent hours at Stella's Coffee House on Pearl Street, more than a few times giving in to the temptation to walk across the street to Sushi Den to dine on some of the best Japanese food I've ever had. We made several trips to the Meininger store to pick-up art supplies, and then got our movie fix at the Mayan Theater down the road. We began Halloween night with the intention of taking the light rail to Broadway Street, a part of town teeming with bars, restaurants, and clubs. But, we got off at the wrong stop to then embark on an epic 16-block jaunt, appreciating myriad costumed revelers and manger scene displays, finally ending up at the Vinyl Club to join in on the festivities. On another evening, we ventured to the Dazzle Club to enjoy Moscow Mules and some live Blues, a rarity in the Denver music scene. We put on our fancy clothes to grab a few drinks at the Art Hotel's Fire Lounge, enjoying the magnificent views of the city from the fourth floor balcony.
My friends from Fort Collins joined us in visiting the Denver Art Museum for an exhibition titled Wyeth: Andrew & Jamie In The Studio, which showcased the works of father and son painting duo, Andrew and Jamie Wyeth. Andrew happened to be my former lover's favorite artist, and she had introduced me to his world. Seeing some of his stellar work in person, I realized my great fortune in having had such an exquisite teacher in aesthetics, while being reminded of her own beauty that had proven so magnetic. It was a bittersweet experience that necessitated a trip to the Euclid Hall Bar & Kitchen for some delicious American fare, before heading over to Comedy Works to enjoy some local stand-up talent.
There were other memorable encounters that transpired all around town. One afternoon, we found ourselves sprinting around a playground, sweating and out of breath, immersed in a snowball fight with a group of children we had just met. One evening, we drove over a pothole that punctured two tires in one swift blow, leaving us waiting for over an hour for an AAA tow. It gave us an opportunity to reflect on the humbling powers of the unknown, and to be driven home by a nice young man quite empathetic towards our predicament. Another evening, after watching a fascinating documentary about sloths, I found myself trying to mimic their movements on the streets of Denver. On Thanksgiving afternoon, I accompanied my friend on a visit to the hospital where her mother had been admitted the previous day, as life reminded us to be thankful for the precious gift of family and friendship.
Strange incidents were also commonplace. My twin sister and I had inducted a fellow adventurer into our creative collective. As a trio, we had been playing around with the idea of forming a band. We had even gone to the extent of imagining an album cover that reflected our personalities: the seer, the listener, and the talker, as a nod to the three wise monkeys that embody the principles “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” Well, one night, led by the mysterious forces of serendipity, the three of us stumbled upon a pet-grooming store whose exterior wall had a massive painting of three dogs expressing these same principles. Our immediate response to this surprising scene was a sight to behold, as we held our hands over our mouths in astonishment and jumped up and down in delight.
However, where most of the magic happened was in my friend's small bedroom in Aurora, which miraculously expanded in scope as it became a reflection of two kindred spirits encouraging the emergence and unbounded expression of their wholeness. Before we knew it, every weekend followed a ritual of grabbing gluten-free O'Mission Lager beers or sulfite free Stellar Organics wine, getting our hands on whatever new Redbox releases were available, and spending the evenings celebrating and creating...just for the sake of it...just because we were alive and had been graced by each other's company.
These endless nights, filled with all sorts of quirks and delights, became fantastical journeys into every corner of our internal worlds. They were usually book-ended by Amy's Pizza, Chipotle, Thai, or Indian dinners and brunch at the famous Original Pancake House the next day. In between, we wrote impromptu poems, gathering words and ideas from every corner of the room, and every hidden room in our hearts. We played around with watercolors and acrylic paints, never knowing or caring what new life would emerge out of our swirls and brush strokes. We sang and danced and made music videos, expressing the oscillating, dynamic states of our beings...the joys, the heartaches, the humor, the drama. We created our own language only known by us. Like confetti, we threw around colorful ideas and characters for children's and adult books, marrying my passion for writing with her love for the visual arts. I dove back into the world of coloring books, enraptured by the chance to simultaneously exercise my precise nature and explore the fluidity of a relationship with colors.
My sister also taught me how to strum one of my most beloved songs, Somewhere Over The Rainbow, on the ukulele. She accompanied my readings of Dr. Seuss’ Fox in Socks, Oh Say Can You Say, and There's a Wocket in my Pocket with taps, snaps, claps, ukulele tunes, and harmonica sounds, all video recorded as Christmas gifts for my four-year old nephew. She facilitated the initial introductions with Charlie the cat, and I got to re-live the wonders of nurturing a feline friendship, via the mysterious charm of his aloofness and the sweetness of his intimacy. She even tried to convince me that a satellite dish on a rooftop was a giant owl! But we did agree that the creature we saw one night in the distance was a coyote.
We spent time gazing at the night skies, following the moon's slow dance, and listening to the stars' luminous whispers. We discussed the nature of reality...the duality of its simplicity and complexity...the vastness of time and space, and their dissolution in the immediacy of each moment. We evaporated into the stillness of life and returned to laugh at its chaotic hilarity. Ultimately, we reminded each other to relinquish the grasp of conditioning and to live freely...to always play and to nurture our innocence...to be in love all the time.
Only a few months back, distraught and confused, yearning for relief from heartache, I was compelled to dive into the unknown, with just my car and a few belongings. During this time of uncertainty and pain, yet again, love whistled softly, announcing itself as the real journey and the only path; the one constant amidst the changing rhythms and movements. Once more, I was reminded that for the one that is prepared to walk this road with an open heart, the composition of the external life always finds its most harmonious groove. It becomes an intricate expression of the strumming of the internal strings, and an adventure that follows no rules, but only listens to the music of the heart. In this instance, Colorado was the grand stage; with everything I encountered there becoming a member of the orchestra, as love conducted a unique symphony…where even the initial dissonance became part of the larger harmony...where even grief was allowed to have its own seat in a beautiful concert hall of love.