This week, gentle reader, a shortened reprise of an older post that I feel called to share once again.
My dear beekeeping mentor on Maui, a keenly spiritual man with a generous and sensitive heart, once said, “There is nothing like being reunited with the beloved.” So true.
In the long stretch of years of our loving, my beloved and I have spent some extended periods apart—for work, school, or simply exploring different stretches of the journey on our own. Some people have remarked on our ability to spend such time away from each other while remaining fully supportive of the other’s path or travels, and the integrity of our shared commitment. Yet both my partner and I realize that infinite models for relationship exist, and the only correct one is that which brings true fulfillment and growth to both parties.
What is required for each to evolve into their true potential? If we are root bound in a pot, surely we will not bear sweet fruit to feed lovingly to each other.
Even with the easy, comfortable relating I share with Robert, there’s still a period of adjustment in being back together after time apart. It always takes a few days to settle into the other’s rhythms, to readjust to sharing space and schedules. Yet it is paired with the delight in rediscovering each other again and the simple, quiet joy of savoring the other’s good company.
As a writer and artist—two labels that I now comfortably claim—I’m acutely aware of my need to be in a place that nourishes my wild soul. My ongoing stay on the central California coast is an aspect of that profound hunger and need, to find myself enfolded by a landscape and climate that speaks to me, where I feel inspired, at home, and fully my authentic self. And Hawaii, stunningly beautiful as it is, does not feed my soul in this essential way. What an inestimable gift to have a partner who supports a soul summons, who knows that each person must follow the path that brings him growth and expansion, the one that leads him deeper into a dark forest to find his true offering to the world.
If you read this journal at all regularly, you know that I have a deep affinity for trees, especially the venerable, old ones. The other day, I found myself recalling a particular segment I wrote for my original manuscript, part of the chapter ‘Conscious Relationship’ that was cut from The Bones and Breath (but will certainly surface in some future book of mine), in which a pair of Standing Ones wordlessly shared some wisdom with me:
When I resided in Taos, New Mexico, I frequently visited two dear friends who dwelt in a small, adobe casita on a large ranch that encompassed a picturesque stretch of land along the Valdez River at the north end of the valley. Whenever I spent the day there or stayed happily with their dogs while the women were away, I would walk a half-mile or so down the dirt road of the property to where it forded the river among some tall, graceful cottonwoods.
Crossing the upper pasture where Sassafras the crazy mule lived, and then snaking down the hill, the rutted track passed through an evergreen community of piñon and juniper where I always felt compelled to stop and acknowledge two Standing Ones. Just slightly apart from all the others, in a wide circle of space, a pair of junipers grew side by side, one male and female (only the females bear the aromatic purple blue, berry-like cone pods). In a landscape of gnarly trees, both of these stood particularly straight and erect in their rough trunk, each with a similar size and a full, pleasing shape to their spread of boughs. The outermost branches between them were just loosely touching, untold hundreds of small green fingertips entwined with the other’s.
Both trees were distinct individuals and yet together they created another unit, as well—a very tangible space of sharing and relating, where little sparrows could nimbly hop from one tree to the other without ever taking wing. The expanded, overlapping circles of shade cast by the boughs offered its own mini ecosystem for all the small denizens that tend to go unnoticed from the heights of our lumbering, two-legged passing by: ants, beetles, crickets, spiders, grass shoots, seedlings, mice, snakes, and uncountable others with antennae, scales, feathers, or fur and little feet.
Perhaps it was their location, just apart from the others and close to the dirt track, but such a palpable sense of relationship emanated between these two beings that it always managed to catch my attention. Observing them, I would halt and stand for a while, pondering their long lifetime of quiet, wordless communication with each other’s sphere of energy and intelligence, with earth, wind, and sky. Having stood so very long together, if a windstorm or axe felled one, would the other mourn its companion’s absence? How could it not, I thought.
I began referring to these two junipers as The Lovers. On every visit to the ranch, whenever descending to the river or returning to the casita, crunching in boots through a white blanket of freshly fallen snow or barefoot, shirtless, and kicking up little clouds of summer dust, I stopped in front of them. I addressed the pair aloud, admiring their silvergreen beauty, and even bowed in gratitude and respect before moving on along my way.
“Hello, lovers,” I would smile.
I realize that I’m talking here about a couple of neighborly trees in a world where everything exists as relationship and an entwined love affair. The arrangement of Standing Ones in a side by side relating is hardly unique to these two longtime Taos residents; I notice it all the time when I’m out walking and roaming, often pointing out unusual pairs of trees to whomever I’m with.
“Look,” I’ll point, “lovers.” (My statement has met with some rather curious reactions and puzzled responses.)
It may seem absurd to compare the richly veined complexities of human relationship with a couple of resinous juniper trees. Yet as if they were the ones speaking, these two beings never failed to remind me of Rainer Maria Rilke’s eloquent and acute observation, “Love consists of this, that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other.”
Yes, exactly. Without compromise or apology, each one simply embodies his true nature while energetically—physically, even—connected to a similar being with the same essential imperative: Grow.
Soul Artists understand that awakened relationship is something more profound than sex, companionship, or happiness. In conscious loving, both partners realize that they are whole and complete unto themselves, but that their relating is the place where they overlap and create something larger than either one alone. Each individual remains a distinct entity and ‘circle of being’. Partners in a conscious relating comprehend that their primary responsibility and relationship remains with the Self, for only when we fully attend to our own process and growth—facing our Shadow, heeding Eros, exploring our creative nature, expanding through senses and heart, nourishing the bodysoul—can we fully love and share our most authentic being with another.
Gentle reader, here’s hoping that whether you are currently in an intimate relating with a human beloved or not, may you realize that the gift of conscious relationship is one of transformation and enlargement. And love, of course—love as a spiritual practice in celebrating the expansiveness, soulful beauty, and deep mystery of the other.
Seemingly standing alone or firmly planted closely alongside another, your life task is to root down into the rich, dark fecundity of earth and soul while reaching towards the heavens, and to unapologetically offer what only you can bring to the ‘other-than-human’ world.
Grow, my friend.