To Oregon, who had the audacity to choose love.
A year ago tonight, I was falling asleep by myself for the very last time. At least the last time as far as I could see, into the unforeseeable future.
My boyfriend was traveling by plane the next morning, with an attitude laden black cat in a carrier case, to change his residence from Oregon to Alaska. It was finally the night before the big move we’d been planning for the last couple of months. This is it, this is really happening, I kept telling myself, even as I tried to relax into sleep.
I laid there that night with a feeling I can’t quite describe. A weightlessness of anticipation and butterfly of change. A surreal sense that somehow the next day would be the beginning of something I couldn’t yet see, but had massive faith in nonetheless. The saying, “This is the first day of the rest of your life,” had never rang more true.
We had met the previous November in a marathon at Oregon’s Silver Falls State Park, on a wet, gnarled, pine crested trail filled with trees, twists, turns, and one happenstance encounter at mile 7. I went running past him up a hill, and the boy in the orange shirt decided to follow the girl in the orange pants. For about a mile our footfalls were punctuated by easy conversation and falling rain, until he decided to lead me on a merry chase the rest of the race, which had me scrambling to keep up. We had a round of verbose and revealing coffee the next day that had me sitting on the plane that night with a bemused smile on my face.
I liked this guy.
We started talking on the phone when I went back to Alaska, and in a couple months I was wondering where this deep friendship had sprung out of, and who this person was that I could tell anything to. I felt committed in my heart, though we’d never even kissed. By the end of January he decided to fly up here so we could try that one on for size as well. Turns out kissing fit quite well, and after an extended weekend filled with mountains, snow and beautiful arctic sunsets, he headed back home singing to the tune of the Grateful Dead’s “They Love Each Other,” as I hastily scheduled a flight to Bend to see him in a few weeks time.
Three flights to Bend ensued over February, March and April. It was a beautiful whirlwind of exploring this new state of affairs called love, and running more pine crested trails, and laughing in his tiny loft, as my dog looked on with joy, seeming to accept this new tribe member who made mom happy and increased our pack of two to one of three; while his cat looked on askance, with what I can only describe as irate disdain.
Roses, long walks and breakfasts out, with omelets and champagne and strong coffee. Movie nights spent cuddling on the couch and taking late trips to the corner grocery for snacks. As many secrets as we thought to share about ourselves told. I took a million pictures and wrapped myself in the newness of love, writing copious amounts of poetry and smiling at lyrics to bluesy, soulful songs he’d send my way. We crammed love into these tiny pockets of time and discovered how hard long distance can be.
Which is why inevitably, somewhere in the middle of all this we decided to DO THIS. Oregon to Alaska. Love or Bust. We determined we would take this leap of faith together, and either find ourselves landing on the ground of uncharted territory, marking it with a stake that said “Love Lives Here,” or we were going to crash this thing so hard neither of us would ever find our way back.
By the end of May his tiny loft was all cleaned out, his car was on a barge leaving the emerald city of Seattle heading for Alaskan waters, and he was temporarily staying at his Mom’s house in Salem, cherishing last moments with family and friends. On June 11th he was preparing to leave Portland the following morning, so he could put a stake in Alaskan soil saying “I live here.” It was a place he’d only visited for 5 days, for a girl he’d only known for 7 months.
It was an incredibly brave thing to do.
And there I was that last night, laying in my bed weightless. Because I didn’t know how to feel. All I remember is that I kept thinking, Tonight I am laying here in this bed I have always occupied alone, and tomorrow night I will have someone occupying it with me. Here to stay. It was pretty much like getting married overnight, or at least that’s how we thought of it even though we’ve taken awhile to get around to a more formal title and ceremony.
Excitement and anxiety. Knowing and not knowing. Arriving to and departing from. A new chapter unwritten, an old one finished.
I lay there that last night, in a dusky room which wouldn’t get dark thanks to the presence of an Alaskan summer’s midnight sun, and I whispered gratitude to the sky for the gift of the time period I was leaving, which had allowed me to know and love myself unfiltered through the lens of anyone else. I felt so whole, and I felt as sure of myself as I had ever felt about anything in my life, and probably deep down in a place I couldn’t even speak, as scared as shit as I had ever felt about anything in my life. I fell asleep, ready to leap.
It was an incredibly brave thing to do.
We never know where our choices in life will take us. All I know is that I chose him and this leap into a new territory. It has come with tremendous love I never imagined. Deep friendship and much laughter. A few bumps and bruises along the way, as we navigated a rearranging of self to make space for another. The fear and uncertainty that comes with striking out on a voyage whose destination remains unknown at the time you began the passage. The grace of coming back to love every time I’ve stepped away from it this past year. Belonging. Peace.
The quiet certitude that trusting one’s truth of the heart, no matter how unknown the path may be, will always take you to where you need to go.
It is an incredibly brave thing to do.