We are planning a Pirate Day party at our house for next month. I was late seeing the second and third Pirates of the Caribbean movies. I had to wait until my first son was old enough to watch them with me, because nothing that exciting should ever be watched alone. He enjoyed the action, humor, suspense, and the awesome Kraken. He also developed an intense interest in all things pirate and a Davy Jones-inspired fascination with sea creatures. (Hence, we have Pirate Day!) I on the other hand was riveted to the love story of Will and Elizabeth. And of course we both loved the antics and attributes of one Capt Jack Sparrow! (Yes, Johnny Depp is hands-down the household's favorite actor.)
But back to the love story, because that is what I'm about. (Notice that the word "heart" comes first in my blog title.) I'm not sure how many fantastically exciting hours of watching pirates swashbuckling through worlds both ordinary and extraordinary it takes before one finally gets to the culmination of Elizabeth and Will's romance. I only know that I enjoyed every hour and their union, when it came, was as satisfying as the lead-in. But it is heartbreaking too, as you must know, because as the new captain of the Flying Dutchman, Will is cursed to spend only one day on land every ten years. When we last see the fair Elizabeth Turner, she stands on a hillside overlooking the ocean, waiting for her husband to come to her again after ten long years. And by her side stands their ten-yr-old son. Such a poignant and beautiful love story. I was left in tears.
When I think of Will and Elizabeth's love story, I get an image of Elizabeth's life in waiting. I see her standing on the hillside, looking out with intense longing over the ocean, which, with its endless emptiness, must only intensify her longing. The reason I picture her this way because I see in her a mirror of myself during a period when I also waited and longed with incredible intensity. But I was not standing overlooking the ocean. I was on ridge overlooking the place where the Chemung and Susquehanna Rivers come together, also known as as Tioga Point in Athens, PA.
Chances are, Ross had no idea that I waited for him. We had been no more than co-workers and friends until the days before he left for Chicago. But that Spring, as he prepared for his departure, I felt a flowering of feeling for him. Just before he left, he showed me Tioga Point for the first time. He held my hand as we climbed to a clearing and stood looking at the junction of the rivers below. He talked about the history of the place, and about the time he worked there harvesting potatoes for Johnson's who presently own the land.
I was unhappily married at the time. My, now it does seem like that was so long ago. And when Ross left, my logical brain told me that I would never see him again even while my heart mourned for him. I continued to visit that clearing that overlooks Tioga Point. As I stood looking down at the field nestled between the two rivers, I thought about the natives who must have settled there. I thought of the canoeers and kayakers who had come through it feeling the exuberance of accomplishment as they floated from one river to the other. I thought of potatoes and the way that people are nourished by what comes from the ground even while the ground is nourished by the what flows downriver to it. And I thought about Ross, and his dreams, and I wondered what had ever become of my own.
Once upon a time, I had wanted to be a writer. Now, I was in an unhappy marriage and commuting over 3 hrs a day to a job as a library director. The library job was good, almost rewarding. But, the rest of it sucked. So during the times I spent in that clearing looking down at the rivers below, I reflected on my hopes and revised my dreams. I began to write everyday when I got home stories that Ross inspired. Stories of forbidden love, unrequited love, quiet passion, intense longing. With the help of my parents, I made plans to leave my husband and found a house closer to my job. I kept in casual contact with Ross and still waited . . . even though at times I know he thought I was a crazy person. Maybe, in fact, I was.
That fall, I turned 25. I remember my future sister-in-law and I talking about my birthday. She said, "Yeah, 25 is hard. You start looking at your life and thinking about kids and everything you have ever wanted." Ross also had turned 25 that year. Perhaps that is what propelled him to go to Chicago. It is what propelled me to walk out on my marriage just two weeks after my birthday. I have never looked back. I saw Ross briefly while he was home for a visit just a few days before my birthday. I showed him my soon-to-be new home. I sat across from him in a cafe and tried to say intelligent things about art. He held my hand as we walked down Broad St in Waverly, and things felt amazingly right.
My home in Nichols was not so far from the Susquehanna River. I would walk the levee there often and think about the water rushing through the tributary on its journey to the sea. It was foggy there almost every morning, and this time of my life, when I lived alone for the only time, took on a misty dream-like quality. But what I dreamed of truly was the time when I would no longer be alone, when Ross would be walking next to me.
At some point in November, Ross wrote to me that he hated it there in Chicago. I told him to come home and we would work it out. He did not reply. And then suddenly it was Christmas. He came home to see his family. He brought me a bottle of wine. He presented me with a rosemary plant for my new home and kissed me with the heady taste of the herb on his lips. We walked together on the levee in a December that was unusually warm and felt like Spring. He taught me how to skip stones. He talked about trees and earth. He said that he felt like we were Adam and Eve.
I sat next to the creek in Nichols and skipped stones by myself on the day Ross went back to Chicago. (No one will ever skip stones as well as Ross, though.) With every stone I tossed, I felt the gravity of it shifting and changing and marveled at all of the subtle and intense ways there are for the world to be transformed.
I found out I was pregnant about a month later. And when Ross finally came to live with me that May, the time of waiting for him was over. We waited together for Cyril to be born. Waiting is so much more bearable when you have someone to share it with. Elizabeth Turner knew that, no doubt, as she stood waiting after ten years with her son by her side.
I've got something on Elizabeth, though her story is achingly beautiful and gorgeously bittersweet. After ten years, Ross and I have three sons. And though things between us have been perfect only in intervals, and at times have been downright awful, I know one thing as surely as I know anything. I am grateful to have waited for Ross, and with all that I know, I would wait for him, still.
Cyril has long been awaiting Pirate Day. I keep telling him that it is coming. (Waiting is oh so much easier when you have someone to wait with . . . )