love notes.

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…so that one day you realized that what you wanted
had already happened, and long ago and in the dwelling place
in which you lived before you began,
and that every step along the way, you had carried
the heart and the mind and the promise,
that first set you off and then drew you on, and that:
you were more marvelous in your simple wish to find a way
than the gilded roofs of any destination you could reach.

~excerpt of poem from ‘Santiago’ by David Whyte

I’d like to tell you where I am, where you might find me these days, but it seems I am somewhere very far away. I would like to find the words to describe to you this place, but there is no language made for it. It is a place of deep wooded paths, dark watery oceans, cold moon-glow and softly falling snow. And yet…it’s not even that. It is a parallel place. Precarious in both its comforts and its pain. It’s a place of lost maps, the journey I must make. But then…there are those brief and beautiful moments when I feel truly, gently held in the hands of God. Sometimes, I have to crawl out of my skin to get there. This hopeful transformation? It still requires all of me. Perhaps from here on out it always will.

Carl. I love this photo of him. He texted it to me along with a love note from the woods outside my cabin one morning when he went out to feed the horses. I could have just as easily looked outside the window and saw him standing there, but it seems that it is in these sweet moments and tender gestures that love is built of. He already had my whole heart, but a little later, when I finally did look out the window and saw him walking back towards the cabin, I saw the gift of a man whose heart I wanted to live out my whole life with. Louie, my big goofy Chesapeake, was beside himself with his own happiness over having this newfound companionship, too. There was a lot of happiness in these woods that day and all the time surrounding it, too.

And now? All this unknowing. Where do I begin? I struggle with how to proceed. My map keeps getting blown away in the cold wind. But always, always…there is this sense of Carl’s love keeping me company, even here, now, from this short-sighted vantage point. I lean in towards this quiet space of listening and learning. Here I am. Mapless. Guided only by some great mystery.

But wait…let me ask this more clearly: “How do I proceed?” This is the question I ask God. It turns out that, as well-intentioned as I may have always been, before Carl’s death, I had it all wrong. As authentic, spiritual and honest as I was trying to be…I had it all wrong. For two months now I have been asking this question and feeling my way in the dark towards a better understanding of the answer. You see, I can feel the answer, even if I can’t yet see it or hear it or put it to words. Silly for me to think that I can have it all neatly spelled out before its time. I want clarity, knowing, a guarantee. Instead I am offered Faith and Trust. It’s like holding water in my hands. Even so, I know that water has the ability to carry me far. All that matters is whether I can look into the eyes of this Great Something and not let fear or doubt draw me away from its invitation. The most horrible thing has happened. Carl is gone, carried out of this world in a grinding collision. Is it possible for me to draw strength from even this?

Yes, I think this is what is being asked of me. I am being asked to draw strength, even from this. We planted a seed. Now it is time to let it grow.

I love you, Carl Bratlien. With you, I want to keep this song alive.

{originally published Jan 8, 2015}

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