“John Stuart Mill argues that free discourse is a necessary condition for intellectual and social progress. We can never be sure, he contends, that a silenced opinion does not contain some element of the truth.”
Merry Christmas Ceceilia, and I pray all is well with you as time marches on in silence. Cleaning out some old Christmas boxes over the weekend, this cute panda bear in its Yankees uniform suddenly dropped out from nowhere. I recall it was a souvenir latched onto before the game we were at in New York long, long ago, but don’t know how I ended up with it in the present. I get chills to think how much we rambled around together through such a magical time in another century or so from today; yet keeping such mementos without being able to express how much I still treasure the memories seems rather pointless – particularly with life now passing us by like strangers headed opposite directions on trains that can’t be stopped.
The magazine “Washington Coast” (I hope you’re still receiving it) is something we have been putting out here for the past year, and I have had the cover story this fall quarter, with a bird’s-eye view of eagles and other raptors like I had never seen before. I thought you might enjoy the stories and the photos, and then seeing some proof that things turned out pretty good for yours truly in the long run of schemes. I live in an amazing place and am thankful ultimately for the freedom I have finally forged from the fragments of my past. I have you to thank and sort of blame for that in many respects, but it’s all good in the end, at least from my perspective.
The writing I do now does affect lives and other perspectives in small ways, one reader and one person at a time, and I have been blessed to end up in a place where my skills as a journalist are perfectly suited for the time and space when I arrived back at the beaches of my dreams. I suspect you must feel the same way about where you ended up, and honestly, it’s something I fully understand. I’m glad in that regard, because I will take living on the coast hands down over living in Central Washington, on pretty much any day, rain or shine. I’m quite sure you suspected that about me all along. It is a joy to be out of the city forever, however, and I only get nostalgic when something like Prince’s death takes me back to a time and a place when living in Seattle with you was as magical as living on the coast, when living was large and music was our muse. I only have visions and dreams of you smiling, so it makes me happy to hold on to those images through the losses of our years, knowing you are still so alive and able to comprehend the same.
As a responsible, God-fearing single man dedicated now to my simple and direct calling in life, I have succeeded despite my bellicose ways of the past, learning to be happy on my own, happily emerging better than I ever had imagined, as far as things like strength of character, perseverance, patience, force of will are concerned. I have a storehouse of faith, hope and peace of heart to never want for another’s love, and yet am still able to give love to those who need it most. And if I can only love you in the past-tense, then surely the writing will pass on to the next generations and generations to come. I suspect that’s what matters the most in choosing to love at all, over the opposite. I wrote many words of spite and vindictiveness, despair and depression, illusion and delusion, and it got me exactly nowhere in life. I have gone back to the roots of my writing life, and it has magically turned out exactly like I had planned it all along.
Writing has always sustained my life, even building this fragile house I inhabit on the beach that could wash away with any given storm. The stories endure, the songs ring out, the lives have been touched, many of the words were read, some of them were wasted, but most of them rang true, or at least they attempted to get closer to the pure truth in what it means to live, to love, to strive, to believe, to endure — even to fail and get up to try it all again.
I wrote a story last week about a couple who lost their daughter tragically at the age of 9 and ended up stranded out here, only to donate their time to repair and maintain wheelchairs and walkers for old folks in the area; it was read by someone at KOMO and became a big TV story in Seattle that helped the couple with scores of donations. A series I wrote about one woman’s campaign to do her own rural summer lunch program earned an Emmy for KING-TV when they came out and did the story; and now over 10,000 lunches have been served to kids living in the backwoods. It’s those kind of things I get preoccupied with now. This is what I was meant to do, not just endlessly pursue you! I always envisioned a place for us like Galiano Island, land of joy and purity, surrounded by the sea, with birds and peace, with a cool, cleansing climate and a creative community to do whatever we liked, to illuminate whatever we wanted with our days and to sleep in the comfort of the waves and wind and rain outside. In the end, I got it for myself and it suits me just fine.
You were right about John Stuart Mill waiting those many years, only to find the true love of his life through the patience of time. It brings a certain clarity of purpose.
So why do I keep writing to you, communicating or regurgitating my innermost thoughts and longings, my life of allusion and illusion, confusion and confession?
That should be obvious by now, and you knew all along that I was a writer heart and soul, not something that I just talked about but something that I did every single waking day of my life. I have written as many words as anyone I know; not a boast, but a reality of who I am to the very core of my being, my purpose in life, my reason for breathing on this earth. Writing to you is like praying to God for me. I don’t ask God for miracles, I only ask that I be allowed to do something good for someone every day that I am alive with the talents God has blessed me with. I often recite the Lord’s Prayer under my breath as I run daily to the beach with Babe, and it is my true father that I see as I scan the ocean and turn back to head for home.
Last month, I took my mom with Becky out to brunch for her birthday at the Oakbrook Country Club where we once were married. I recalled how many people we once celebrated with, who celebrated our love, had since passed on from this earth. Pastor Elgin most recently, my father and grandmother, Ed Penhale . . . Prince. I still have the video of the wedding and us dancing to “Let’s Go Crazy,” and began to convert it to a DVD when I thought I was having a heart attack again, overcome with emotion at watching such happy people that we were, knowing how tragic it would turn out – over a series of misunderstandings and outbursts in anger. I suspect that is why you never seem to revisit our past. It is hard to understand it to this day, or watch it from the archives; so I guess that’s why these words keep flowing in a fleeting quest to take me closer to a truth that I can’t seem to uncover solely on my own or from the vast reservoir of the world we once created for ourselves and for our family.
I do know that I have realized the true love of God through the process. That writing to you gets me closer to the essence of what it means to love, to forgive, to endure, to have faith, to overcome anger and fear, to rise above sadness, to write simply for the path toward truth. I would like to think that truth comes in being able to admit the failures as well as revisit the fantasies that we once created for ourselves. The one thing I never failed at was being the writer that you once gave me full freedom to become in your presence, with your encouragement, admonishment, praise and enlightenment. You did set me free, kicking and screaming like a baby. I know I am a better writer for it and can do many wonderful things for others because of the freedom I now have to write exactly what I want and in my own time, in my own place, on my own terms, with no one looking over my shoulder but God.
How I prayed to God for your love, your life, your health and forgiveness over the years, as much as I asked for things for myself. I always thought I was being punished by God for loving you, but now realize that I was truly being led by God to love you through all trials and tribulations, through sin and sacrifice, through ultimate pleasure and indescribable pain . . . and that our love was equally the love of God, manifested in what you too believed heart and soul was the only way you could find your own truths in life. I would like to believe that we had the same God, but I’m pretty sure we interpreted God’s love far differently.
I will never again love anyone like I love you, and I am sorry if that is something that doesn’t have an easy ending to it, like a novel or most of my newspaper stories. I have tried to offer my heart to others, but it just doesn’t have the same inspiration or revelation, the same magic and spirit, the same power or the same significance. It is simply superficial or settling for less. Nice. But not spiritual. Sweet. But not satisfying. Pleasant. But not uplifting. I felt everything when I made my vows to you – like it was the most vital decision on earth! That’s not to disparage your own decisions and choices in love, but to more closely get at what keeps me from making the same choice to marry again just because someone offers their love to me.
At home and unbound now, I am happier than I have ever been in life since we parted, and it is a home I protect judiciously. I am in for the long run of the rest of my life, right here, right now, and what I own I will never sacrifice to another soul. In my heart I will always believe that it was what I said about your house being my house too that caused you to do what you did back when. I understand and apologize a million days to the ends of the earth for that moment in time, since I know it is exactly how I feel now. If someone threatened my home, I would excommunicate that person in an instant.
Back home, I have the happiest of fish ponds with monster Choi the size of salmon, cherry trees ripe with Bings, roses of pink, purple and burgundy, salmonberries, blackberries, even a red quince the size of a tree; lavender, fuchsias of all varieties, several rhododendrons, a deer-nibbled camellia, a back lawn free of dandelions, a front yard guarded by ferns and pampas grass, bamboo and Ponderosa pines. In the mornings, I open the sliding glass door and hear a symphony of birds, sometimes shooing away a heron or two from the pond as Babe bounds after the deer that try to reach up into the sweetness of the cherry trees. We have two fawns now among our neighborhood throng. After coffee and writing to start the day, Babe and I are off across the peninsula, sometimes running around the lakes and golf course, but most days to the ocean and back, clearing away the day that remains for any real work to be done. Of all the philosophies and philosophers I have dabbled with in my existence heretofore, my daily ritual and running routine seems to be the most valid of all. It is sort of my religion. It is my window to God.
Yeah I found God, and He was absolutely just like me.
He opened my mouth, looked down my throat
Told me I was thirsty,
He said, “I’ve been, I’ve been, I’ve been in this water all my life
Never took the time to breathe. Breathe”
The air I breathe is so fresh and clean, cool, clear, crystal blue. Please come visit should you ever again get an adventurous streak to seek the wonders of the Olympics or the soothing refreshment of the coast. Bring whomever and whatever you like. Here, such as the liberties I take, you are always free to be — and do and say — whatever you want.
I know I have said far too much and then again said nothing new that you haven’t heard from me before; but the resounding truth keeps reverberating within my soul as if to demonstrate the strength of its very existence. The fact that I still feel this way about you is undeniable, so there it is and here I am and there you are. Having no expectations or ability to realize anything but words makes it somewhat easier to get closer to what matters most. I have no desire to possess you or harm you, disturb or displace you, certainly not torment you like this silence and banishment has tormented me in the past. Sounds like a Dylan song, but I don’t just want to be friends with you either since we passed that point so long ago. I would like to touch and smile with you now and then to feel the energy that sparked something wonderful once upon a time. I would die a happy man just to be able to talk to you without remorse or recrimination through the days we have left on this earth. To hear you speak would surely bring me peace.
Of all my friends, lovers, family, you are the only one I can write to like this but that I can’t talk to in real life. What a strange contradiction. Maybe that is a curse for you, but I still feel it has been a blessing for me ultimately as a writer out of necessity. I never realized the full truth of love until it was gone and never coming back. That doesn’t mean I have stopped loving in the least, nor that I expect you ever will either. And I know how much you truly loved me too. Neither does it mean I will ever stop writing or stop waiting. Like Tolle, I learned long ago that waiting is the process that brings you closer to now.
Time to wait some more and search for more agates, say a few more prayers, run hundreds of more miles, pile up the words, try to change a few lives for the better; time to enjoy all the wonders of this earth, time to experience the magnificence of our find. You were magnificent in your prime. Thank you for looking through this window in time.