The paradoxical thing about monogamy, for me at least, is that it took someone who doesn’t insist upon it to inspire me to live it so willingly.
Read on for two poems (one that speaks to the inevitably-ephemeral nature of relationships, and one that speaks to the phenomenon I described above), the story about how Scott and I came to find ourselves in a relationship the second time around, and a bit of Wendell Berry’s ever-inspiring wisdom.
Sonnet of Fidelity
by Vinicius de Moraes
Above all, to my love I’ll be attentive
First and always, with care and so much
That even when facing the greatest enchantment
By love be more enchanted my thoughts.
I want to live it through in each vain moment
And in its honor I’ll spread my song
And laugh my laughter and cry my tears
When you are sad or when you are content.
And thus, when later comes looking for me
Who knows, the death, anxiety of the living,
Who knows, the loneliness, end of all lovers
I’ll be able to say to myself of the love (I had):
Be not immortal, since it is flame
But be infinite while it lasts.
I discovered this next one in the book Loving and Leaving the Good Life, by Helen Nearing; she had sent it to her husband, Scott Nearing, in response to a poem he sent her while they were separated by an ocean:
The Wind Bloweth Where It Listeth
by Countee Cullen
“Live like the wind,” he said, “unfettered,
And love me while you can;
And when you will, and can be bettered,
Go to the better man.
“For you’ll grow weary, maybe, sleeping
So long a time with me;
Like this there’ll be no cause for weeping;
The wind is always free.
“Go when you please,” he would be saying,
His mouth hard on her own;
That’s why she stayed and loved the staying,
Contented to the bone.
Because Scott and I didn’t see each other for two and a half years following our first date (except for one unacknowledged, wordless encounter in the doorway of Green Apple Books), I count our second date as our anniversary.
Except that I can’t really call it a date because it wasn’t really meant to be a date. We’d been hanging out platonically for several weeks, going to shows and having philosophical discussions, and had even gone on a double date. Which is why it hadn’t occurred to me that it might be awkward to invite Peter, a friend from work, to join us at The Independent on the evening of the Summer Solstice, 2016…
At some point after Golden Daze had finished playing, Peter understood far better than I did what was going on and disappeared into the crowd.
Ne Hi‘s set was right up my alley, I was giddy to be out and dancing on Tuesday night, I was feeling free and alive despite still working through the fallout from a couple-months-ago breakup, and the more I spent time with him, the more I became convinced that Scott was a really excellent human…
Though I kept trying to remind myself that he was already romantically involved with two other people AND I was vaguely hanging out with / sort-of dating two people myself and didn’t much fancy further complications (particularly as I was in the process of trying to move to New Zealand!)… at some point I couldn’t contain myself any longer and threw my arms around his neck.
I’ll spare you the rest of the details, but when I showed up to work somewhat chagrined the next morning, Peter was already at my desk spilling them to my co-workers. Peter, you’re a fantastic wingman, and I owe you Big Time 😉
Three weeks later, during a hike out to Bass Lake, Scott and I began talking about the possibility of his moving to New Zealand with me.
How much information do you need to know it’s a good idea to move across an ocean with someone? Wendell Berry, in his essay People, Land, and Community, discusses the impossibility of “knowing” enough to decide to get married, while suggesting that there is something else, if not knowledge, that might be enough:
The “informed decision,” I suggest, is as fantastical a creature as the “disinterested third party” and the “objective observer.” Or it is if by “informed” we mean “supported by sufficient information.” …as a condition marriage reveals the insufficiency of knowledge, and as an institution it suggests the possibility that decisions can be informed in another way that is sufficient, or approximately so. [Source]
Apparently we had tapped into this other way of knowing, because only a few weeks into our (open!) relationship, Scott and I decided to move to a country I’d never even visited. While I may occasionally question the wisdom of having moved so far away from all my friends and family, making this leap with Scott is one of the few decisions that I have never second-guessed for even a moment. I am so grateful to have found a true partner in all senses of the word; while it remains impossible to know how long this relationship (or anything for that matter) will last, I feel honored to touch its infinite-ness, here, now.