Sunday, December 11, 2016

San Francisco: Wine and Remembrance

I had an opportunity to go wine tasting in the Russian River Valley yesterday with my friends, Chris and Jason. It was fun. Though it was a cloudy, misty day, the landscape was beautiful, the wine was excellent and the company was superb. 

We met up with some of Jason and Chris' friends at the sleek contemporary MacRostie Winery before finishing up at the much more rustic Joseph Swan Winery

There is something about being in San Francisco that powerfully evokes memories of Mark and the good times we had here over the years. I think that's one of the reasons I enjoy coming here. 

Yesterday, when I was wine tasting, I thought of the first time I came here with him. It was September 2011. We had met only a month before but were already deeply in love. One of the things we did was go wine tasting with our friend, Chris, in Sonoma.

Chris and Mark

Yesterday evening, I drove down the coastal road to the house of some friends north of Santa Cruz. Along the way, I went through Half Moon Bay and passed the motel where Mark and I had spent our first night on what would be a 10-day drive up the California and Oregon coast. Further along, I passed Pomponio State Beach, where we had stopped to let the dogs run and where I caught Mark writing "Mark Loves Joseph" in the sand with a big stick.

I have never publicly shared much of my experiences from those first exhilarating days and weeks after Mark and I had found each other in the late summer of 2011. I couldn't share it at the time; I had been out for less than a year and had just been served with divorce papers. My budding relationship with Mark was a secret, something that couldn't be shared. At least not then. Which is why I take pleasure in sharing a bit of it now.

Shortly after returning from that first trip to San Francisco and the coast, I expressed some of what I was feeling and experiencing in a special journal that my therapist suggested I start in the form of letters to one of my daughters. What follows is an excerpt from that journal:
“It was only recently that I discovered what it felt like to be in love, what it felt like to fall in love. And it was and is truly wonderful. Every person should have the opportunity to feel those feelings … to be able to ‘get it’ when they listen to a love song on the radio … to feel the excitement that comes from hearing a beloved’s voice, of merely being in the same room together. Everyone should have the opportunity to experience what it feels like to hold one’s beloved, to experience the emotional, physical and spiritual pleasure that comes from being intimate with one’s beloved … 
“Though I loved my ex-wife, I was – I came to later realize – never ‘in love’ with her … When I married her, I fully expected that to come, that feeling of being ‘in love’ with someone (which is different from 'loving' someone), that feeling of true emotional intimacy; but those feelings never came. In the end, our relationship could perhaps best be characterized as a ‘spiritual-temporal partnership.’ We were parties to a contract which we had entered into because we believed it was what God wanted, and we were doing our best – despite our emotional shortcomings (of both of us) - to fulfill the terms of the agreement, believing that we would be blessed for doing so.  
“But love cannot be reduced to the terms of an agreement. Love is really, in a sense, the essence of what it means to be human … and I have traveled over 50 years to find the exhilarating, revelatory, fulfilling, wonder-ful love that I have found with Mark … 
“We met online through a gay dating site that no longer exists ... Over the next days and weeks, we saw each other almost every day … I fell deeply in love with Mark. I felt a connection with him that was unlike anything I had experienced in my life. I felt like I had known him for years – in some ways, forever. I felt like he was unlocking chambers of my soul that had been shut tight for decades, if not my entire life. I suppose it could be said that I felt that he was/is my soul mate."

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