Friday, November 30, 2012

A New Beginning with A New Partner

For many years, I've shunned any type of match-making service, even the few well-intentioned friends who've offered solutions to my choice to "travel solo" for the past few years. Pre-internet, no matter how lonely I was, I never even looked at the "Personal" ads, let alone wrote one. Especially not across state lines. If I was going to find a perfect partner, destiny/God/random chance was going to have to dump them in my lap; I wasn't going to go looking very hard. Too busy.

The internet and cell phones vastly increased the ease of long-distance communication, opening up myriad new possibilities for meeting people close and far. But I watched so many friends struggle with the also vastly increased possibilities for disaster, and quickly decided that's not for me.

It's not that I'm not willing to take risks and try new things; I just look to farming, not relationships, for my gambling fun. Some rewards are worth taking risks for. Some risks are just too horrible to think about. Some odds are just not that good. Farming, yes; blind dates, no way.

If there's anything life has taught me, it's that every year brings big changes that affect me and others, often in very different ways. Friendships, even partnerships, can melt away like winter snow yielding to a warm March wind. The person I meet one day is not the same person I know a year later. Impermanence has characterized my relationships, whether cohabiting or long distance. Year after year of losses to death, career changes, relationship changes. Year after year of people coming and going at the farm (let alone in my personal life) left me deeply weary, tired of beginning each farming season with a whole new cast of characters.

Measuring myself now against the yardstick of my past, I've become fairly cynical about relationships in general. I have become more social, yet more solo, as the years go by. I often forget to long for the enduring symbiotic relationship with someone else that I used to think mandatory for my happiness.

So it was quite improbable that one day in early October I would be sitting at my computer and have the name of a rather obscure match-making service come to mind. Even more improbable that I would look it up and go to the web site. But I did. God only knew why.

A profile immediately caught my eye. The next step, of course, was to write my own profile and send it in for consideration as a possible match. At least a sort of a change of pace from filling out job applications. Into the wee hours of the  morning, I typed away, answering the questionnaire, providing references, so many details to think about, so much soul searching.

I sat back in mild shock when I realized that I had pressed "send". Commitment...if not to a particular relationship, at least to the idea that I could consider another relationship. Ack! What was I thinking? God only knew!

The same night, others far away were busy at their screens. Within a few days, I received word that the face that had caught my eye initially had caught someone else's first. I was surprised to feel a little pang of disappointment. I hadn't been hoping for anything, remember?

But the day I sent in my profile for approval, someone else far away sent one in, also. The person processing the profiles decided to skip the formalities, and put us in touch with one another directly. There ensued a flurry of emails: questions, answers, stories, photos. Fear and hope, doubt and elation swirled inside me. Whatever had I been thinking to start down this road? It was definitely a slippery slope...and a long one: from Lawrence, KS to Springfield, MO.

Photos. Not for decades have I envisioned myself teaming up with a redhead with flashy sunglitzing. Yes, there was one major crush decades ago...SO not my type now! But by the time I saw the photo, I'd already been captivated by the text, and I mentally steeled my will to ignore the trendy look of this total stranger. Other things were much more important than that intriguing face--grinning from ear to ear, laughing eyes brimming over with golden glints.

Our work and travel schedules made it difficult to find a time to meet in person. Also I was adamant that I needed to finish the major interior renovations on my little home before gallivanting off to the next state to turn my entire life on its ear.

Then for a long time, the internet was silent, and I thought perhaps the opportunity to partner with this intriguing stranger had slipped away from me after all. I was busy in the ways October is always busy at the farm, riding the emotional and physical roller coaster of early freezing weather interspersed with beautiful weather, taking sheep to slaughter, picking green tomatoes the night of the first freeze, farm help bailing out at the most inopportune time, a million things to do to make the most of autumn and prepare for winter.

The matchmaker emailed to ask if I'd heard anything for awhile; she hadn't, either. We presumed that someone else more local had appeared on the scene, and jogged off into the sunset with that amazing athletic redhead. I promised myself a good little self-indulgent wallow in loneliness, self-pity and cynicism as soon as I had gotten the upper hand on the major rebuilding of the kitchen floor. There is nothing like washing dishes in the bathroom sink to remind oneself that sometimes "traveling solo" is actually a very good thing.

But finally the floor was done, and out of the blue, an email came once again, as if weeks of silence had not passed. We decided to meet in a park halfway between Lawrence and Springfield: a public place, no one's home turf. Safe. But scary. After all, this stranger would probably be coming home with me, hopefully forever.

As I drove through the sun-drenched November hills on a impossibly warm, glorious afternoon, I thought about the millions of arranged marriages of the past millenia, and today in other corners of the globe. I thought about mail-order brides who left everything they knew to start a new life in a strange place, with strangers in unfamiliar lands. What would it be like for this stranger I was about to meet? Basic compatibility had been ascertained, a mutuality of goals--but there was no way to gage whether we would actually like each other. Can I learn to love a stranger, when my heart's been broken so many times? Can they love me? Can we live and work together if we end up not loving each other as much as in the fairy tales? What HAD I been thinking to Google that match-making service?

Pulling the car into the parking lot, seeing the truck parked off to the side, goodness, it's really happening! Fumbling with the seat belt, watching at a distance, being watched. I want to move faster, I want to move slower, now hands are reaching out to clasp across a diminishing distance in a vacant field, smiling eyes laughing in the sunlight.... I had meant to bring the camera to capture this moment forever, but perhaps it is too personal for that.

Clearly, a Power Greater than Myself has once again worked in mysterious ways, bringing us together. How else could we each have decided on the same night to contact the same match-maker? And how else could it ever have worked?

Home now, together, elated and exhausted. This will be fine, for all of us. We stand at the beginning of a long adventure, Sookie and me.

Thank you,  Mo-Kan Border Collie Rescue, for playing matchmaker. Thank you, A.M., for loving this beautiful dog enough to realize she needs a demanding job on a sheep farm instead of endless days off in a back yard. Thank you, God, for guiding us all.

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