On Sunday afternoon I found myself driving up Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu, past Ventura and Oxnard on my way to an imaginary date with an imaginary boyfriend. I was on my way to an Elvis Costello concert.
As many of you know, I am a die hard romantic often filling in the blanks of life's real stories with fairy tales, grand successes and happily ever afters. It is this occasionally blind hope that keeps my almost always present smile sparkling. It is this optimism that makes me - me. It's why I am wearing a tiara in my driver's license photo.
It is also this optimism that made me buy two tickets to see Elvis Costello shortly after I'd been on a first date with a guy we'll call Henry Miller.
We'd been emailing back and forth for nearly four months before we actually met. His online profile turned out to have a few omissions which left me a little cautious. Omissions like a decade of his life. He was 49 not 39! Since we had a fantastic connection, I found myself always writing back. He was insanely busy with two kids, a career and the tailspin that follows a messy divorce, but he understood poetry and called me Anais Nin. So I kept writing back.
|Henry Miller & Anais Nin|
A few days later, American Express announced by email that I could get tickets to his favorite musician, Elvis Costello on a Sunday in Santa Barbara. Faith that this was going somewhere, hope that this might be love, I bought two orchestra seats. Before I'd even had a chance to ask, I found out he'd be traveling for work that weekend.
Three weeks, two dates, 1726 text messages, 8.7 hours on the phone later, we'd gone back and forth a thousand times on whether or not either of us was ready to really get serious. We knew that even starting something for the two of us meant that it might get serious. We liked each other A LOT. It was innocent, sweet, flirty, inspiring and creative.
His life, my life - our pasts - our commitments, our fears that two care taking, love giving types might inevitably fail when combined, the hundreds of reasons we shouldn't date - all kept getting ignored when we were around each other. We kept liking each other.
Then H. Miller's life hit crisis mode - serious, painful, circle the family wagons crisis mode. If I had been waiting for a sign, that this wasn't going to work out right about now - here was my sign. Like a really big, really scary CAUTION CURVES AHEAD sign.
I had held onto the tickets thinking there was an off chance we might go, and while family stuff did keep him in town - there was NO WAY he was going to a concert last Sunday evening.
So there I was - two tickets, no date, on my way to see a musician I was only marginally familiar with. Ummm - well ok. Let's do this??
On my way up the coast I stopped at a little town I've always wanted to visit called Summerland. In my perfect fairy tale world my literary musings would make enough money that I could buy a cottage on the coast in Summerland and write books and tell stories for the rest of my life. I'd driven by it on my way to and from Berkeley countless times.
Here's what I found they were praying for in Summerland!
Love? Really? Generous love?
Here I was thinking that love was starting to become some illusive myth and these people, in my namesake (almost) town were praying for it??? I couldn't help but smile.
As I reached Santa Barbara, with two hours to spare, I decided to head up to The Mission to drop in and say a prayer or two. Reflection, meditation, prayer and faith play a big part in my life. When I parked, I realized the last time I had been in Santa Barbara at The Mission was with my former husband preparing for our Catholic wedding. It had been an intense weekend where I spent the majority of time in tears.
Yet here I was, again on a hot Indian Summer's day,
thinking about love.
thinking about love.
A brown robed, rope belted Franciscan priest was tending the rose garden and took a moment to say hello. We exchanged greetings and he asked if I was coming from far away. I smiled and said - "In a way, yes I suppose I am."He responded "Thank you for coming today. I hope this place brings you peace."
Perhaps I looked a bit like a woman looking for peace.
He even said
that the brother
gardener ought to
reserve a place
in a corner for a
garden where he put
all kinds of aromatic
herbs and flowering plants
so that they in their season might
invite all men
who looked at them to praise God...
For every creature says and proclaims
"God has created me for you, O man"
- St Francis of Assisi
Walking through the gorgeous olive tree garden, I admired the mosaics of the stations of the cross and sat on a bench to think.
The bells rang 6:00 and I realized that I must head down the hill if I was ever to find someone to sell the second ticket to and grab a quick dinner. I turned for a moment to see the dedication on the bench I was sitting on.
|"To love another person is to see the face of God."|
Once again, love.
I had dinner next door to the Granada Theater, sitting alone at the bar. It was clear that there were not a ton of people wanting extra tickets and the crowd was a bit on the older side. I'd have to just get lucky on my way in the door.
I ordered a mojito and started chatting with the woman sitting next to me. Lisa, a mother of two had just turned fifty, traveled to Italy with her family and decided last minute to attend the concert. Her husband had declined to join her. Her kids scoffed at the idea of Elvis Costello. We toasted independence and while we knew we'd never likely cross paths again, new found friendship.
I sold the extra ticket to a guy outside the theater on my way in for substantially less than face value, but more than the cost of my dinner. He was a Santa Barbara local and a harmless seatmate. Elvis was truly a terrific performer, but I was in my own head most of the time. Thinking about the priest, the bench, and Summerland, it was a bit strange to be alone in a crowd of a thousand. Oddly peaceful.
As the concert ended, Elvis played the key notes of his most popular song and the audience rose to their feet. In unison the crowd asked over and over,
"What's so funny about, peace, love and understanding?"