by Peggy E- Evergreen Colorado-
Home was rural Virginia on the shores of the Rappahannock River, where generation after generation made their life and their living from the water and the land. After my parents separated, my mother and I lived on the farm where she was born, a short stroll from her parents and her brother. My grandfather owned a 167-acre duck farm and employed his fair share of souls in the county, so lineage suggested a patrician if provincial life. I had graduated from a Southern college for young ladies and according to the local perspective, my next step was to find someone to circle my finger, and then to settle graciously into genteel domesticity. But my left hand was naked, and I was no magnolia.
It was the early 70’s, the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. A predictable life didn’t jive with the urge – no, the need – to Question Everything. My college roommate Connie and I packed her yellow Dodge and headed west. We were bound for San Francisco to wear flowers in our hair, protest war and be forever free. Little did I know I would have felt equally as foreign at the intersection of Haight and Ashbury as I did in my home town, but there we were on the road, on our own, two of Dylan’s “Rollin’ Stones”. We ran short of money in Denver and decided to stop, get jobs and fortify our cash stash before taking the final leap to California. We eventually found Evergreen, an artists’ community 35 miles southwest of Denver in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains high. There we set up house in a tiny cabin, equipped with a chemical toilet and only marginal insulation from the cold.
Oh, there were men in my life – several, in fact – but hip, considerate and promising though they were, they simply didn’t light my particular fire. I went to work, talked to Connie, wrote in my journal, and deconstructed a lot of beliefs. Over time, I stopped searching for a man to validate, rescue, support or otherwise make me whole. Perhaps a single life was my destiny. If I did marry, I would choose a gentle man, a strong man, a noble man as my husband. I would know him when I saw him, and I would love him with everything I had to give my whole life through. We would have children who felt treasured and respected for who they are, and we would support their callings as best we could. We would build a home that welcomed people and made them feel safe. We would live in a community that encouraged authenticity, art and adventure. We would find a new way, and we would be free. It was a tall order, but those of us who Question Everything like to reach. Besides, there was no rush.
Then one simple Saturday, Connie and I loaded up the yellow Dodge for a rare trip to the laundromat. We were on our way home with piles of clean laundry neatly stacked on the back seat, talking ourselves into tackling the slimy stack of dirty dishes, when I saw something that changed everything. There at our mailbox, leaning on one long leg astraddle a light blue 650 Triumph motorcycle with black trim was – without a doubt – the man for me. Big, bearded and brawny with blond curls cascading over wide, leather-clad shoulders, he pulled off his wrap-around sunglasses to greet us. I looked into those heavy-lidded ocean-colored eyes, and the world simply coalesced. To this day, the moment beams in my heart like fireworks against a dark summer sky: There he was, my true love – strong and gentle – leaning back easily on his Triumph, bathed in golden shards of light shining through the ponderosas, and those ocean eyes – so kind, so soft, so wise. I remember as if it just happened how my heart pounded in both recognition and wonder, and I remember falling instantly, profoundly, eternally in love – right there at a simple metal mailbox on a dirt road in a little town at the base of the Rocky Mountains on a blessed Saturday in 1972.
I leaped out of the car and asked what he was doing there. “Looking for a place to rent.” Tossing a lifetime of carefully conditioned Southern decorum to the high country breeze, I said I didn’t know about rentals, but we lived close and would he like to come to our cabin? “Well, OK,” he replied, looking somewhat bemused. Perhaps I had come on a bit strong, but I didn’t care. His name was Peter, and he was coming over….with those eyes. I hopped back in the car and declared to Connie, “I love that man. I want to marry him.” It wasn’t the first time she thought me more than a little off. Peter paid a brief visit, disclosing early in the conversation that he was seeing a lady, which suited him fine. Too bad. It’s a little hard to marry someone you’ve just met when he happens to be quite content dating someone else. We talked briefly and he climbed back onto his bike, revved the blue baby up, and disappeared down the dirt road. All I could do was sigh…and hope.
It turned out he worked with our neighbor. A few months later, that neighbor and his wife invited Peter, Connie and me for dinner. On the hike from our cabin to theirs, I told Connie, “This one is mine. With your looks, he’ll probably go for you first (they all do), but please, Please, PLEASE do not turn on even one of your charms, OK? I am in love with the guy, so do not – I repeat, DO NOT – encourage him.” She tried. She really did. But all night he directed his attention and his conversation to her. I sat on the couch next to him, shooting concealed glares across the room at my bewildered friend. It came up that the following night Connie was flying to Aspen for a blind date. As we left, Peter casually asked what I was doing while my roommate jetted off to the mountains. “Nothing.” “OK if I come over?” “Why, sure…”
That was 40 years ago. My Southern accent is long since gone, except when I see a baby or travel back to Virginia. The blue Triumph was sold for a plane ticket to meet my Mom, who lived in Australia at the time. We still live in the high country, and share our lives and adventures with a tribe of true friends. Peter’s blond hair is streaked with white today, those curls are trimmed, and his beard is gray. I rest my grateful head on those wide shoulders every night. Our four children are pursuing paths of their own choosing, and know that they are loved. Our home is designed to accommodate our large and social family, and is carpeted in the color of my true love’s eyes. Every day I look into their ocean-colored depths and rekindle my particular fire.