Archive for the ‘a tent for two’ Category


shakespeare in love

February 14, 2013

Fair warning.  {especially to all the new evolving peeps.}  This is a slightly off-beat post.  Previous Valentine writings {here and here} were sweet reflections on love.  Please click on those if you’d rather read that genre of post today.  My feelings won’t be hurt.  I promise.  No broken hearts on 2.14.

This one is, instead, has more of a 10-Things-I-Hate-About-You vibe.  Mr Willy Shakes meets goofy with a nod to deeper truths.

I took one part high school writing assignment style + actual middle school dance events = valentines 2013.

Because sometimes, you just have to step out of the box.

Our play begins in the dark of night
On an evening’s end
No more winter light.

A gathering of youth portends
Of evil thoughts and heartbroken ends.

The stage’s been set so long before
By glances and looks of hearts deplore.

So now, as our curtain is pulled aside
Feast your eyes upon young love’s tide.

Enter first Lysander, fast and brave
Noble heart and fair locks wave.

It is for Hermia his heart beats true
Always quick her mind, and fleet foot, too.
A young woman full of compassion’s ride
Witness her care for creatures- fur and hide.

The intimate two become a plural ‘us’
When met by humor’s persona Demetrius.
So beset his heart, for Hermia it is aflutter
And thus our tale tastes slightly bitter.

Two persons more do appear
Not connected, just as Orsino fears.
As for she?  We’ll wait and see
What is Olivia’s motive?  Her vision?  Her dance?
To bribe his friends or be coy on romance?

What sound is this?  What clock does chime?
This year is not 1609?

But twenty-13 me thinks, it’s true.
Time to lay aside quill and rhyming, too.

The players remain, so aptly named
Full of symbolism and in a place where privacy reigns.

{intermezzo.  Hermia has made an appearance before here.  But all the other players are new to you, sweet Valentine audience.  And so, without further ado, I present to you their tale.}

On a crisp fall night my son Cole Lysander attended his first middle school dance.  It involved nerves, excitement, and a new doublet and hose pair of slacks, dress shirt and tie provided by his wise fairy grandmother.

Wait.  Autumn?  You wonder.  Last fall?  Why did I wait so long to spill the beans act as scribe?

Well, like any good Bard, Lysander took his time relating the tale.  Details slipping from his tongue in quiet moments, punctuated by long silences.

Six.  There were six slow dances that evening.  The ever-egalitarian D.J. concocted a brew of equality- a mix of girls asking and boys asking partners to dance.  Lysander and Hermia each asked each other once.  You remember the middle school slow dance, right?  That awkward pose of hands on one another’s shoulders, then shuffle-sway left, shuffle-sway right.  Mirrored repeats until the music dies, and the awkward transition back to tempo.

Ever hovering is Demetrius.  Prowling in tightening then expanding circles around the couple as they shuffle-sway, shuffle-sway.  Pacing, his agitation fully evident, even to other students.  A third slow melody begins.  Demetrius’ chance arrives.  He dances with Hermia.

Great joy!

But then he is left wondering:  why were her palms fully on Lysander’s shoulders, when only her fingertips touched mine?  He questions Lysander.  No gentle answer can be offered.  Questions circle questions of intent, reason, repercussion.

And the three other slow songs?  I asked.  Lysander did not dance.  Why?  He had exited to the outdoor theatre to attend to Orsino.  Orsino, found prostrate on a picnic table, bemoaning his fate.  For his true love Olivia had denied him a dance.  Lysander, not wanting to leave his heartbroken friend, remained by his side.

Enter an unknown courier.  A tween with a purpose, but here no name.  Messages hastily ferried back and forth as time marched steadily towards the end of the night.  Would Olivia reconsider?  Would her position soften?  A return volley.  Yes. Only…Only if another young man would dance with her fair maiden friend.

Did they dance? Memory becomes murky.

All actors reconvene upon the primary stage.  The dance floor.  And just before the bell did toll, the D.J., wise and bold, proclaimed “Give a hug.  To the one you love.”

Two stood side by side.  Yet neither body turned.  No arms embraced.  But one hand reached, as a pendulum swings, crossed the boundaries between bodies and squeezed.  The fingers of cupid’s mark.  Reflexively and with full heart the squeeze was echoed and returned.

True love, dear Bard?  Is this how it begins?  No crowns, no titles.  No princes, no kings.  Just love and hearts.  Rulers of all things.


I was intrigued by how many romantic truths were being played out on one evening, with five actors, ages 11 and 12.  On their tiny sixth grade stage were all the complex themes of love and loss that will reverberate for years to come.

Sometimes we just click with another human being, and there isn’t any explanation why.  Sometimes, the fit only happens from one side.  We’ve all been there.  {well, I know I’ve been there.  I hope I’m not alone.}  Where you pine for someone who, seemingly, has no interest in returning your affections.  How is it that one set of hormones can be off the chart in love and the second set is flatlined?

And what of the girl that said no?  And then changed her mind?  On the one hand we could easily say:  it is only a dance.  Be polite.  Why not say yes?  But on the other hand:  good for her, a young girl becoming a young woman, for standing up for herself, for her body, and saying No.  I don’t want to do that.  I don’t want to be touched in that way.  By you.  Or maybe she was shy, and didn’t know quite how to handle it.  And by inviting his friend and hers she was able to mask her feelings behind the numbers.

Then there is the power of friendship.  When do we willingly step away from pursuing our own happiness to attend to the suffering of a friend?

I think my imagination was most caught in the squeezing of hands.  The D.J.’s directions were clear.  The message was strong.  And yet, these two moved their bodies not an inch.  They stayed true to themselves, and found a way to communicate the beating of their hearts without having to participate in a way that was culturally expected.

How will things change in the years ahead?  From sixth grade to age 16?  I suspect each actor will swap roles for multiple stagings of this play.  Each will become the other.  Lysander becomes Orsino morphs into Demetrius and back to Lysander.

And you, dear Valentine reader?  To whom does your heart belong?  Hopefully, no matter the other actors in your play, you live the words of the original Bard.

To thine own self be true.  Happy Valentine’s Day.


tent for two: let’s talk about six, baby

November 14, 2012

Somewhere between 4 ½ and 6 seconds the hug became awkward.

Kindly, but with slight bewilderment, my husband asked “Ummmmm….what are you doing?”  It was a school day, he was running a few minutes behind, little Cole was bouncing off the walls on the way to the car and toddler Eleanor was into nine kinds of mischief.

And there I was, prolonging our hug good-bye.  It wasn’t the hug of desperation – the ‘pppplllllleeeeeeease don’t leave me here all day looooong with kneebiters’ one.  He could identify that hug easily.  It wasn’t the welcome home hug of the mildly insane ‘oh! you are here!!  You are back!!!  You are an adult who speaks in full sentences!!!!’.  {slight aside:  I am often tempted to ask Brian, the neighborhood UPS driver, just how often he gets pulled into lengthy conversations by stay-at-home parents whose need for adult interaction is a little too evident.}

Nope.  This was a run-of-the-mill ‘good-bye and have a great day’ hug.  Except it was lasting about five and a half heartbeats longer than usual.  Why?  Well, I wish I could direct you back to my source- but it is long lost in the ‘oh! That is so interesting!  I’ve got to write it down somewhere!’ meta-pile in my head.  {In other words, I read it before Delicious or Pinterest entered my life.}  And I just now spent far too long falling down the rabbit hole of internet research trying to find the original source, and all I found was a bunch of ‘research shows’ references without crediting the first study.  So you’re either going to have to dive in yourself, or trust me.

That’s what I thought.

Here’s what I recall from the article:  if you hold on to the one you love for six seconds, it will start to change your brain chemistry.  So, you know, six seconds of holding hands, touching their shoulder, or even better, hugging, will signal your brain to release the we’re-having-fun-here neurochemicals oxytocin and serotonin.  {and most likely others, but these are the ones I remember…}

So there I stood, counting to six, hoping the effects would last 14 hours.  Maybe I should have tried it with a bit more finesse or at a more opportune moment. {do those actually exist in parenting?}  I’d love to say that that one hug revolutionized our lives, but truthfully I have no memory of whether or not it worked on that particular day.

But think back.  Remember the rush of falling in love?  Falling because we were so often entwined?  Hands.  Lips.  Eyes.  Turns out all that near constant contact had our brains lit up like pinball machines of attraction and bonding.  Our brains were OD’ing on happy hormones.

Which brings to mind the slightly psychedelic pinball-machine-themed Sesame Street cartoon that helped us learn to count to 12.  {this I could easily find, which might lead one to write about the vagaries of online research…}  More than 30 years earlier than the hug research and they were already teaching us the importance of multiples of 6.  Hug for 12?  I wonder what that would do.  Which leads us nicely to our Tent for Two challenge.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6…what if that’s all it takes?  What if six measly seconds are all we need to remember the fun stuff?  Six to putting goofy grins on our faces. Six to make our kids wonder why we are blushing and playing footsy at the dinner table.  So try it.  Count to six.  And keep me posted.*

*In the most general of terms.  No details necessary.  Really.  Void where prohibited.  Overachievers, I know, will go for 12.  Same rules apply.


A Tent for Two: Alllll Aboard.

October 29, 2012


My great-aunt Daphne was a lovely, dignified spirit.  My great-uncle Jack had a boisterous laugh and a twinkle in his eyes.  They float through my childhood memories as friendly apparitions – popping up in my recollections of family reunions, car trips, and holiday celebrations.

But what I really remember about Jack and Daphne was the behavior of my grandparents following his burial.  The summers are hot and arid in the Northeast corner of Oregon, and this is not a good combination when you are grieving and waiting.


waiting for the train.

Waiting for Amtrak’s Empire Builder to come steaming across the country from the East.  Waiting, for over nine hours in a station that has no conductor, no ticket agent, no up-to-date information board, no walls.  It did have gnarled old church pew seats, a pair of old people well-versed in their contempt for one another, and me.

A young widow with three children, my Nana had re-married rather quickly.  But not heartlessly.  There had, at one time, been love.  And maybe she and Joe still did love one another.  But on that day, it didn’t show.

 What I witnessed started slowly, then built steam.  It wasn’t about anything big or tragic.  No one had gambled away a life’s savings.  No one had been having a 30-year affair.  They were irate over toothpaste tubes and toilet seats and coffee cup rings.  They were mad about the minutia of life.

I had hoped, perhaps foolishly, that once we boarded and were fed, cooled, sitting on cushions and surrounded by strangers, it would stop.  It did not.  I thought, if I offered to switch seats so Joe could sit across the aisle, it would stop.  It did not.  The volleys simply continued to be lobbed right over my head and I felt a bit like a chair umpire at a particularly vicious tennis match.

It was past midnight by the time the taxi from Portland’s Union Station dropped us at their front door.  I stepped inside only long enough to call my parents.  Despite the hour, despite being a fairly new driver, I was headed home.  Now.  I would be there before the clock struck three, but not by much.

On the lonely dark drive, swirling thoughts kept me company.  My Nana had a huge heart.  She laughed and danced and was the life of the party.  She was generous and kind.  Except to Joe.  What happened?  Perhaps they forgot that they once had been giddy in love.  Perhaps instead of practicing forgiveness, redemption or understanding, they defaulted to the track that took them to the place of the arguments, distrust and judgment.  And over time, the ruts got too deep.

Perhaps they forgot they had a choice.

But what if we remember?

Remember to breathe.  Remember to choose the slow, local train of compassion instead of the express to self-righteousville.  Remember that when we hear the ghostly whisper of ‘here we go again’, we in fact have a choice, every time, to not go there at all.

How do we remember?

The method doesn’t matter.  Use humor.  Try empathy.  Hit an internal mute button.  Blow your nose, go to the bathroom, get a drink.  Of water.  Do whatever it takes not to travel down the same line, but instead jump the tracks.

The La Grande Union Pacific Depot no longer services passenger trains.  I assume our sojourn on their benches was not the reason, but one never knows.  What I do know is that sometimes we forget to treat the person we most love with love.  So practice love.  And keep me posted.




A Tent for Two

October 18, 2012

There is a French bakery in my tiny little town called The Bread Peddler.  It is amazing and delicious and I swear it has the best almond croissants this side of the 2 degrees east longitude center of Paris.  This fall my friend Lisa and I have begun a delightful tradition of meeting once a month for breakfast.  (we’ve met twice now.  Doesn’t that count as tradition?)  Last month she asked if I was going to start writing about couples.  Relationships.  Partners.  I said sure…And I’ve been mulling it ever since.  Tuesday we met again, and while sitting at ‘our’ table a few minutes before she arrived, I remembered my promise.

And so I introduce to you ‘A Tent For Two’.  Yes, yes, this whole thing is getting ungainly.  I need to organize regular blog posts / indigo-orange / two martini lunches (that’s what I am going to call the irreverent ones, I think) / a tent for two in some reasonable way.  I don’t know yet what that way will be.  We’ll get there.  Or, conversely, if you are incredibly organized and have time on your hands, please, send me a suggestion or two.  Or eight.  Or come help me sort out my attic storage.

A Tent for Two will be the place for reflections on couple-dom.  Kids or no kids; dogs or cats or exotic pets; married or cohabitating; gay or lesbian or straight; young or old; in friendship or romance; currently with or currently without someone —  it does not matter.  (although, I must admit, I am partial to the dog people).

Why a Tent for Two?  Because it calls to mind the image of a simple space, a simple place.  Where the excesses are stripped away and it is just us and our beloved.   …And a couple of pairs of stinky socks, and well-worn hiking boots.  And a warm down parka.  And possibly a rain tarp.  And, ok, whatever else is essential to you.  But when we are in a tent the monochromatic fabric creates an uninteresting background, so our focus is on the foreground.  On the person sitting next to us.  In a tent you can hear their breathing, count the lines of laughter at their eyes or see a brow furrowed in thought.  In a tent there is only one room.  You have to be with the one you love.  And a tent is surrounded by open space.  Whether you’d pick mountains or meadows, deserts or city parks, the outside space is one of your choosing.  And so, Tent for Two will have more questions than answers.  More openings than endings.

Today’s Tent for Two is inspired by my interactions with my daughter.  (see?  Keeping all of these categories separate is going to be a nightmare.)  At age six and a half, Eleanor is sure of herself and her ideas.  She is confident in expressing them.  And sometimes, sometimes her tone of voice when she says “Mom, you are embarrassing me” or “Mom, you are stressing me out” or “Mom, quit telling me what to do!” is not, shall we say, full of delight.  No, her tone is harsh and cold and even contemptuous.  Yet I am very willing to say to her “Darling daughter that I love, your tone of voice hurts my feelings.”  I don’t even hesitate to help her understand that the method is just as important as the message.  But I don’t think I’ve ever said that to my husband.  Or any other adult.  And while I am sure that I think of it as helping her learn and grow, it is also true that I am not threatened by acknowledging my small flesh wound.  So why am I hesitant, even unwilling, to expose that vulnerability to a beloved?

Being with the one we love, truly, fully being with them, is scary.  Inviting them into our inner living room means letting down barriers and releasing floodgates and all sorts of mixed metaphors around being completely open.

So as your day unfolds, look for the places of self-censorship.  What do you stop yourself from saying?  Why?  Would it help your partner to understand you if you said it aloud?  (of course with a gentle tone of voice…)  What do you think about the possible journey of A Tent For Two?  Let me know.  Keep me posted.

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