Soon after I met Maria, my closest friend, more than 12 years ago, I offered her one of my small, empty barns in exchange for caring for the animals on weekends. She accepted after agonizing (she doesn’t like to take things other people give her).
I was falling in love with her at the time, a kind of love I had never known or felt in my life, but I couldn’t tell her that she would have fled for good. We were both married to other people. It was my secret.
I had gotten to know Maria, and I knew how unhappy she was that she had been unable to make her art or have a place to do it.
She accepted my offer, moved into the barn one night with the man-hating dog Frieda, and came to prepare the studio to make her art in the early hours of the day, usually around 2 or 3 a.m. The barn had a wood stove and was warm and spacious.
She was always gone when I woke up.
We never talked or spoke much after she came except on the phone – she urged me to keep taking pictures when no one else did – but I always woke up when I heard her car come up the hill and saw the light come on in the barn. I was usually across the road, up in my bedroom, trying to sleep.
There, she was finally able to make her art, something her heart and soul were aching to do.
I sometimes saw her sewing and sorting through her fabrics in the window.
I had never seen her as happy as she was when she could finally have a place to make her art. She got right to work on her potholders, which she thought she could sell, and is working on them still. At the time, I was also in love with the American singer Eva Cassidy, whose voice I felt and still feel was the most beautiful I had ever heard.
I listened to her albums at night and thought of my love for Maria and my dream that we would one day be together. I was in the midst of a breakdown and couldn’t imagine she would ever want to be with me or could.
Maria thrived in her new studio; she said she would never give it up. She hasn’t. She hasn’t given me up, either. Frieda and I even came to love one another.
I would sometimes cry listening to Cassidy’s singing. She died of cancer in 1996 and is more revered than ever. One of the songs I most loved was You Take My Breath Away. I often recall hearing about it. I never dreamed we would be together, which broke my heart. I had never loved anything like that, and it ached.
I doubted I could ever tell Maria how I felt. It would have frightened her and made her uncomfortable.
I still remember the first lyrics, and they still make me cry, as they are still valid:
Sometimes it amazes me,
How strong the power of love can be,
Sometimes you take my breath away
You watch my love grow like a child,
Sometimes gentle, sometimes wild,
Sometimes you take my breath away.
I loved Cassidy’s music, I’d never heard a voice like that, but over these last few years, I put it out of my mind and listened to new and different music – singers like Bonnie Raitt and Leonard Cohen.
This morning, we got the storm we had been promised but avoided.
Maria went to shovel the walk and make some paths for the animals so they could eat, and I went to brush off the cars, garbage cans, and anything else I could reach. As a heart patient, I knew I couldn’t shovel this heavy snow for too long. We agreed that I wouldn’t overdo it.
It took me an hour or so, and it took her that long to clean up the paths around the barn.
I was exhausted, and she was also tired. We sat together in the living room; I thought of searching for music to put on the speaker, and she got out a sketchpad, which she often does while talking. “I was thinking of Eva Cassidy,” she said, “and how much you always loved her.” I did love her, but it was my love for Maria that I thought of and that I still feel.
My love of her music roared back; I found her on my Iphone and opened up one of her albums. The first song was You Take My Breath Away, which I listened to every night back then, and the tears returned. Maria sketched, and I sat back and listened to Eva Cassidy for over an hour as we rested and soaked up the quiet.
I thought it was one of my life’s most beautiful and meaningful moments, sitting there like that, Cassidy in my ears, Maria in my heart. This was a scene I was sure would be impossible for me.
“This brings back how much I love you,” I said, “even more than I did then.” She smiled at me and sketched.
The moment brought me back like a hammer blow to that miraculous time when Maria and I could love one another and be together.
I listened to Eva Cassidy at night then and cried almost every time. That voice just opened me up, and I see it still does.
This morning was a wonderful time of peace, love, and connection; Cassidy, me, and Maria, together again, sat before the fire, drying off and warming up after an hour of shoveling. It was as fresh and deep today as it was then.
In my heart and soul, I was so happy to rediscover the music of Eva Cassidy, who died much too young; she had been singing on the speaker all morning. Thanks, Eva, for everything.
As I write this, she’s singing Songbirds. And I’m still tearing up:
“And the songbirds,
Keep singing like they
Know the score
And I love you,
I love you,
I love you,
Like never before.”
(This morning’s sketch)
After a year or two, when we were both separated and getting divorced, I finally mustered the courage to tell Maria how I felt. She said nothing and just looked at me and went home. I thought it was a good sign that she didn’t slap me in the face.
I wrote a note on a small piece of paper that said, “I’ll wait, no obligation.” I put it on the windshield of her car when she gave the donkeys some carrots.
She says she destroyed it when she got home, I always suspected that she ate it, but she denies that.
I might spend the whole day sitting in a soft chair, talking to Maria and listening to Eva Cassidy, whose singing I love as much now as I did then. I am very grateful to be reunited with her. I know I am fortunate to know love like this, and I will never take it for granted.
If you’re lost, you can look, and you’ll find me,
Time after time
If you fall, I will catch you; I will be waiting
Time after time
Time after time
– Time After Time, Ave Cassidy.