Michael was different from many of the men at the southern California College where I earned my BA degree. His longish dark hair hung in fronds across his forehead and neck—a sharp contrast to the short, trim cuts worn by most of the men. Instead of a sharply pressed suit, he wore simple long-sleeved shirts and blue jeans. But what caught my interest wasn’t his nonconforming looks. It was his mind.
Michael’s hobbies were different from the other men I’d dated. He had a deep sense of spirituality, but instead of spending hours memorizing dogma, he learned wisdom while climbing mountains, hiking, or tying intricate knots.
He also fed his soul through art. He also loved to draw. His specialty was sketching what he called “mass confusion” scenes—of the student center, dorms, basketball games, and other student activities.
True to his free spirit, Michael didn’t complete the four-year undergraduate program. When he moved on, traveling to Texas, I didn’t know if I’d ever see him again.
He blew through campus about a year later. As usual, he was full of ideas. He waved a sheaf of his latest drawings, attracting a crowd of friends, including me, to gather around him in the student center. After a few days, he moved on again.
This time, armed with his address, I was determined to keep in touch.
I wrote him a letter after I developed an interest in scrimshaw, the art of carving on ivory. To my surprise, not only did he answer with a long letter of his own—he included a small scrimshaw starter kit. As the months passed, my letters to Michael grew longer. Colorful cartoons dotted his letters. I reciprocated by adding my own cartoons to illustrate the joys and frustrations of my everyday life.
Our letters broadened past everyday occurrences to include our hopes and dreams. I grew to rely on Michael’s levelheaded advice. When I described a spat between myself and a roommate, Michael said, “We’re all growing at different speeds and in different ways. She may not have known that she hurt you.”
He reminded me that there were bigger processes going on in life than daily frustrations. Trusting the Universe to help everything to balance out would give me perspective.
Michael’s letters described the difficulties of running his freelance art business. My experience with running a small business in Southern California allowed me to help him brainstorm for ways to attract new customers. As we realized that our strengths complimented each other’s, our letters grew even longer.
After several more months passed, I considered moving from California, where the smog caused me to have a constant cough, to cool, green Western Washington, where Michael lived. To my joy, Michael encouraged me to make the move.
When we met face to face, it was clear that the thousands of words that had passed between us had created a deep bond. We married on September 21, 1986, about a year after I moved to Washington.
Though neither of us had much money, we knew how to move forward with our lives—by combining our hopes and desires and working through the ups and downs together. Sometimes it seemed like life showered us with more downs than ups. But we came to realize that that the bond we’d developed when our minds conversed over the miles was stronger than life’s obstacles.
That bond has strengthened over the nearly twenty-four years of our marriage. It has seen us through the loss of Michael’s freelance business, the acceptance of his unique art style by a major Northwest company, the birth of our son, the three years that I earned a Masters in Counseling, the challenges I encountered in my writing career, and my growing Reiki practice.
Through good times and difficult ones, knowing the depths of each other’s minds has given us a foundation that, though it’s been shaken many times, has grown stronger and deeper as time passes.
I don’t know what challenges will lay ahead but as long as we remember to trust the overall process and find the strength of the core of our combined love, we’ll be just fine.