My husband and I are so different that once, when introduced to a mutual acquaintance who knew each of us from different professional circles, she literally had to grab a nearby chair and sit herself down in disbelief that we were spouses. Since I use my own birth name, she had no way of knowing that we were married. The look of disconnect on her face in that moment of revelation: priceless.

 How different are we? I am drawn to flowing asymmetrical tunics; my husband wears button-down collars and bow ties.   When he cooks, he cleans up as he goes along, while I create a cyclone of pots and pans and scour them after the dish is in the oven. He is conscientiously early for everything; I have a more fluid relationship with time. As a left-brained scientist, he just wants the facts ma’am; I am influenced by symbols, dreams and intuitions…and on and on. While it may be true that opposites attract, the tricky part is navigating and maintaining the territory of connection.

There have been times during the course of our relationship when I’ve looked across the table and said “Seriously? What was I thinking?” But then there have been those other occasions of ease and comfortable compatibility, sweet moments of mutual respect and deep recognition.   At such times I’ve experienced a profound nonverbal energetic acknowledgment that feels like a soulful perception of my most hidden and private Self. The evidence: an unexpected insightful and cogent assessment of something I’m engaged in; an inspired suggestion about how to approach a difficult interpersonal situation; a gift that synchronistically relates to a current that has been flowing through my psyche. It is the latter – small gifts bearing huge symbolic resonance – that have occasionally taken my breath away.

In my early 30’s I was reading Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, a book that literally changed my life because it spoke a language I had not heard before and gave me permission to embrace my creativity as a sacred vocation. Along about the twelfth chapter, my husband gifted me with a simple silver pendant with a howling wolf head encircling a round white stone – the one piece of jewelry I own that I would try to seize if my house was burning. Although we never discussed the contents of the book, his gift of this pendant spoke to me of a profound honoring of the transformation that was taking place interiorly.

Several years later another piece of jewelry did the same. While away on a silent retreat, I was grappling with despair over the reality that my desire for priesthood in the Catholic Church was a blind alley leading to a dead end. I had rediscovered art making as a way to express my frustration during this time. In the retreat center library I picked up a small book and began reading about indigenous cultures in which the priest, artist, and community healer was one and the same person. The chapters explained how ancient people marked sacred experiences with images painted on cave walls, such as the famous symbols discovered in Lascaux, France. I instantaneously realized that my true vocation was as an artist, that an artist is a priest of the imagination. A decade of wrangling with the church ended in that moment and the trajectory of my work in the world spiraled into new possibility. Shortly after my return home from the retreat, my husband’s Christmas present to me was a brooch in the shape of a small continent, with cut-out shapes of animals replicating the bison that are painted on the Lascaux cave walls…

Just last week I opened a small square box and unwrapped one of my birthday gifts – a lovely round ceramic dish glazed with an IMG_4046image of a bird’s nest. In the nest are three incubating eggs. My skeptical husband claims that there is no connection whatsoever with the launching of this blog “Still Life with Empty Nest” on my 60th birthday. I had told him about the blog but had not divulged its name. Once again I perceive a nonverbal recognition and honoring of my deepest inner being and my evolving Self… With his cynical sense of humor, he discounts my theory because the nest in the dish isn’t in fact empty. But for me, the recognition is even more profound, because this stage of empty nesting is actually a new beginning, and only time will tell what might hatch from those three symbolic eggs…