Photographs by Meadow Linn

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Reconciling the Dream with Reality

When I was a little girl I used to see fairies and angels. They frolicked in the park near my home, dancing on leaves and leaping from tree to tree. With age, my childlike sense of wonder and my ability to see with the heart went the way of backyard forts, tricycles, and colorful plastic toys. Other than occasionally mistaking a tree for a person when driving too late at night or when camping believing for a moment that a shadow in the woods is a bear, I don't really have visions or see things that aren't of this world. A few years ago, however, I had an eerie and profound experience that some might even consider mystical or divine.

On a wet and very cold day in July on a family trip to Tuscany, in the style of many a romantic comedy, I decided to make a wish and throw a coin into the fountain in the main square in San Gimignano, a medieval hill town. My wish, of course, was for love. Before launching the coin into the fountain, I stood still for a few minutes, closed my eyes, and imagined the man of my dreams standing beside me. I felt the weight of his arms wrapped around my shoulders and the sensation of being in love. With this image clearly in my mind's eye, I opened my eyes and tossed the coin into the fountain. At the very moment the coin splashed into the water, there was a huge clap of thunder. Directly across from the fountain was a building with mirrored windows. My gaze was immediately transfixed on this building. Just as Harry Potter sees the thing he wants most in the world (his family) in the Mirror of Erised in The Philosopher's Stone, I saw reflected in the mirrored building not only the fountain, but also a man standing behind me with his arms wrapped around my waist. For that split second, I saw the man that I would spend my life with. 

Elation spread throughout my being. It gave me proof that I would one day find the man I'd been longing for, and it also reopened the window into the world that is beyond what we can hear and see. Unfortunately, this affirming and somewhat magical experience has proven at times to be more of a curse than a blessing. As I navigate the dating world, I try (and bit by bit I'm getting better at this) to look beyond subjective qualities (like height, looks, interests, choice of career…) and instead look for kindness, humor, shared values, and life-long compatibility. The challenge, however, is that always in the back of my mind is the image of the man I saw reflected in the mirror. How do you measure a real man against a vision? The man I saw was tall with somewhat shaggy brown hair, slender yet athletic, a little bit goofy, outdoorsy, cultured, and intelligent. I know it seems like a lot to ascertain in a split-second vision, but this is what I saw. He actually looked a lot like the guys I grew up with. So, the questions I find nagging at the corners of my mind are: Did I actually see the man that I will end up with or did I see a projection of the kind of man that I've always thought I would end up with? The men I've dated rarely remind me of the man in the vision, but sometimes I wonder if someday this man will stumble into my life. Should I actively seek him out? And if so, where do you look for a man you've only seen for an instant? As far as I can tell, online dating sites have not yet added "saw him in a vision" to their search options. I suppose I could camp out at a trailhead, REI, or my local bookstore, but I wonder if I'm even meant to meet this man? Perhaps the vision was only intended to show me that someday love will come. How do you reconcile the dream of a supposed ideal man with the reality of dating?

Tuscan White Beans with Sage
serves 2

For a romantic dinner for two, serve with roasted chicken or grilled Italian sausage and kale sautéed with sliced garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice. Eat by candlelight, drink a good bottle of Chianti, and whisper a few words of Italian to one another. Or, if it's just you…do the same thing. Treat yourself as though you are the most treasured and desired dinner companion around. Plus, these beans are so good, you might not actually want to share them. I ate the whole pot by myself the other day!

2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
5 fresh sage leaves, thinly sliced (chiffonade)
pinch of sea salt
pinch of cracked black pepper
1 15-oz can cannellini beans (white kidney beans), drained and rinsed

Heat the olive oil and garlic in a small small sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the salt and pepper and sage. Stirring occasionally, cook until the garlic is tender and slightly translucent (1-3 minutes). Add the beans. Increase the heat to medium. Cook until the beans are warm and slightly creamy, stirring occasionally. 

Buon Appetito!!