The Greek word for hospitality (zenophilia) means love of strangers. Some people have a knack for making even strangers feel at home. Others seem to be better at making friends feel like strangers! Rodrick Durst always believed that being hospitable will often turn strangers into friends and family.
When I was growing up, my parents showed me how to make sure whoever came into our home felt at home. A crusty uncle of mine later told me, whenever I bought my own home, I should open my doors to the sort of people I wouldn’t normally mix with. He must have done a little time somewhere along the way, because he also told me to be mindful of those in prison. “Imagine what it would be like to be in prison yourself,” he asked. I’m not sure I’ve thought a lot about life in prison, but I have to tried to be kind to the people who have visited me.
W. W. Weeks used to say, “Of all the colors known to the ancients, crimson was the most beautiful and the most enduring.” When they made a crimson robe, it was triple-dyed. First, they died the wool, and when it was spun into threads it was dyed in the yarn; and when it was taken from the loom, it was dyed in the web. After explaining this, Weeks would say, “The most beautiful souls are triple-dyed in disappointment, and pain, and heartbreak.”
Weeks was right.
Beautiful souls experience the loss of precious things, especially treasured relationships. With this loss, emotional scars get etched into the fabric of their spirits. Be kind to the crimson souls of the world. They understand grief in ways most of us may never know.
I am reading Sue Conley’s book called Landslide. It’s a wonderful story about the tough work of living off professional fishing in Maine. The book opens with an explosion on the Jillian Lynne, a fishing trawler owned by fisherman Kit and his wife, Jilly. While Kit is in the hospital recuperating from the accident, Jillian replays some of the memories she has of how they met, of how they slowly and neatly fell in love with each other, and of how they eventually married and had two boys who love to challenge their parenting skills each day.
HERE IS A MEMORY: Kit takes me to a smaller island near his island with a white sand beach. These are the days before the boys are born. We’re camping in the dunes above the beach, and we swim and pretend to read on the striped blanket, but I can’t pay attention to the words because Kit’s lying beside me in the sand with his hand on my hip. I have nothing to want because I have him and want him entirely.
I love this last line: I have nothing to want because I have him and want him entirely.
I am reminded of a quote from Plautus, who seemed to believe when we are content, we have enough to live comfortably. Jilly was content in her relationship with Kit. She believed the love they shared was enough to build a happy life together.
This is a far cry from the Wall Street investment manager, Sherman McCoy. In Tom Wolfe’s novel, Bonfire of the Vanities, McCoy makes tons of money, and he loves the rush that comes with risking a small fortune to make a bigger one. He has a sweet sports car, his daughter goes to the best private school, his apartment is featured in Architectural Digest—that sort of thing. He only wears expensive clothing, and he calls himself and his partners “Masters of the Universe.” People like Sherman can never say, “I have nothing to want,” because everything around them is always saying, “Buy it. Eat it. Enjoy it. You deserve it!”
Which lifestyle do you prefer: Jilly or Sherman’s?
And if you prefer Jilly’s, are you convinced you have nothing to want because you are content with love?
In Peter Mayle’s “A Good Year,” Max Skinner recalls something he heard his uncle say about the little French town his uncle called home: “There is nowhere else in the world where you can keep busy doing so little and enjoying it so much. One day, Max, you’ll understand.”
I’m sure you have special places too. Places you enjoy doing little more than strolling down a path or napping in a hammock. Sure, it’s kind of bleak here at the end of winter but spring will take over soon, and the greenery will invite us to relax and live a little.
Love takes different forms and calls from different corners. Discovering your own oasis is one of them.
In David Lean and Noël Coward’s movie, Brief Encounter, Laura Jesson accidentally bumps into Dr. Alec Harvey, who gently removes a piece of grit from her eye. Chances are you’ve seen the movie. Both Laura and Alec are in their late thirties or early forties, married and with children, and after a couple of fortuitous meetings, their innocent and casual relationship develops into something deeper which dismays them. Not wishing to hurt their families, they agree to break up and go their separate ways. At the end of the movie, they meet in a railway station refreshment room to say goodbye. And wouldn’t you know it? At that very second Laura bumps into a talkative friend who invites herself to join them and begins chattering away, robbing the couple of their last chance to say goodbye. It’s a scene that makes you shake your head and cry.
Christian Wiman writes of a similar departure in his book, My Bright Abyss. He writes of leaving Texas and someone he will probably never see again.
I haven’t been in contact with Adele since the morning I left Texas, when she called just as I was heading out the door. There was a moment of silence before we stumbled all over each other trying to convey how much our tentative and half-candid time together had meant to each of us, the spark of spirit that (though we didn’t say so) burned there. We didn’t exchange e-mails. We didn’t promise to stay in touch. It was a moment, and we acknowledged it before letting it sink back into our fluid and restless inner lives to do its work there.
Leaving is never easy when love is in the mix, especially when your heart hints it’s the only way. And it’s even more difficult when two persons like Alec and Laura or Christian and Adele seem to fit together so well. I just finished a Michael Connelly book called The Last Coyote. One character in the book lost his bride-to-be the night they were to elope. Speaking of that horrid night he says, “I think you only run into a person who is a perfect fit once in your life. When you find the one you think fits, then grab on for dear life. And it’s no matter what she or he’s done in the past. None of that matters. Only the holding on matters.” But we do not live in a perfect world and holding on is not always possible. Like Laura and Alec, it makes you shake your head and cry.
Real love prods us to give our all. Robert Ferguson tells a story about a woman research technician on the staff of a certain hospital. A resident surgeon asked the woman to call on a young man recovering from an operation which had left him with no bodily function below his chest. He was depressed and wished to die. And, he had developed severe gangrenous peritonitis. The accompanying odor was horrendous. When the technician entered the room, the smell was so staggering, she gagged, backed out of the room, and ran into the doctor.
“Have you seen my patient?” the surgeon asked.
“I tried, but I couldn’t breathe,” she replied.
The doctor reached for her arm and gently guided her back to the room. “I know it smells bad, but there’s a heartbroken and dying young man in there who needs to know we care. Go in and find the man inside the smell.”
Loves moves us to go the second mile, to disregard the foulest of odors for whoever needs us, for whoever catches our heart. Life matters. People matter. Individuals matter. Love the person inside the smell and see isn’t love gladdened by goodness.
We often allow other people’s ideas to imprison us. The beliefs and opinions of the crowd usurp our own convictions. We assume we can protect ourselves by hiding in the crowd or worse, running along with it. Thomas Merton believed we are afraid of the aloneness, “the moral nakedness we might feel apart from the crowd.”
Looking back, I see times I’ve failed to speak out above the crowd, occasions I’ve missed to correct misunderstandings, shortsightedness, or straight-out meanness. This year I’m going to give myself an enormous hug and speak from my heart regardless of where I am or who I’m with. I won’t allow a crowd mentality to persuade me otherwise.
Vita Sidorkina enjoys balancing her life as a supermodel with home and family.
Married life is amazing! Everything is so much better when you have your soulmate by your side. I definitely think any relationship requires work but it should never feel forced. The key is to be honest and open about your feelings, and accept your other half exactly the way they are.
Maxim September 2019 Article by Zeynep Yenisey
Vita welcomed her daughter, Allegra, to the world in November 2018. She is someone who enjoys simple things, like going to the movies and spending time with her family. “Ever since I had a baby, I realized that life is not about me anymore! Being a parent means making sacrifices, but it’s also the most rewarding thing ever.”
Pouring heart and energy into work, home and family is a wonderful expression of love and gratitude. Having a soulmate at your side gives life meaning and purpose. Bessie Head wrote in A Question of Power, “Love is so powerful, it’s like unseen flowers under your feet as you walk.” Vita surely must feel the soft flower petals strewn on the path before her.
Love tarries in the hearts of those who are meant to be together. James Lee Burke speaks of this residual nature of love when, in his book, Private Cathedral, he describes a chance encounter between two former lovers who came close to making a life together. The woman, Penelope, has chosen to live with another.
Dave is thinking aloud:
I saw her on occasion at the racetrack in New Orleans or in a restaurant in the Quarter, and she was always polite and demure, but for just a second her eyes would linger on mine and her face would become warm and contemplative, and whether imaginary or not, I would smell her perfume, even feel it wrapping around me, like the heavy odor of magnolia on a cool spring night, and I would hear a warning bell at a train crossing and make an excuse and get out of New Orleans as quickly as I could.
No force on earth can ever extinguish the passion that exists between people who truly love each other.
I saw the movie Arthur several years ago, a movie about a rich young man who grew up never caring for anyone; then suddenly he fell in love, and he couldn’t describe the way he felt. He wanted to know if what he felt was real, so he asked a total stranger, “How can you tell if you’re in love? Does it make you feel funny? Does it make you whistle all the time?” The stranger was unphased by all of Arthur’s questions. He thought a moment and said, “You could be in love; then again, you could be getting a cold.”
Arthur’s problem is not rare. Few of us know what love truly feels like and even fewer know what love is. The word love covers a broad range of emotions, from loving pepperoni pizza, to loving children, to making love in a bungalow on a beach during summer vacation. Defining love helps no one understand what it is. We have to experience love ourselves, personally and fully, before we understand this thing that changes us inside out. And we can never fully experience it without risking everything we are and have to see where we take it and how we allow it to change us for the better.
We often associate October with the word bewitching, which means captivating, enchanting, entrancing, and fascinating. Surely love is all these and more. So what better time than now to chance everything on falling for another. And if you’re already there, I say fall a little deeper, fly a little higher, move a little closer to one you can give your all for without reserve.
Commenting on the laws of perspective, Scottish author Ian Maclaren explained how a small thing right in front of you can block out the image of a much larger thing in the distance. A low hillside close to you can often hide the view of the Cascades miles away, so instead of focusing on the big picture, the majestic mountains, our line of sight gets lost in something less significant and deceptively larger. Maclaren said: “That which is least has the diabolical power to seem greater to us than—and to obscure the sight of—that which is most.”
Maybe sometimes we let our disagreements and upsets obscure the vision of the larger love we have between us. The love I feel for you is huge, and I’m sure you feel the same. I think it would be wise for us to keep the law of perspective in mind as we struggle to make sense of living on opposite sides of the country. Until we can live together in a cabin beside the lake, maybe we can focus on the most, putting the least out of our field of view.
Albert Einstein once wrote: “People like us who believe in physics know that the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” Somewhere, somehow, in this infinite universe, we are living in the time of us. There, we’re opening the back door, running down the grassy yard and racing to the lake. Plummeting into the water, we splash and dunk one another, hugging and kissing all the while. Our wet lips and bodies feel what is most important, as do our beating hearts. If we focus our direction here, time will surely meet us there.