Five Years as Woman Alone

Sunday, November 27th, 2016


Richard Cabe (1950-2011) ogling wildflowers


Five years ago today, at 11:07 am, Richard Cabe, the love of my life and the father of my beloved step-daughter, Molly, took his last gulping breaths. I still miss him acutely, though not every moment and not with the sharp pain of that initial parting.


After five years, the missing him is more like a dull, nagging ache, a bruise in the part of my heart our nearly 29 years together live. 


It's not that I'm not happy as Woman Alone; I am, by and large, something that is a continuing surprise to me. That happiness is partly my temperament, and partly a stalwart determination to forge a good life with what is. Even if it's not the life I imagined stretching out for many more years together, Richard and I walking hand in hand into the sunset of our years. 


That wasn't what we got. I accept that, and I have consciously worked to not pine for what isn't, and more so, to recognize doors opening that wouldn't have opened--or I wouldn't have recognized as opportunities--in that other life where we lived hip to hip, inseparable. Until death parted us.   


Five years... It's a good time to evaluate the path I'm on, where I've been and where I'm going. 


I've taken several big leaps in that time, including finishing and selling Terraphilia, the house he built for us, along with his historic studio next door. 


Helping design and build Creek House and Treehouse, my snug little complex that occupies the last piece of our "decaying industrial empire," as Richard liked to call our sprawling and once-ugly property.


And now, in perhaps the biggest leap of all, I'm moving on, leaving Salida and the place we shared, the property we spent our last 15 years together restoring. The buildings were Richard's province, his studio and the big house, which he helped design and did much of the construction himself.  



Richard assembling "Matriculation," his sculpture in the Steamplant Sculpture Garden, in front of his historic studio. (He designed and built the rolling crane for working with ton-size sculptures and rocks.)


The land was mine, the block of channelized, neglected urban creek, and the property itself, its river-bench-gravely soil scraped and "enriched" with industrial leavings, and then abandoned to invasive weeds. 


As his hands shaped and set brick and stone, steel and glass and wood; mine dug and weeded, planted and watered, nurturing soil and plants.


So while he is gone, his body and spirit cycling on to whatever is next, and I am moving away, there is a sense in which the twining of our lives with that physical place, our sweat and cells, the effort and lessons and dreams, the love we put into soil and stone, will remain. 


The we that was--a "we" that included Molly and her time in Salida--continues in the way that blighted chunk of land and creek now flourishes, green and healthy, home to songbirds and pollinators, browsing deer, mayflies and muskrats. In the buildings that rise from the soil, sturdy and cozy, designed to shelter many generations of families and stories. 


And the "I" that is, me, this Woman Alone at sixty, now moves on to the next chapter of her life in a new place, a landscape that has held my heart since I can remember first using the word home.


Northwest Wyoming calls. I feel the pull in my cells and synapses, in my heart. 


Five years today. As I sit in the sun in a cozy casita in Santa Fe near the end of an astonishingly productive writing fellowship at the Women's International Study Center, I am grateful for the gift of this month-long time to simply relax and write. It is exactly what I needed right now. 



The sun-splashed window seat where I read and write...


Grateful for the five years it has taken me to absorb the wallop to the heart of losing Richard. For the 29 years we had to love each other before that. 


And now, I believe I truly am ready to move on. 


Wednesday, I drive back to Colorado; come late January, I'll be home in Cody again after decades away. 


Richard and his beloved Salida, the valley and the peaks, our restored industrial property, will come along with me. Not in the physical sense of course. In the form of memories, of singing muscles and sweat, of frustration, inspiration and the joy of seeing the buildings, land and creek revive. As love. 


Those years are part of the person I know as me, imbuing my heart, mind and spirit, and also my muscles, synapses and bone. And--this shouldn't surprise me, but I hadn't expected it--urging me to look for new opportunities, to embrace the twists and turns in the path ahead. 


Five years, and I know it is time to go. To whatever's around the next bend. 


Thanks for walking with me on this journey. Bless you all!



Photo by Santa Fe photographer Robert Muller, who understands light and shadow, and has more patience than I do!