This is our truth, tell us yours
I know, in your head you could, if you have good musical taste, hear Bonnie Raitt singing Thing Called Love, but love’s not a word I say about Jem, to Jem.
I say thank you, quite often. In the absence of the post-coital cigarette, we’re most likely to say thank you to each other, to talk about gratitude and pleasure.
Thinking about that today, as we stood in a beautiful Northumberland landscape that stretched for tens of miles in front of us, an idea coalesced in my head.
Is it possible that, because Jem and myself have consciously eschewed romantic love between us, we’ve created more space for a culture of respect and gratitude in our relationship?
If so, it’s a most wonderful unintended consequence. Instead of those messages with three little words that should say so much but mean so little (with apologies to Snow Patrol for paraphrasing their greatest hit) we talk to each other about gratitude, about smiles, and about how we understand what has happened.
Standing in the landscape as we were I was talking about builder’s pattern books, about the way in which masons, landscape gardeners and other creators have a shorthand that conveys huge aounts of meaning, but which can easily descend into cliche or self parody.
The analogy with the pattern books of romantic love were obvious and clear to both of us. Romantic love is capable of great beauty, even if it is not for me, but beauty is created, not copied from a pattern book.
An analogy with great landscape design comes to mind. Landscape designers work with the land they have; the view we saw was beautifully exploited by builder and designer, but neither one built the Tyne Valley or the hills beyond it.
I came to my relationship with Jem knowing what I wanted it to be, but she made the space where that was possible. Between us, we’ve managed, I think, to create a relationship where gratitude and respect fill the spaces that would otherwise be obscured by romantic cliches.