Winter
 2007

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Two Books on Love...
for Winter Reading

Review by Barbara Kammerlohr


The World Is a Waiting Lover:
Desire and Quest for the Beloved

by Trebbe Johnson

New World Library, 2005

Trebbe Johnson, vision quest guide and author, lives with her husband, Andrew Gardner, a potter and rustic furniture maker in rural Pennsylvania.  She leads ceremonies and workshops to introduce the Beloved to others throughout the United States, Canada, and overseas. Her writing on myth, nature, and the human quest for meaning has been published widely. Johnson trained as a vision quest guide with Animas Valley Institute, the School of Lost Borders, and SOLO Wilderness Medicine. Visit her website, visionarrow.com, for further information on her publications, public appearances, workshops, and vision quests.

Late Life Love:
Romance and New Relationships in Later Years

by Connie Goldman

Fairview Press, 2006

Connie Goldman began exploring the positive aspects of aging in a culture obsessed with its denial 25 years ago after leaving the staff of National Public Radio. Through public radio broadcasts and distribution of her audiotapes and books, Goldman creates listening and reading experiences that encourage us to look at what we gain in aging, not just what we lose. Her website, congoldman.org, describes her books and tapes and contains her thoughts about conscious aging.


When I am with you, we stay up all night.
When you’re not here, I can’t go to sleep.

Thank God for these two insomnias!
And the difference between them.

 

Rumi

One thing we can say about love with certainty is that it manifests in so many different ways no one understands it completely.  We encounter one or two of its many manifestations and mistakenly believe we have experienced the wholeness of love. Love is a complex force, more easily understood in the heart and through metaphor and stories than through words. Trebbe Johnson and Connie Goldman, however, find words to bring us closer to understanding the concept that has confounded all. Their books are very different, but both illuminate aspects of love that give added meaning to life during this second journey.


The World Is a Waiting Lover begins on the day Trebbe Johnson, a happily married, mature, woman, recognizes her own feelings of passion for an equally happily married, significantly younger man. This is the beginning of her search for the inner Beloved,  a quest through raw emotion, Jungian psychology, mythology, Christian mysticism, and her own psyche.

Were the concepts of love and passion that Johnson pursues to their origin not so deep and complex, it would be easy to comment that “The World Is a Waiting Lover reads like a well -written novel.” Johnson unabashedly describes her moments of shared intimacy (nonphysical) with the “unattainable other,” her husband’s realization that  “something is not the same,” and her own intense feelings and embarrassment when that “other” does not continue to share her passion beyond the fateful encounter. These are elements of a great story, and Johnson is a master storyteller, interweaving suspense with the concepts she wants to convey.

But that story is only an introduction to the central plot, Johnson’s search for the Inner Beloved.  Examining her intense reaction to this “unattainable other,” she discovers a desire for nothing less than romance with the cosmic itself and takes us with her on that quest. The realization that more than human infatuation has taken hold is described on her website,  (www.visionarrow.com/trebbejohnson/writings.html).  A  reprinted article from Body and Soul (July/August, 2003) contains the following lines:

It felt that what I really yearned for was to fall into the embrace of some great force, to communicate with unknowable mystery, to know as my lover, not a human man but the whole world. So began my quest for the inner Beloved.”

Her journey is a compelling and complex one, but its story calls forth a desire in the reader to take the same trip. Chapter after chapter, we travel with Johnson as she pursues her Beloved, knowing that the quest is not over until she finds and  “gets on track with him.”  As we journey with her through mythology, mysticism, self-reflection, and human passion, we begin to realize that our lives too would be more joyful and meaningful if we could find our own inner Beloved and “get on track with him or her.” Eros lives, and the more we are guided by passion and desire, the more fullness our lives will have.

In any good story, the plot must reach a satisfying conclusion. Johnson’s search finally takes her to the Sahara Desert and the final dawn of a four-day vision quest. There, alone, she awaits the arrival of the Beloved. She has prepared, performed the proper ceremonies, and opened herself to mystery. The ending is at hand and it is instructive, satisfying, and surprising.


Late Life Love also delivers its message through story. In these 22 interviews with couples, most of whom are in their seventies, Connie Goldman found the perfect vehicle for her efforts to shine light on positive aspects of aging. Her couples all found romance, happiness, and new relationship during their later years. True to her roots as a reporter and producer of documentaries, Goldman lets each couple tell its own story. Each chapter is an interview with a different couple.

Candidly, the pairs share details of how they incorporated the “leftovers from other lives” into their new relationship. Adult children, grandchildren, health concerns, previous living situations, sexual expectations, financial discrepancies, divorce, caregiving experience, grief, and loss all played a part in shaping the new relationship. The result is a book in which the reader experiences the joy and satisfaction of individuals who found another to help fulfill the need for love, companionship, sharing, intimacy, touching, and sexual pleasure.

Reading the stories, one is struck with the magnitude of adjustment needed to make a new romance work after having been with someone else for 40 years. These couples were equal to the task. Most called on skills they had learned in previous marriages to find solutions to the differences in the new relationship. Several explain their philosophy of life:

“You don’t plan a relationship; you just live it…there is no point in getting upset about little things in a relationship” (Carl, page 131).

“At this point in our lives we bring a lot of experience and judgment about what is worth fighting about and what is not” (Norm, p. 137).

“Our cuddling is as important as anything” (Norm, p. 136).

We’re partners, so I don’t know what the advantage would be to be married”(Donna, p. 143).

These couples are not baby boomers; they are from the World War II generation. Their median age is 75. Ten are in their eighties; one is 90. One couple is gay; another is lesbian. Fifteen of the 22 couples are not married. Eight do not live together. All are reflective of creative ways to experience joy and happiness through integration of past and present lives. All offered details that could prove useful to others seeking solutions to similar issues.