I’m sitting in a kitchen in Tennessee, looking out the window. I have arrived too late to see the turning of the leaves but as the cold November wind blows through the trees in the yard, I see them fall, fluttering yellow gold and bronze.
I’m reminded of a song, an old jazz standard, ‘Autumn Leaves’. It was a favourite of mine for a long time. I hum it now gently to myself and remember listening to Nat King Cole with a glass of red wine in front of the fireplace. I’m smiling now, into my coffee cup. It’s a romantic kind of feeling, being in a place you love with people you love and who love on you. I’m already anticipating the coming knock at the door. A treasured one is travelling from Atlanta to get here and my pulse races knowing the next few days will be full of love and laughter. We’ll be good to each other, these loved ones and I.
I am romancing myself. Lingering, filling up my senses with moments that are good for my soul. Romance is good for us, it gives you stories worth telling. This is really the heart of my annual Thanksgiving sabbatical, a chance to immerse myself in the feeling of being alive.
‘a feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love, a quality or feeling of mystery, excitement, and remoteness from everyday life.’
I am a hopeful romantic, I love the idea of love and what it does for people. I love creating moments of beauty, love, mystery and excitement in the lives of others. I love experiencing it myself when something catches me by surprise. There’s nothing more thrilling than encountering a moment that lifts your eyes beyond what’s right in front of you.
Romance isn’t the domain of the romantically involved alone. It’s everyday magic that connects you to the universe and others in a way that makes you feel alive. I like to think making romance is putting a fingerprint on a moment, making it uniquely your own. It’s an overstatement to say that we all need it, but I know I do. I’d rather live with moments of wonder, mystery and magic than without them.
Elinor Glyn was a British writer at the turn of last century. A romance novelist and scriptwriter; she once said, ‘Romance is the glamour which turns the dust of everyday life into a golden haze. ‘
Feelings are big. They are bigger than we let them be, or some of us would be swept away in all the colour and glory of feeling everything. To feel the possibility of where each moment could lead, to live with that emotion is probably more than we think we could handle, so we box it in and restrain ourselves from experiencing all this every day. We tell ourselves that it’s for loved-up twosomes, special celebrations and occasions – but it’s not the truth. The way your heart swells when you see your best friend or your god-daughter. The anticipation of what small laughter you’ll share with your work colleague today. All that feeling, the bigness of it, every day, is what it means to be alive. Sort of romantic, isn’t it?
We have two eyes. One to see what is right in front of us, and one for the magic hidden in plain sight. Same with our two ears – one to hear what’s happening and one to listen to for the magic.
It can be as simple as creating a little mystery and wonder with a gift for no reason. I like to pay attention to the tiny details, storing them away for when it might come in handy to know someone’s coffee order or favourite colour. To know their favourite artist and pick up a second-hand record as you were thinking of them. To interrupt or be interrupted in an ordinary day with a gesture that lifts you out of reality into a bigger moment. I’m good at those moments, I’ve made it an art.
I’m looking at a non-expensive bottle of whisky, sitting on a shelf for my friend to arrive because I want to share it with them first, knowing we’ve waited a year to see each other again. It’s taking a carriage ride through Central Park alone because a carriage ride in New York City in winter is beautiful enough. It’s drinking from a mason jar because it reminds you of a place and people you drank with. It’s doing something unexpected in the middle of the ordinary.
We need to learn how to appreciate the romance we find ourselves in on a regular basis. To recognize when being alive and having the senses filled is actually a gift in of itself. I’m sitting in Tennessee and thinking about a collection of people and experiences over this last year. It’s a romantic sort of feeling to know that my heart is fuller now because of them, than it was this time last year. It’s a mystery and a wonder that the heart expands when it felt full already, to embrace another soul. That there is room for another set of memories and shared experiences.
I have chased wonder and mystery down all sorts of pathways and found adventure and surprise along the way. I’ve flown hundreds of miles not to miss the chance for brief hours of conversation. I’ve slept on buses and trains to get to places I’ve longed to see, just because I wondered what it would look and smell and taste like. It’s a romantic sort of feeling, knowing that there is magic to be found in something as simple as sitting at a kitchen table looking out the window.