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A "Pop Up" – Monterey


My dream tending teacher talks about what she calls “pop ups” in dreams. Those images that most get our attention. We are asked to be on the lookout for “pop ups” in the waking world as well. To notice that they are popping up and to be in relationship to the image, perhaps asking what does it want? I share this idea with the dream group I work with, and the next day this happens:


I write in my journal – “Today, I want to show the world the quality of tenderness.”


During a Pilates class on Zoom,

a memory pops up.


12 years ago,

I am with John in Monterey.

Only our second trip together.

He has been coughing for weeks,

and is so tired, he can’t join me for a walk.


He naps in our modest hotel room.

I walk for hours

finding a lonely pier.

Only bird cries interrupt

this quiet solitude.


It is a memory that

returns full and present,

as if it happened yesterday.

The stillness of the waterfront,

fills my body now, as it did then.


I return to our hotel room

finding John still in bed.

We wonder why he is so tired.

Worry becomes our companion,

on this trip, and after.


But in this moment,

John lays his head in my lap.

The desire to stroke

his face and hair surprises me,

never having loved a man before.


We dine at a local bayside restaurant.

I take a souvenir matchbook from “The Sandbar & Grill.”

Sitting by the big picture window,

trying to enjoy the evening,

hoping the rising dread will come to naught.


I order a shot of whiskey,

still nervous to be with the man I love.

So anxious, I suffered days of panic

visiting with friends in Berkeley

awaiting John’s arrival in Monterey.


My dream teacher says

that even Venus was terrified of love.

The risk is so great,

the heart so vulnerable.

Some will never visit this shattering place.


John and I visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium,

admiring the colorful, delicate seahorses,

delighted by their courtship dance and mating habits,

the female depositing her eggs in the male’s pouch

for him to carry until birth.


John walks slowly and asks to rest often.

His solid, near 6-foot frame

lumbers along the famous Fisherman’s Wharf,

with its signature Cannery Row sign,

expensive shops and overpriced food.


He has thoughtfully brought a copy

of Steinbeck’s Cannery Row

to read aloud to me as we sit on a bench by the wharf.

His resonant voice, tinged with hints of Boston

fill my heart like a love song.


On the way home,

John apologizes for making me drive his car.

We take scenic Highway 1,

a notoriously nerve-wracking drive,

winding down California’s coastal bluffs.


When we arrive at my house,

John falls at the entryway,

like a tree might fall, straight and forcefully,

catching all his weight on his hands.

He assures me he’s not injured.


It is shocking.

A turning point.


John will never be well again.

After our trip, he reads Cannery Row to me

over the phone,

until we finish the book.

A sweet stop along the way of this love story.


26 years my senior,

John told me he was holding the space

until a younger man came along.

He called us a limited partnership,

even though he got us joint credit cards.


An emergency room doctor says

his lymphoma has returned.

John feared it would come back,

leaving me with the grief he suffered

after the deaths of two wives.


“The Sandbar & Grill” matchbook

sits by John’s photo on my alter.

Every memory of him,

even the grief, and awful journey to his death,

now all tinged with love.


This “pop up”

tenderizes me in a way

no other moment can.

That’s its gift to me.

It’s doing and undoing.


I asked for tenderness.

I got it.

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