Here is your birthday present. I am sorry that it is so late.

The Question of Rachael.

I dreamed last night I was reading Virginia Woolf on the beach, the long stretch of beach between here and Haceta Head, as if I knew it, as if I had been there a million times, and not only once in the whirlwind haze of a glorious summer three summers--no, four, four summers ago; as if I knew the ebb and flow of Virginia Woolf like someone who hadn't only taken in a short story here and there and had a brief cry over The Hours (a good movie, a lonely night). It felt as though, in my dream, I had gone there just so I could read Virginia Woolf on the beach, so that the dusky white Impressionistic paperback cover would blend in with the white Oregon sand, and I would find myself, somewhere there between the pages of To the Lighthouse and the world's largest sea lion cave. And when I woke, the sea gulls were still circling, the waves still laughing against the shore, and the turning of pages was just as loud in my mind as the sea; and I thought, I will go to Yachats--it will not be so hard. To get in one's car and drive it over the mainland for a little while, or to board a dirty Amtrak with a suitcase full of books, a headset and a camera, and be off!

And there in the moment between waking and reading, while I lingered with the gulls and the waves, and The Waves, for that matter, before I remembered the snooze button and the bills and the need to arrive at the building ten minutes early to unset the alarm before the children arrived, I suddenly fancied that it was real: that not the dream itself but the spirit of it was real, and that every time I fluttered the pages or thought about buying the flowers myself, I would tap Virginia on the shoulder or kiss her cheek and say, yes, here you are; that every time I sang "Night and Day" Cole stood just over my shoulder laughing at my terrible French; that every time I passed the giant Calder on the lawn of the opera house, Alexander himself shook hands with Rossini, and waved at me from the grass.

And it seemed that while I drifted there, in the certainty that Virginia and Leonardo and I were all becoming the best of friends, reality suddenly tipped sideways, and I realised that nothing in life is linear: that we are never meant to move from A to B in an unresolving line; that everything that is, is a wave, an ebb and tide in a vast ocean; and all our loves are pull and release, pull and release--drifting a ways away from us, but always, always returning.

Every time we sing a beautiful song, the moment of its creation returns in full; and every time we close our eyes and remember our loves, they are real, they are there, they are never absent, even though the hope of them has gone: we can never, though we may say, 'You I once loved, with all my heart,' lose that love once we have made it ours. We are bound to it, to the beloved and the once-beloved, as the moon is to the tide; they are bound to us as the waves are to the shore. And though our human voices may wake us from sleep or the dream of love, while we drift in that strange current, we will never, ever drown.

And this, you see, is what I have wanted to tell you.

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