Part 23 – Mick Jagger and Mary Oliver

This is a serial about love and awakening. Previously: Each time we draw closer, Billy pulls away. But there comes a moment when I know: I’ll be fine, whether he leaves or stays. To see all posts in chronological order, Click Here.

Ahhhhhh, but that expansive sense of freedom doesn’t stay fixed. It’s not a state you reach, hoist your flag and dwell there forever. It’s something you taste and cultivate and, over time, can inhabit more frequently. Like all experience, it’s impermanent.

Billy wants to move to a different part of the country. He’s lived in Colorado all his life, so he’s eager to try a new region. Maybe New England? As it happens, before meeting Billy, I signed up for a 7-day retreat at a meditation center in Massachusetts. We decide to fly to Boston together and spend a week exploring the coast, from Gloucester to Provincetown at the tip of Cape Cod. Then he’ll drop me off at the retreat, do some serious property hunting, and we’ll meet at the Boston airport to fly home.

The problem is: We had a fight the night before leaving, and I became so frustrated I yelled, “Shut up!” I was startled by the intensity of my rage. How the hell had my newfound sense of freedom and detachment been knocked out? I apologized immediately, but Billy turned his back to me in bed and refused to speak.

On the flight to Boston, we exchange nothing but small talk. We don’t get around to discussing the problem till late that evening. I spend a lot of time apologizing for my part, but his body stays rigid, locked. Like he wants to keep fuming, nursing his righteousness.

In the morning we try to make love, but our hearts, literally, aren’t in it. We drive south, listening to music and not talking much, and I think, Why do I want to be with this person?

When we reach the resort where he’s booked a room, the views make us gasp: sand dunes, ocean and sky bathed in that lambent gold light that draws painters to the area. Like many people who have money, Billy is frugal and loves to hunt for deals. He found a coupon online for a free room upgrade, so we’re given a suite with glass doors opening to the sea, a fireplace, sunken tub and thick terrycloth robes.

At dinner we eat fresh caught lobster infused with sweet butter, corn that’s so sugary it’s like candy, and heirloom tomatoes dressed with 18-year-old Balsamic and white truffle oil. Even Billy can’t stay angry through this. We walk along the ocean afterward and put our arms around each other. Tucked under fluffy white linens in our room, we listen to the rising, cresting–shoof!–of the waves and, at last, all’s right with the world.

The next day we drive to the Province Lands, a preserve of sandy forest and freshwater ponds which Mary Oliver has claimed as her terrain, just as Willa Cather claimed the prairie. I’ve brought a book of Oliver’s poems, and we hike to the site of one, Blackwater Pond.

We set out a picnic–lobster rolls and Pinot Grigio–and read it aloud:

At Blackwater Pond the tossed waters have settled
after a night of rain.
I dip my cupped hands. I drink
a long time. It tastes
like stone, leaves, fire. It falls cold
into my body, waking the bones. I hear them
deep inside me, whispering
oh what is that beautiful thing
that just happened?

The words haunt us. “Waking the bones.” “What beautiful thing just happened?” After making love that night, Billy says we should give titles to our sessions in bed, because each has a distinct flavor. “This one,” he says, “was the Mary Oliver.”

A few nights later, we find a movie theater that’s playing “Shine a Light,” Martin Scorsese’s film about the Rolling Stones. In my 20s, I had a case for Mick Jagger, big time. I flew to Denmark to cover a tour the Stones were doing in Europe. I was wearing a long, lavender nightgown as a dress, with my hair ironed straight and falling to my waist, when I found myself face to face with Jagger in the hotel elevator. I trembled, this was my chance, I’d had endless fantasies about him, and here he was in the flesh, but I froze. What came out of my mouth was: “I… uh… really like your music.” Eeegods! That was dumb! I wanted to shrink and disappear. But Jagger smiled, said “Thank you,” and asked if I wanted to play poker with “the boys.” Suddenly I’m sitting on the floor of a hotel room with the goddamn Rolling Stones, who think I’m a groupie, and I’m wondering what they’ll do when they find out I’m a reporter.

All this comes rushing back to me as we watch the Stones perform, three decades later, on the big screen. Out on the street, Billy does an uncanny, spot-on imitation of Mick, skipping across the stage, swinging his lank arms and jutting out his chin. Back at the resort, we have a raucous time in bed. Billy calls it “the Mick Jagger.”

The week flies to a close and Billy drives me to the retreat center. “I wish you wouldn’t go,” he says. “You’ve already been to one, didn’t you learn what you needed to? Why do you have to go to another?”

I tell him the learning is ongoing, evolving. “It’s the same with people who go to church every week…”

“I never understood that either,” he says. “After years, you’d think people would get the message.”

I try another tack. “I go because I love to go. Some people love to fish. You wouldn’t ask them, why do you keep fishing? Didn’t you already catch one?”

“Oh,” he says. “I get that now.”

We hug goodby, he drives off and I prepare myself to drop into the rhythm of the retreat: meditation, breakfast, a talk by the teacher, lunch, more mediation and walks–all in silence. On day 4, I’m in a rich state of quietness, walking out of the meditation hall, when Billy steps in front of me, putting a finger to his lips and saying, “Shhhh.” Startled, I take a pen and paper from my purse and write, “Why are you here?”

He says he was driving by and thought he’d stop.

“I’m happy to see you,” I write, “but I want to finish the retreat.” He asks if he can join us for the day. “Sorry, they don’t permit that.” He takes a room in a motel nearby, and the next morning, as I’m walking with the group in silence, he appears again in my path.

“I just want to tell you, I won’t be flying home with you,” he says. “I found some properties I’m really excited about, and I’m gonna stay longer. I’ll see you back in Colorado.”

PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT: Why do you think Billy shows up at the retreat? Is there a poem, a piece of music or a place that awes you? Is there one you associate with an interlude of love?



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28 thoughts on “Part 23 – Mick Jagger and Mary Oliver

  1. Beauregard

    Of course, you know why he stopped by. Just another jerk on your leash.
    This is like watching a slow-motion train wreck or a monk pouring liquid on his body…
    Horrifying and compelling.
    One thing I might have missed that may be pertinent. You say Billy has money. My guess, from his behavior, is that he did not earn it.
    Maybe you can clue us in later.
    I find that's one of the things I like to know about a potential partner because it shapes them and their outlook.

  2. Anonymous

    Oh, oh! Billy has discovered some 'property' in which he's interested? I might guess as to what (who) that might be, but it's speculation, so who knows. A spot that enraptures me: Desolation camp site in the Roosevelt National Forest (at the north end of the Rocky Mtn. National Park CO). Isolated, yes, desolate, and in a beautiful valley.

  3. Anonymous

    I think Billy couldn't stand to “share” you. By staying at the retreat you made it clear you can and will take care of yourself.
    The focus wasn't on him.
    He likely got involved with another woman, since that is his MO.
    In Washington State in the San Juans is Orcas Island.
    Peaceful, low key,awe inspiring views.

  4. lily

    He showed up from a sense of ownership. He wanted you to be with him and not have a life. So he pouted by staying in New England. Reading anything else into it would be giving him way too much credit. It actually sounded like a wonderful time too bad he spoiled the ending.

  5. Anonymous

    Am I really early or is this comment section dwindling?
    You asked THE question of yourself mid-stream, but you ignored, repelled or suppressed any answer that would've come. WHY ARE YOU WITH THIS PERSON? Ask it now and sit in silence for the answer. I would bet the farm that “LOVE” is not the answer.
    Didya ever see “Moonstruck? The Olympia Dukakis character asks a question, “Why do Men Chase Women”, and the answer comes back, “Cause they fear death”. You're in your 50's…that's when the fear of death begins. But it does wane in another decade if you have the courage and integrity to stand up for yourself and not live your life as one big apology.
    Hope this means he's moving on so you can too…

  6. Annie

    Billy doesn't understand spiritual retreats so he probably didn't get that you can't just show up. Like most non enlightened men he didn't respect the nature of the time spent there and probably thought it was somewhat silly.

    I have many places in the world that make me smile when I think of them but the one that makes me swoon is Moab, Utah. It holds a very special place in my heart and loins!! There are many handsome and rugged “young” men hanging around there. Also Yosemite National Park for the spiritual peace it brings me… Can't wait for more.

  7. Anonymous

    Billy shows up at the retreat because he’s an insensitive creep. I can’t stand the sound of this guy—he comes across as churlish, childish selfish, arrogant and somewhat of an egomaniac. Being frugal to boot sums it up—I'll bet he's stingy in other areas of his life too. He said he was driving by and thought he would just stop by and spend a day at the retreat? Gee, how deep. This guy really doesn’t get it. I think your instincts were spot on when you wondered why you wanted to be with this person. Maybe you’re trying to find someone who’s almost the exact opposite of Zack/Richard?
    Having said all that, I do enjoy reading about Billy and your relationship with him, if only because it makes me glad it's not me who's with this guy!

    As for poetry, I like Rumi—such as his poem,
    “Enough Words?”

    How does a part of the world leave the world?
    How can wetness leave water?

    Don’t try to put out a fire
    By throwing on more fire!
    Don’t wash a wound with blood!

    No matter how fast you run,
    Your shadow more than keeps up.
    Sometimes, it’s in the front!

    Only full, overhead sun
    Diminishes your shadow.

    But that shadow has been serving you!
    What hurts you, blesses you.
    Darkness is your candle.
    Your boundaries are your quest.

    I can explain this but it would break
    The glass cover on your heart,
    And there’s no fixing that.

    There’s more but I have to go.

    I do enjoy your blog.


  8. Ellen

    Hopi country: The 3 villages atop the 3 Mesas, surrounded by Navajo Rez. Longest continuous community in North America. Eagles on top of huts. Eagle feather kachina ceremonies. More sky than earth.

  9. Anonymous

    Billy comes to the retreat to see what the retreat thing is all about. Getting a motel room nearby, his intentions are honorable. He could have gotten one further away to play. He plans to stay to look at property but also to give himself some room to think since he told her to go back and he would see her later. Who knows what Billy will decide? Even though you may love someone, you just may not love everything about them or even enough to stay with them or Billy may just want different things in life and need to move on. Some men are like that, unable to ever settle down, really settle down and hence lies the attraction. Loving the unattainable guy. We all do things to sabotage relationships, unconsciously. It's like loving a married man, it's “safe”. You will always get to punish yourself and have the most glorious sadomasochistic party. Sounds like a retreat to unravel the whys of the psyche is in order.

  10. BEV HON

    The tidepools made famous in Magnum P.I. They belong to the State, are right next to a small park.Showers and picnic and THAT VIEW.

    Billy is a control freak.

    For poetry, I submit my own composition:

    There once was a writer named Sara;
    Her life embodied an era.

    She crashed from the sky
    With her lover right by.

    She's scattered from here unto thera.

    Time to get it together, Girl. Women are afraid they are going to die, too. As I recall from Moonstruck, the Dukakis character turned down an affair with a younger man.

    He asked “Why?”

    “Because I know who I am,” she replied.

  11. Sean

    It appears that Billy is your Mick Jagger, a conquest never realized. Now it's a never ending roller coaster ride to an obvious clashing, crashing end………

    For isolation and raw unspoiled beauty, Conception Islands, in the outer Bahamian Islands, only reachable via boat. To relax and unwind, Bahia Santa Maria, on the East Coast of Baja. If it were up to me, I'd dump Billy on Conception and go off to Baja to relax and rejuvenate.

  12. Debbie


    I also love Mary Oliver's poems – especially “The Journey”. It reminds me that we can't really “save” anyone other than ourselves. Billy is a boy in a man's body – he just never grew up. As your story has evolved, I have seen myself all too clearly in some of your actions and feelings. I hope you were able to dig yourself out before the hole got too deep.

  13. Cindy

    Billy has elements of his personality that seem very emotionally immature. His line of questioning about the retreat and why Sara would want to go back there instead of spending more time with him made me feel annoyed as I was reading it. His self-centered thinking comes up here like when Sara was recovering from a serious accident and he was upset that she did not allow him to help take care of her. My husband has a theory that many men do not mature past the emotional age of 15 because our culture does not necessarily make them. I feel like this is Billy.

    Like one of the ananomous' post, I wonder if the next installment may include him hooking up with someone else in an effort to elicit jealousy. I have been intrigued by the story as a whole, by the conflict between physical attraction that Sara feels for him and the problems caused by his emotional weirdness. I look forward to reading more!

  14. Anonymous

    Did you not meditate on this whole situation while you were alone? Does it not make sense that Billy can only own women, that he can't have an adult relationship with a woman? It's hard to imagine that a woman as smart as you seem is still confused over what you should do – which is to RUN from him. He is toxic if he is as you describe him. On a slightly different note, this seems like fodder for a book or screen play you could be writing, rather than real life. Sorry to be “anon” but I don't have google.

  15. Anonymous

    I had my own “interlude of love.” Think: “Bridges of Madison County,” the movie version (never read the book). Neither of us was married; we had other reasons for separating. Recently (14 years after we last saw each other), he contacted me. Resolved some misunderstandings. We each live with someone, so it won't go any further than occasional emails. The sad part for me, however: When I saw his picture, nothing. No pangs. No waves of sorrow that he's with another. And those distant days, when all I longed for was to be with him: they just seem silly, now. Leaves me wondering: What is this thing called “Love”? as the song asks. Surely if the so-called “love” were so-called “true,” if there were any truth at all in romantic love, there would be some remnant. Ah, well. Enough philosophizing.

    Thanks for your writing,

  16. Dr. Barbra

    He doesn't have good boundaries.

    I just returned from Hull, Ma., where I raised my children for 22 years.
    Sand dunes, salty air, waves crashing.
    Thanks for reminding me. I made a res for next year. I always return, for 27 years now.
    Love it,

  17. BEV HON

    Hi, again,I have to agree that men don't emotionally mature past adolescence. Ted Kennedy managed it, but look at what an age!! He had to kill a young woman and see three newphews risk death, and lose, before he “got it”. A lot of credit is given to his wife – — but he was like the light bulb… he had to WANT to change… I guess we should look for a guy who had all his brothers shot out from over him. SOMEBODY had to be The Man in the family . . Deary me, if men all grew up, we wouldn't have wars or gotten to the moon. We would probably be living, safely, in caves, running few risks, and chewing skins for exercise. Makes my jaw ache to think of it.

  18. BEV HON

    Hi, again,I have to agree that men don't emotionally mature past adolescence. Ted Kennedy managed it, but look at what an age!! He had to kill a young woman and see three newphews risk death, and lose, before he “got it”. A lot of credit is given to his wife – — but he was like the light bulb… he had to WANT to change… I guess we should look for a guy who had all his brothers shot out from over him. SOMEBODY had to be The Man in the family . . Deary me, if men all grew up, we wouldn't have wars or gotten to the moon. We would probably be living, safely, in caves, running few risks, and chewing skins for exercise. Makes my jaw ache to think of it.

  19. BEV HON

    Hi, again,I have to agree that men don't emotionally mature past adolescence. Ted Kennedy managed it, but look at what an age!! He had to kill a young woman and see three newphews risk death, and lose, before he “got it”. A lot of credit is given to his wife – — but he was like the light bulb… he had to WANT to change… I guess we should look for a guy who had all his brothers shot out from over him. SOMEBODY had to be The Man in the family . . Deary me, if men all grew up, we wouldn't have wars or gotten to the moon. We would probably be living, safely, in caves, running few risks, and chewing skins for exercise. Makes my jaw ache to think of it.

  20. Anonymous

    You can't look for fulfillness from someone who is not himself fulfilled. Emptiness doesn't fill emptiness, and that is what both of you are trying to do, fill your emptinesses. Doesn't work. You can only fill your emptiness from within, learning about who you are, accepting who you are, loving who you are. Billy will never get it, while you have the opportunity to get past him. Do it before you lose anymore ground to him.

  21. Anonymous

    A Rolling Stones song, “Angie” reminds me of the best lover I ever had in Aspen, CO. And “Maggie” by Rod Stewart brings to mind one young lover and knocking the glasses off the coffee table.
    Oh, and then there was the 6'6″ drummer….
    And, of course, Billy–no, just kidding about Billy.
    My motto:”Find humor in everything.”

  22. Anonymous

    I think it's best for you to ask Billy why he showed up at the retreat. The rest will just be things that spin tales in your mind, that may or may not be true. Stay in the “don't know”. Billy is not on the spiritual path that you are on and so does not understand what a retreat is or what it means. He may have felt threatened and insecure around not knowing. I am unclear what Billy was supposed to do after you went to the retreat. Did you two have plans then to just meet back in Colorado? I heard a spiritual teacher recently talk about the “idea” that we need a man and a relationship to be happy and to inquire into this by asking ourselves “Why is this so appealing”? and to really just sit with that question. “why is this so appealing”? He goes on to ask the woman who's inquiring with him what she is so afraid of? Being rejected? abandoned? alone? unloved? What is the mind telling us? Is the mind telling us this will make me really happy forever and ever? I have used the Byron Katie hot line which was very helpful. Any kind of shadow work where we become conscious of what we are projecting out there can be really useful. Trust yourself.

  23. Anonymous

    I think Billy shows up at the retreat to say “I wont be flying home with you. I found some properties I am really excited about and will be staying longer. I'll see you back in Colorado”

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