Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Here, There, and Everywhere

"We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us." ~Joseph Campbell

     The ensuing months have been extremely trying ones for Les and me. We know now what we miss each day we are apart from one another. At first it seemed like time was static--frozen in place for three months--now it feels like it is an ocean swell gathering momentum which might sweep me off my feet as it carries away my old life. It is totally surreal.
     I've gone from my initial six year plan to an accelerated six months during which my friendship with Dear Sir developed into a deeply loving, passionate relationship between two kindred spirits. In preparation for life in England as Les' wife, I have put my home up for sale, begun winnowing out my personal belongings, found Wee Man a new home, and given notice at work. 
     While I will continue to advise students throughout August of 2011, I participated in my last WSU commencement ceremony as a Ph.D hooding marshal, reading off 1100 names--half the graduating class in the Colleges of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, Engineering and Architecture, Pharmacy, Sciences, and the College of Veterinary Medicine (BS, MS and PhD candidates) and part of the largest graduating class in the history of Washington State University.
     I've dressed in regalia for the final time to line up and walk with my students in the ceremony for the the College of Liberal Arts; cheered them on, shook their hands and hugged them in congratulations as they returned down the main platform aisle with diploma covers in hand. 
     Debbie Elmore, one of my brilliant graduating seniors, and her husband Mike had difficulties finding a hotel for the May ninth commencement so I offered up my guest room and they graced my home with their company. After the Friday night pre-commencement festivities we had a lovely visit over a bottle of Late Harvest Riesling.
     Debbie & Mike brought me a gift to show their gratitude: a brand new copy of RTC Rolt's Narrow Boat sent over from England, and a worry stone with "Thank you" engraved on it. I was sincerely and deeply touched at their thoughtfulness. My mind goes back to the box I found recently when cleaning out one of the closets. Inside were years worth of thank you cards and printed emails from my former students:
     "Thanks for all your help and guidance over the past several years. I was somewhat  reluctant to enter an on-line program but knowing that you were available to answer my academic questions kept me calm. You were always quick with good advice and assistance. You made me feel as though I was not alone in cyber space"--Don; "Many, many thanks! I have been conditionally accepted for the Master's program in Historical Archeology at the University of Leicester. I cannot begin to convey my most heartfelt appreciation for all you have done. Your kindness has literally steered my life towards a path I once thought unobtainable"--Elizabeth; "I cannot express my gratitude for everything you have done for me throughout my time at WSU. You have been a wealth of information and a beacon when I didn't think I could handle the stress of one more semester. I am eternally grateful"--Kate; "I am pleased to report to you that I now have a master’s degree – something that would have never happened without your encouragement...Thank you Jaqueline for helping me discover the world of possibilities…and for the encouragement to always wonder…" Russ....
     Selling a home, planning a wedding, ending a career, and moving are all stressful events and doing all four at once has taken its toll. I feel utterly ragged around the edges. Each of these steps was accompanied by intense feelings and dealing with the emotional chow-chow has been exhausting.
     Sorting through my belongings is probably the easiest thing I do. They are after all only things. I've shrunk my library down to four boxes--which is a lot for a narrow boat, but Les insists we will find room for them.
     The majority of them are my books on medicinal herbalism and research texts to continue writing about recovering from cancer. I am hoping to put together a boater's medicine kit using my knowledge of healing herbs.
     Giving Wee Man away was the hardest thing of all. I tried so hard not to fall in love with him but I couldn't help myself. I miss the way he nuzzled in under my neck, misbehaved like a petulant child when he wanted my attention and played fetch with his rubber mouse.
     I miss his kitty talk and his warm, furry body curled up on my chest, purring. I miss his unconditional love, acceptance, and trust in me. I miss his tabby striped sleekness streaking to the front door every evening to greet me--tail raised, slightly curled at the tip; a flag of joy at my arrival, and his curious green eyes assaying my behavior to suss out what his human was up to next.
     Through a quarter of a million years of interaction with humans, dogs have been bred to trust our species and to defer to us in our relations with them. Cats are still feral animals and one can take the best care of a cat and still not be rewarded with its affection and trust, which makes it far more meaningful for me when a friend like Wee Man offers it... 
     He would love living on the boat but he would never survive the six month quarantine without any personal love and affection. Wee Man may not understand why I gave him away but he is living where he is loved and hopefully safe. I try to dull the pain of my loss with this knowledge.
    Putting the house up for sale has been pretty straightforward. Without Les here it no longer feels like home--it is merely a very nice house. I expect it to sell by August when we hope to have a spouse visa for me.

     For the last three months I have been facing these things here on my own--a series of endings and loss that make the ultimate gain of a new life with a man I adore--and who I know adores me--possible. Nonetheless losses and endings must be acknowledged for whatever reason they occur.
     Les calls me nearly every day and we talk for hours. I miss him so badly I ache, and the sound of his voice soothes me if only for the time we are talking to one another on the phone.
     Dear Sir's email love letters remind me why I fell so deeply in love with him to begin with. He is candid without being crass and sweet without being syrupy. He still makes me laugh which curiously eases the pain of being apart while making me miss him all the more.
     I arrived at my office one morning recently to find a bouquet of flowers on my desk with a card that read,"Get used to being spoilt." ~Love Les. It is the second time in my life I have received flowers from a man. This simple act of love and acknowledgement will never cease to touch me.
     Dear Sir is also suffering over in England. "The boat is so empty without you Jaq. It feels as though you've already been here...I see you everywhere I look. I cannot believe you've never set foot on it--I feel you here."
     We experienced a curious moment of synchronicity one morning as tenuous fingers of lemon sunlight crept across the bed to warm my face. Laying there in the blue cocoon of my room with my eyes closed I could see and feel myself in the galley of NB Valerie. I had put the kettle on and I called out to Les, "Cup of tea?" I was looking across the saloon, toward the front steps.
     Shortly after the phone rang and it was Les. As we talked quietly he told me he goes "walkabout" on the boat sussing up NB Valerie from my point of view. Sitting on the front steps with a cup of tea, he was staring into the galley and he could see me standing there as clear as if I were in front of him. I asked when this happened; A few minutes ago.

From: Les Biggs
To: Jaqueline
Date: Monday 03/21/11 4:05 PM (8 AM in Pullman)
Subject: I miss you so
Hi Jaq my little Peach,
     All this being apart for 3 months is getting harder by the day although now it`s just 62 days to go. Three weeks on the boat then back to the States to get married and sort things out, then we never have to part again.
     The Honeymoon will be a cruise lasting a lifetime, how cool is that. I have got your e mail about traveling for the University and of course i`ll phone you before you go.
     Do you know i was thinking that before we first met last year i could never understand people talking about love at first sight but it`s certainly a fact as we both know...all i know is you are the woman i've always dreamt of meeting and spending my life with.
     Just another quick e mail because i just need to keep talking to you, blimey that`s funny we spend hours on the phone most days of the week and i still need to talk across the keyboard, just shows you it`s love.
Kisses and hugs my darling.

     Writing wedding vows was simple enough but planning the wedding and a reception separately to ensure all the people I love can participate and celebrate with us has been challenging. There always seems to be one more detail to pursue.
Kamiak Butte
     The wedding is set for June. It will be attended by a very small contingent of family with a large reception following on July ninth and invitations to the reception will be going out when we return to the States.
     I leave for England May 21st. Travel is not my forte unless it is by train--and there are no trains to England from America.
      Having worked in the airline industry I am all too well aware of things the average air passenger is not. I despise being lied to about security measures that are supposedly in place to assure my safety when I know for a fact they do little of the kind--what most of these restrictions actually do is herd passengers like cattle and control us, providing a false sense of security. I refuse to be scanned--they can wand and grope me if they must while I undress starting with my shoes.
     My stomach is doing whirly gigs now at the thought of being trapped on a plane for hours on end. My feelings of nausea are one part related to being dyslexic; having a stomach and inner ear hardwired to my visual cortex in a scrambled manner, and two thirds related to my anxieties about flying.
      I have no desire to control anyone else but really need to control myself and my personal space. It is a remnant from my childhood...this does not a happy air passenger make. If everything else were not already enough, then this alone is proof that I love Les more than I ever thought possible. I will face my anxieties and overcome them, or beat them into submission to cross an ocean to be with him.
    My physician told me "do not drink alcohol, be sure to hydrate with water, get up and move at least once an hour, do not take anything to make you sleepy--and pray you don't throw a blood clot." I will be fine once I am on the ground in England, and in Les' arms.
     We will be together for three weeks on the boat, traveling up the Grand Union with visits to family. I am bringing a silicone Bundt pan with me so I can fill three orders for Chocolate Kahlua Bundt cake, and graham crackers to make Angel Bars for Kev! I am looking forward to meeting Les' children, grandchildren, and friends--and hopefully some of our fellow boaters.
     I crave the simple, quiet, uncomplicated life aboard our waterborne home where yesterday no longer exists, tomorrow hasn't happened yet, and only the present moment in the company of my husband matters.
    Dear Sir and I will come back to America together to marry in June, wrap up the sale of the house and apply for my spouse visa. The stress involved in this piece is huge. We have one shot to get it right. It is our understanding there is no appeal process. We cannot allow our minds to consider what might happen if....not after facing the losses that come with cancer; settling down to a single life--and finally finding each other from halfway across the globe.
     We have spent months going over the UK Border Agency web site instructions, the World Bridge partner site and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services home page, reviewing lists for what is required, gathering documents and making copies.
Galley before remodeling © LBiggs, 201
     On Dear Sir's side of the Atlantic ocean he keeps busy by sprucing up the NB Valerie. He's made some modifications such as moving the refrigerator up above the counter in the kitchen at my suggestion, filling its former space with the washing machine, and lowering the twelve inch rise of the steps to six inches to accommodate my stubby legs.
     Les' handiwork is quite fine indeed and I am very proud of his skills although he is extremely modest about them. 
     Dear Sir has washed down the walls, and the ceiling, put in a new floor, cleaned all the curtains and cushion covers, touched up the exterior paint,  brightened up the rubber floor mats, stripped and varnished the dinette table and blacked the stove.
     Cheri Curtis says she believes his next step will be to take a pair of hedge clippers out to trim the shrubs up and down the length of the Grand Union canal!
Galley after remodeling © LBiggs, 2011
     Les did a bit of shopping at Ikea and bought us a five quart cast iron enameled dutch oven with a lid so I can bake bread when I get there, and he has filled a drawer with spices and herbs from a list he requested of me. I do love to cook and and I adore feeding people. I cannot wait to make my first loaf of bread aboard NB Valerie.
     Friends gave us a lovely wedding gift of some funds with which they wanted me to purchase a trousseau. After thinking it over I called Les and asked about how to spend the money.
     "I thought perhaps rain gear would be a good thing to buy." He was quiet for a moment on the other end of the phone. I could see Dear Sir turning his head slightly and thinking about what I have just said.
     "Sorry darlin' what was that?"
     "I said I thought rain gear would be a good thing to buy with the money."
     "Say again please? I don't think I'm hearing you correctly."
     "RAIN GEAR--r-a-i-n- g-e-a-r--I thought rain gear would be be practical," by now I am wondering what on earth he thinks I said. I mean I know I am the one with the accent but still...Les' booming laughter fills the phone receiver.
     "Oh God I thought you were saying reindeer." We giggle hysterically.
     "That's right--love me, love my reindeer. We Alaskan women are VERY attached to our reindeer. I'm not sure what we will do with the carcass after we butcher it but we can keep it on the roof of the boat and cross that bridge when we come to it."
Home Sweet Home © LBiggs, 2011
     Meanwhile my wedding dress has arrived (thank you Sparky, Mary, and Elizabeth!) and half of Les' wedding outfit is here. I have less than forty eight hours now to tie up loose ends and take care of time sensitive details; double check the flower order for the wedding, order wedding cake and wine for the reception, pick up shoes, remember to pack my passport...
    From now on this blog will be written in the present moment as we have caught up to the here and now in this ongoing journey. True love prevails and the next post will take place from a narrow boat--in England!!

It is with great Joy 
we announce our 
upcoming nuptials:

Les C. Biggs
Jaqueline M. Almdale
will be handfasted
in an official 
Wiccan wedding ceremony
Saturday, June 18, 2011
10:00 am
Kamiak Butte
Pullman, WA USA
 Private luncheon 
to follow at the home 
Jim and Karen Barron
320 NW Joe Street.

An open reception 
will be held on
Saturday, July ninth, 2011
Keith and Chrisi Kincaid's farm
1251 Enman-Kincaid Rd. 

Living on a narrow boat 
means space is at a premium;
We ask guests to bring 
a pot luck dish to share 
in lieu of wedding gifts Please!
Join us for dinner, 
wedding cake, sparkling wine,
and dancing under 
the summer evening sky!

With joy and 
for having 
found each other,
Les & Jaqueline Biggs
will reaffirm 
their vows of marriage
in the presence 
family and friends,
sometime in September, 2011
at a British church
to be announced. 
Reception after
also to be announced. 
We will be
in residence at home 
aboard NB Valerie, 
somewhere on the
canals of England!


  1. I continue to be so touched and gladdened by your story. May you have a good flight, joyous reunion, and happy sailing on NB Valerie. See you at your wedding...soon! love Karen

  2. Hello my dear,
    Thank you (and Jim) for your support, encouragement and friendship. Your input has been integral to our wedding ceremony.
    That you will be a part of our wedding party gladdens my heart with joy. Wait until you see "the dress!" Safe journey home.
    Much love,

  3. Well, I, for one, am crying. God Bless and God speed To the two of you becoming one--I'll be eagerly awaiting the next.....
    Love, always,

  4. Hi Jaq, Looking forward to reading more of your adventures. Love, Gina

  5. Jamie,
    Ahh you are so sweet! Thank you for your ongoing love and encouragement. I promise to stay in touch!
    Love Jaq

    Since you are an integral thread in my story, I am grateful and glad hearted you are following along on our journey.
    Love Jaq

  6. Jaq
    Here's hoping you will not find the flight too stressful, have loved reading your blog and I am so happy for you both I could do a jig!! One of these days I will see you along one of our beautiful canals and we can have a nice chat over a cuppa.

  7. Hello Carol,
    Thank you for your good wishes. I'll do a jig with you and then we'll have a cuppa! LOL! I'm looking forward to meeting you and I am SO glad you are following along on our journey.

  8. Jaq,
    Have an amazing flight, full of certainty and calm, knowing the arms you are rushing to will hold you forever.
    I can't wait to hear about your trip.
    Love, love love! Patti

  9. So glad you have now blogged to the present day. I was getting worried you might not make the plane. Have a safe trip and i`ll be waiting at Heathrow with open arms. LOVE YOU XXXXXXXXXXX

  10. Les,
    I miss you like a lost limb! I miss you like a fat kid misses cake; I miss YOU like a Beehive hairdo missed Aquanet! See you Sunday...
    Love Jaq