Saturday, April 25, 2015

Left-brained in Arden

Today marks twenty-nine years since Mark and I went on our first date. Mini-golf and pizza, if you must know. We celebrated last night by going to Domaine Hudson in downtown Wilmington for a restaurant week menu which was divine. Mark had spare rib and bacon sausage. I had the duck confit. Ooh la la. We followed that up by going to Penn Cinema to the Wilmington Film Festival to see the documentary Jodorowsky's Dune. It is interesting to note that Penn Cinema has two theaters, one on the waterfront in Wilmington and the flagship theater in our hometown of Lititz, PA. It always plays with my mind a little to walk into this theater in Wilmington and see echoes of the place in Lititz, a place we patronized regularly.

I digress. The point is that my relationship with Mark has transcended a lot of time and a bit of space. We got together young and grew into adulthood together. We have been married over half our lives. That is not to say we grew into the same person. I'd more likely to say that we developed complementary skill sets and distinctly opposite personalities in service to our joint life. Mark's life work has been in the IT and business sectors. His obsessions over the years have included watching college football, playing softball, golf, computer games, home automation, and zymology. While I like to read novels, Mark reads tech articles and the stray biography of a business great. Mark is a self-proclaimed Geek. Note the absence of prefix. He is an original geek, before people added words like “wine” or “literary” to describe niche obsessions. 

So, how does a left-brained man feel about landing, via his wife's influence, in a Utopian arts community? He loves it. And it isn't the kind of love that is described by the phrase: If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. He is happy in Arden of his own accord. Arden is not just home to artists and their lovers, it houses many of the left-brained set.  DuPont is a major employer in the area, and you can bet that all those chemists and engineers need places to live. And they didn't land in Arden by accident. They sought out this environment where a wild intellect often trumps social graces. I've often heard it said that Arden is a place for people who don't fit in anywhere else. It isn't that we are the Island of Misfit Toys. Please. We make our quirks work for us. We form government committees and and gilds around them. 

I think that men like Mark especially benefit from this association. In Lancaster County, men seemed to have few outlets for male bonding, short of sports leagues and mens' prayer groups. At least that was Mark's experience. Arden has more possibilities for men it seems. We have the sports opportunities: Volleyball and ultimate frisbee among them. Mark has not availed himself of those groups. Neither will he join the mens' book group in Arden. That would be asking too much. He doesn't even read my blog. But his social range has increased exponentially. He has deep friendships, and he has relationships with our neighbors that range from friendly surface interaction to interest groups to the level of camaraderie that would have passed for close in the not-so-recent past. In addition to our hiking group friends, he belongs to a beer-making group and an entrepreneur group. (Okay, the Venn diagram on these groups might be a little more overlapping than not.) He is involved in government and has met so many interesting folks at dinner gild that his mind spins sometimes. His friends are brilliant types, many of them with creative tendencies that make them more similar to me in skill set than to Mark. And it seems that those in his inner circle who are not creative types are guys like Mark who are married to artists. He comes home from his group interactions with lists of movies he wants to watch. This infuriates and delights me because these are all movies that I want to see but he would have vetoed in our former life. But if his friends bring the recommendations, it is a different story. Still, I get to watch all the Oscar contenders now with nary a grumble. And I don’t even have to negotiate to do stuff he wants to do in order to watch them.  

In Arden, Mark has taken workshops on Georgism, which fascinates him. He is also quite the volunteer. He pretty much owns the job of climbing ladders and hanging garland across the main thoroughfare at the Arden Fair, but you can also find him in the creek, digging out trash, during Christina River Watershed clean-up. He is newly appointed to the Budget Committee. Someone has to punch all those numbers. Another thing about Mark: he loves to put chairs away after meetings or concerts. It appeals to his sense of order. My attention span is such that I just want to go home after events, but Mark relishes this act of community care. He definitely feels he has a place here in a way that he never did before. He has gone to Scholar’s Gild talks, but it is funny, because so have I. We just never go to the same talks. The same topics don’t interest us. Though the talks do give us something to discuss with each other. And we listen, because the enthusiasm our partner exhibits trumps a topic we would otherwise think is dull. We are so much more interesting to each other now that we are involved in so many separate activities.

We have had some anniversary dinners in which we had quiet spells, hoping the food would come soon--or ones where we intentionally ordered some sort of crazy appetizer that would keep us busy chewing or constructing the perfect bite. It wasn’t that we didn’t enjoy each other’s company, just that after many years together, we had nothing new to relate to one another. Last night, the conversation flowed. I love that a place that nourishes me can do the same for Mark, albeit in different ways. And in that manner, we have new things to offer one another. We can challenge each other and grow as a couple. Yes, we have been married over half our lives, but I suspect the best is yet to come.

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