projects and writings of Tracy Burkholder
In September, 2016 I started a year-long personal challenge of doing something each week that I’d never done before then writing about it. This is week 4.
Making a reservation at Kah-Nee-Ta, a resort on the Warm Springs Reservation, might have been new, but it wasn’t a challenge. Driving out of the city, through the woods and into the high desert through dramatic, post-storm weather might have been new but it wasn’t a challenge. Neither was swimming in the faded glory of the heated mineral pool. Or hiking to a low peak near the lodge at twilight. Or catching a near-full moon blink inside its lid of evening clouds. Or waking up to soft rain drenching the pale hills.
I could describe the houses near the road with “Vote No on…”spray-painted onto their sides, with the ballot measure painted over. And the wild horses eating the yellow grass. And the yellow grass, everywhere. I could describe how the sprawling, mostly-empty lodge had an air of The Shining about it. The dreamcatchers over the bed. And the missed buttons on the breakfast waiter’s shirt.
But the only real challenge comes if I tell you that I didn’t take this trip alone. I made it with my friend, D., as a birthday present. He loves the desert and I love him. I’ve posted an essay about dating outside my long-term relationship, I’ve written about it elsewhere and I think most of my friends, though few members of my family know. These “new thing” challenges, however, have mostly skirted around the fact that when I’ve written friend, what I meant was lover, or beloved or boyfriend. I’ve never liked labels, certainly not ones that come with a perceived layer of possessiveness. Whether or not I was having sex with someone was either nobody’s business or irrelevant to the discussion at hand. I still feel that way for the most part. And yet I also feel compelled, at the age of 46, to stop being so careful. I feel compelled by the unprecedented depth and breadth of my feelings for D. to give him his space there beside me, scrambling up through the sagebrush and lying beneath the dreamcatchers, scolding them for failing to do their job.
On our way out to the desert, D. and I talked about what we’ve inherited from our parents and what they inherited from their parents and on and on and on. I look at the misery passed on and compounded in the family lines of my partner and how proud I am of how he’s tried to tell a different story with his life. D. described the anger and violence of his family line and how he’s tried to leave something better to his son. I wondered aloud if my father had secrets the way his mother did, secrets mostly revealed after her death.
Just because I have no children to keep secrets from, is no reason to avoid an honest and open life. Others I know have had to stand by truths a million times harder than the simple truth that I love more than one man. So here, I offer up this small piece of honesty to family, friends and strangers alike.
I’ve never shared this website with my family and I don’t know if they’ve seen it. With this post, I’ll be sending it out to everyone, because how can I be brave toward bigger, more important things, if I can’t be honest with this?