The following is an excerpt from the book I’m currently working on (untitled as yet, subtitled ‘The Revolutionary Act of Liking Myself.’)
In the light of a full moon on St Marks, I slept naked, sharing the air with a flowering gardenia. I asked for my life back. I asked for joy, for laughter, for light. On the first of July, I lay in the summertime grasses of Washington Square Park, wrote in my journal, and spoke to the angels: “I am ready to spread my leaves wide, my roots deep, and my wings wide open. The butterfly is shifting in her cocoon and slowly cracking. What colors will my wings be? Who will I join in the air up there?”
A few weeks prior, I had lain in a virgin swimsuit on the sands of the Atlantic, arms spread-eagled and shot to the sky, “Release me from this burden!” I walked the sands of Fire Island collecting shells, dug a hole, drew a large circle and sat squat within it. Subconsciously I was hearkening our souls together, drawing them forth, sewing. Metaphysically, I was already talking to you. I was already yours.
It wasn’t until the summer of 2011 that I met Isaac. I had just published my first book, a ‘Catherine wheel’ of writing as an early mentor called it, and it was being stocked at BookMarc, Marc Jacob’s bookstore in Greenwich village. This was a book I had made almost literally with my own two hands. A reader of my blog lived with the book buyer there and asked if they could stock it. I was giddy when I first walked into it’s luxe rooms and saw my book in the sunshine on a table.
Two years earlier, I had been connected to Isaac through a mutual friend whilst I was back home in Australia. She lived in the house behind my parents, and made tarot cards. Her name was Kat Black. She had left a deck of cards on my parents front porch, saying that if you need a cup of sugar or a Facebook friend, she was here. We connected online and she suggested a couple of friends to me. One of them was Isaac. I wrote to him with a compliment on his hat. He wrote back sweetly. I told him I was in a relationship. He began reading my blog posts. Occasionally when I was back in the city, he would invite me to his shows on Allen St. I never accepted these invitations, even though I lived just around the corner with another man. What was I supposed to do? Bring him? Go alone, and say hello with a drink in my hand after the show? No, I wouldn’t go. Time flowed on, and I stayed in my small cage with a man I wasn’t sure about.
One summer in Fire Island we arrived at the beach house we had planned to vacation at, and my boyfriend became so enraged with something I said, that he turned right back around and boarded the ferry back to the city. My friend Julia and I stayed on in spite of him and celebrated her thirtieth birthday there. I made her a cake and we sat on the deck in the sun. She put her hand on the warm grey shingles and said ‘I want a man as sturdy as this house.’ We walked to the beach and I taught young girls how to do handstands in the ocean, how to duck under the waves. I flung my arms wide to the sea and declared my freedom. I drew a large circle in the sand and sat in the middle of it. These were my prayers, my magic, my untangling.
I rented a room from a couple of college girls right by Tompkins Square Park, above an Australian bakery that sold Lamingtons. There was a mattress on the floor, and I brought a white sheet, my pillow, my two passports and tarot cards. From the corner store one humid evening I bought a gardenia plant and placed it by my bed. I slept naked with the window open and the rain came in through the window making everything curl at the corners. I exhaled deeply during this singular month – the only month I ever paid my own rent in the city. I lived like a monk. I wrote on a blanket in the park across the street, and ate simply, washing my dishes alone in the sparsely decorated kitchen. I longed to have people in my life like the families eating pizza with their kids on the grass, juggling, hanging upside down from the trees. But at least I had my sovereignty. I was free.
July fourth came around and my ex said he missed me. I packed my duffel bag of clothes and rode my bike from my sisters apartment to the apartment we shared in Chinatown. I pulled into the bike lane of Second Avenue, against the traffic. Before I knew it, a yellow taxi cab swooped in to drop off a passenger and the door flung open. I rode straight into it, and landed in a warm muddy puddle outside an Italian restaurant with white tablecloths. The concerned waiters rushed out with crisp napkins to mop me up. I got back on my bicycle and kept riding. This was a sign, and I did not pay attention to it.
My relationship kept breaking down. The man said I was ‘bad luck’ one evening and incredulous, I locked myself out on the balcony of our Chinatown apartment. You could see a sliver of the East River between the tenement housing from this balcony, and the sky was the New York purple of summertime twilight. I prayed. For the first time in my life, I prayed honestly and desperately.
“Tell me what to do. Where do I go? I hear you send signs, Universe, and I know I haven’t paid attention to them lately but I need you to send me some signs. I promise I will pay attention this time. I just want to be with someone who is joyful, and funny, and light, and up to big things in the world, and passionate about what they do, and tall, and – someone like Conan O’Brien.”
(Okay – explanation. My little brother Henry and I were Conan fans and would watch his late night shows giggling at his quips and dance moves. I found myself drawn to his free-wheeling energy. The curious electricity that ran through him and his confidence in the solidity of who he is, was very magnetic to me. I wanted someone in my life every day who was like that. )
The summer after I published my book, I went to France for my parent’s 50th and 60th birthdays. I was about to turn 26. While I was in France, Isaac wrote to me out of the blue with mention of a manuscript he wanted me to look at. He had been working on it for twelve years he said, and it was about the cosmology of music. I had been toying with the idea of publishing other people’s work, and was deeply drawn to Buckminster Fuller, Carl Sagan and theories of the universe at the time. I thought, this could work – a business meeting. I’m in the power seat. We can meet for coffee. I didn’t respond immediately.
Two days passed, and I went to a brocante, a French thrift store full of old furniture from deceased estates in the provinces. My friend had me sit at a dining table he was gushing over. I noticed that the seat I was sitting in had been printed with a tiny repetition of rampant lions. I noticed them at the same time that I noticed the faces of the knights at the front of the high-backed chairs. I bought a leather mini-skirt and a picture of ‘L’Ange Gardien de la Montre’ – the Guardian Angel of Time, and we went home to eat bread and cheese and tomatoes.
“Thank you for writing from France, that sounds like an incredible time, it has truly captured my heart and I often day dream of a sojourn in Paris. I have been doing some research this year on the Magdalene and the history of the Cathars in the south…”
Over the course of the following nights, I walked the streets of Paris with another friend whose loft I was staying in. I was certain I’d wandered the area before. As we strolled, I had a sudden urge to document everything as if it were my last night on Earth. I took out my camera and started taking photos of anything that caught my eye. An old firehouse. The Parisian facade of an apartment building. The Walk/Don’t Walk signals. I took photos of the rainbow colored buildings. The jade river. And on the bonnet of a car, another mysterious, rampant lion.
I slept deeply before returning to Manhattan. I came back to the man I’d been coming and going from for three years. I was lonely a lot of the time. Some evenings I’d climb onto a chair outside and smoke a cigarette, stowing the butts under the table he didn’t like, in a jar with a lid to hide any trace of the evidence. I began living a separated life, in which my tears fell inwardly, and I stored up a great bank of pearlescent hopefulness, wondering, sometimes loudly, whether this was all that there was in store for me.
“Hi Sophie, it is Isaac. I know I sent you some vague thoughts on the musical cosmology; I would very much like to send you the rest of it. However, since as Miles Davis once said, ‘Talking about music is like dancing about architecture’, I would REALLY like you to come to my band’s show tonight.”
I decided to throw a party. It developed quickly, like the negative of a photograph from the lens of my imagination. When Saturday arrived, I made two pavlovas, bought some gin, and awaited the arrival of my guests. That morning, Isaac wrote again, suggesting that we meet at his favorite coffee spot on West Broadway where they “make a mean flat white.” This was the first time I’d heard anyone refer to a flat white since I’d left my home country. In fact, it was the first time I’d had contact with an Australian as interesting as this. I postponed the meeting until Monday.
After multiple glasses of gin and tonic, much laughter, and the hugs of goodbyes, I slept well, dreaming continually before waking to clean the remnants of the night. As I wiped the benches and threw out bottles and beer caps, I wondered what was next for me. When I’d thoroughly exhausted myself, I lay in bed sifting through emails. I chanced upon a letter from Isaac, which in the emotional mist of my parent’s birthdays, I hadn’t fully digested. I watched the footage he’d sent me, a film of he and his brother singing in an old French chateau. Immediately I wanted to see more. The next thing I saw were the early stages of a song called ‘Underneath it All.’ As the camera pulled out, the song went directly to my core. I was pierced open. The music broke open the floodgates in my heart. I began to weep openly as I realized I’d reached the end of my road. “Underneath it all, where do you go from here?” I got chills all over my body, even though it was high summer.
I then found a video of the band on a CBS morning show. When the host introduced the band, I wondered why I hadn’t heard of them before. As they initiated their set, the cameras pulled back, and I noticed a flag draped over the keyboard that Isaac was playing on. How strange, I thought, it’s that very same lion. It was an unmistakable sign. However, like a traveler on a path in the night, I didn’t know what I was heading towards and could only see the road as it appeared from the dark.
Something is occurring in this moment, which is very sacred. Rain mists, sunshine, a sunshower and the scent of wet wood. I am opened. I am awakened. I met the most amazing special soul this morning.
On the morning of August 15th 2011, I pulled on my black jodhpurs, a denim shirt, and tied a bandanna around my neck. I was about to meet Isaac for the first time at the Housing Works Book Cafe. I got on my rickety bike and headed towards Crosby Street. I arrived earlier than I imagined, so I went into the store to leaf through old books. I knew I would know when he got there. Like clockwork, my gaze reached the door just as Isaac’s smiling face appeared within it. His eyes met mine like a tiger through the foliage. I looked away to return the book while he walked towards me, feeling shy, shifted, and ready.
“Hi,” I said. Isaac put his bag down without taking his gaze from mine. He put out his hand, which I shook before greeting him with a kiss on both cheeks in the French style. This new creature felt different to me, and yet I was hugely receptive to his leadership. He moved in a particular way, which I found fascinating. He wore boots, and a leather hat, had cotton bracelets and necklaces, various talismans looped around his wrists and neck.
“Do you want a flat white?” I watched him order, noticed how tall he was. I told him I’d been listening to his band’s music, how much Underneath It All had moved me, and we chatted formally about our hometowns whilst the barista made coffee.
As the next three hours sped by, I felt myself begin to emerge from my hiding place. Isaac was waking me up. He showed me his friend Joseph Peter’s Book of Happiness, a large leather bound book I had trouble wrestling with, it was so large. He presented the curlicue notes he’d written on the Musical Cosmology, many decorated with coffee and candle wax. He spoke of angels and spirit guides, of sweat lodges and sacred geometry. Most magically, his eyes saw me; they saw who I was. Time and space warped, and we were held in a field of energy in which anything and everything could be illuminated.
“It was great to meet you,” I said as I unlocked my bike. He stood in the street as I navigated the curb. I threw my arms wide to say goodbye with a hug. As our chests met, I felt a phenomenal wave of warmth, an exchange of energy that quaked through my every cell. The sky started to open up as I rode home, and I wondered what had just happened. Isaac said he watched me ride away until he couldn’t see me anymore.
Coming back to the apartment, I was split in two. Part of me held Isaac’s gifts close, and stowed them safely on my desk. Part of me wondered what was happening and how to navigate it. A sun shower began, and as I watched the clouds, I wrote to Isaac, thanking him for an incredible meeting. “And look at the sky! Something is happening,” I wrote.
“I love it when there are mixed emotions in the sky,” he wrote back.
“They say in Africa that when there is a sun shower, the leopards are getting married,” I responded.
“My whole being is rejoicing,” he replied.
The rain and the sun intersect and I feel blessed, blown open, the great doors banging wide – I want to share everything, explain everything, fly with whimsy and intuition. I am marveled by this life, this reality. He who laughs: The philosopher, the romantic. What now, what now? I can hardly ask myself. (From my journal that day.)
I sat on the balcony and wrote in the sun shower. Unfortunately, I was still in a relationship, though it had long been over. The trouble was, I’d been acting like the birds in Parisian markets, flying back into the cage whenever I was let go. This time, however, I knew that my witchcraft had somehow worked, that I had called something in, and that it was not symbiotic with my current life. Something had to go. I took a train to visit my friend in the Hamptons and wrote furiously the whole way. I wrote late into the night and first thing in the morning. I thanked my guides and whatever powers that be for the incredible being that was Isaac now beginning to emerge in my life. I thanked them profusely.
By the end of that week, Isaac and I were writing daily (was it hourly?) sharing everything we could. On the first day, I sent him music. On the second day, we wrote a song together. He told me I’d been dancing in his third eye “like an ancient ibis in some far out costume.” On the third day, I sat with the cicadas and the rain, and told Isaac I needed to learn to fly, and could he please send me courage. On the fourth day, I sat with the sun and the sage and the sound of my friend chanting, and Isaac told me they had been booked to play a show in Montauk.
I felt my chest radiating with energy. Science shows that the electrical field of the heart is about 60 times greater than the electrical activity generated by the brain, so by the time Isaac traveled out onto Long Island with his brother Thorald and partner Ashley, I was vibrating. I could hardly look Isaac in the eye without a massive grin filling my face. We drove to the beach, playing the song we’d just written on the stereo with the windows down. When we got to the ocean, Thorald flapped his wings and flew to the water, with Ashley laughing behind him. As we walked down the boardwalk, Isaac and I took our shoes off and with a gentle hand in the small of my back he had me flying, too.
That night, I watched Isaac sing with a freedom and joy that opened my heart. Later we sat on the edge of a bank of sweet grass and told the Universe we were ready. We lay in a hammock at my friends’ house and I wore Isaac’s coat embroidered with tiny red and white crosses on the sleeves. Our bodies were warm together and I knew I was home at last, in amongst dark trees and the high blue sky, studded with the white ash of star shine.
That weekend, I left my old apartment and the man who didn’t want me to go. I had courage. A week later, Isaac took me to the countryside in Pennsylvania where his brother lives and we decided we would live there too. I had faith. A week later, I moved into Joseph Peter’s ‘Happiness Factory.’ I had joy. A week later, we looked at houses in Pennsylvania. I had trust. A week later, we spoke about rings and the sacred nature of the circle. I had love. A few days later, we bought rings set with gemstones from an Israeli man on Prince Street. That day, we were engaged.
I remember how he looked at me across the mossy fallen log in Montauk, when we sat in the cove and glen alone, in amongst the angels and fallen stars. I fell in, found love, and I made my home there. The days are now figured around how best to be together, how to enjoy life in all its fullness; the luxury of the sun and beach in January, of breakfasts together, of laying deeply in each others embrace, or driving home to our house on the river at night.
Isaac and I were married on January 7th 2012, under a full wolf moon in Pennsylvania. Yoko Ono once wrote, “A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is a reality.” This is the story of how three lions, some witchcraft, and an extraordinary Australian made my dreams come true. This is a true love story.