“If you look long enough and hard enough, you can find things to dislike about almost anyone. But you’d be looking for the wrong things. Instead, you ought to be looking for those shreds of likability hidden among the overgrowth of noxious weeds.”

That’s what Ophira Strunk said to me before she boarded a small freighter in Baltimore Harbor, bound for Norway. Ophira had an unhealthy attraction to Norway. At least that’s what I thought at the time. In fact, her attraction was not to Norway but to Stefan Ruud, a married man who had just left his wife, Elise, and son, Kennet. I learned later that Stefan, an oceanographer by training and a writer-philosopher by avocation, did not really expect Ophira to come to him. But he wished she would. He wished so hard she would that he took the extraordinary risk of leaving his family in anticipation of Ophira’s arrival. I, of course, felt deeply wounded when Ophira told me later she had left me for a married man she’d never actually talked to before she disembarked from the freighter in Stavanger. Later, though, when I learned more about what drove the two of them away from their respective spouses and toward one another, I was touched that they took risks the rest of us would never dream of taking.

Ophira was not my wife. Not formally or officially. We’d lived together as if we were married since 1975, though, so perhaps the state would recognize us as having a common-law relationship. When she told me she wanted to travel, alone, to Norway on a freighter, I tried to dissuade her from such an odd undertaking. She would have none of it, though. She was determined that she would take the trip, as she told me, “to explore parts of me I did not even know where there until just recently.”

Weaving. That’s what I may be doing. I may be weaving strips of story, thread by thread, into a tapestry. Or whole cloth. Or a tangle so utterly chaotic that it will become suitable for nothing but stuffing pillows.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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