Ali always figured she'd marry the man of her dreams, or no one at all. If she had to bet money, she would've bet on the latter. She can be stubborn that way.
When she was a little girl, she dug her toes into the wet, gritty sand of the beach and listened to the ocean tell its stories to the wind. She sat so still on the side of the mountain and watched the hawks swerve and glide, tugging their shadows along the bumpy mottled-green canopy of trees far below. She was the daughter of her mother, who believed that women could do whatever they wanted when they grew up (as long as they obeyed their mothers for now). And she was the daughter of her father, who believed that God loves, and people ought to do likewise (and that saying even this much was saying a lot). When she dreamed, it was always of birds, or angels, or dancing over the hills, or music thrumming, or sometimes of tall dry grass hiding childhood bunnies and moo-cows
She never dreamt, like perhaps many little girls do (or so she believed), of wedding bells, or long white veils, or chapel aisles, or lace-netted gowns with matching high-heeled shoes. But she dreamt nonetheless, and she dreamt wide and wild, and what she dreamt about most was falling in love.
Then one night, she dreamt about the beach. She had been a long time alone by then, and she was older than she looked, and worn out from being poor and strange and crazy with devotion to poetry in a messy-beautiful world. And she dreamt again of the rough sand between her toes, and her family gathered laughing and calling above the breeze, and a man with rocking sea-deep eyes whose hair shook slow in curls like bladderwrack drifting in the turning currents of the tide. And she said, dreaming, "It has been a long time since I saw the ocean," by which she meant, It has been a long time since I stood on the threshold of coming home. And in the dream, he said, "Just a little longer," by which he meant, it turned out, We do not know it yet, and though this is just a dream, we are already in love.
Much of this is true. Some of it even Ali still finds hard to believe. The world is modern and quick and noisy and cynical and stark, and there seems to be little room left in it for romance and destiny and unabashed wondering joy. But if her father can believe in love, and her mother can believe in freedom, then maybe it isn't so impossible to believe in things like dreams, and magic, and maybe even marriage. With the winds just right, with the air salty and damp on her lips, maybe she can find that threshold where the three realms meet. Maybe she can find that edge where dreaming washes up the shore of the waking world. And if her eyes are sharp and the sun is bright, maybe she'll know a treasure, winking at her in a tangle of smooth driftwood, when she sees one.
daughter of Diane and Charlie
Education: graduated valedictorian of her college class from Ursinus College, 2005, with a B.A. and interdepartmental distinguished honors in Comparative Religious Studies (with a minor in creative writing and a concentration in political philosophy); after a dissatisfying semester of graduate school, the past few years she's spent perfecting her rough-but-friendly exterior in the school of hard knocks (aka waiting tables at a family restaurant) while polishing her soft-and-pulpy interior through her spiritual studies with the Ancient Order of Druids in America and other Druidic and Pagan folks; she may be returning to graduate school in a few years to earn a PhD in environmental ethics and the study of nature-centered religions.... or not
Career: now earns a modest living wage as an independent contractor specializing in English transcription and audio data processing, while on her off days she writes for several online publications as a columnist and book reviewer as well as posting to her own blog and slowly piecing together essays on pacifism, ethics, aesthetics, justice, theology and love into a book manuscript or two
Favorite Childhood Memories: running through the field behind Bucher Elementary, dodging through tufts of floppy onion grass; pumping her legs on the Little People Daycare playground swing-set, singing 80's music at the top of her lungs; playing flashlight tag in the empty, echoing roller rink at Overlook Summer Camp sleep-overs
Favorite Adolescent Memories: giggling with girlfriends over the Backstreet Boys (and winning a karaoke contest by singing the harmonies and knowing all the dance steps); balancing on rickety ladders among old wires and catwalks with the lingering smell of dust burning off theater stage lights; breathing hard and feeling the slick grass under her feet after hitting the final set at the end of a marching band performance
Favorite Memories of Adulthood: joking about Star Wars and arguing about atheism over bad cafeteria food with snarky college friends; attending anti-war protests and peace vigils on campus, holding the white taper candles in their flimsy paper cones; answering the door in a feathery green boa, completely plastered, one Halloween night to find the young police officer in the stairwell trying hard not to laugh (and still discovering green feathers in dusty corners of her apartment years later); trying to sit still in meditation despite dizzying anticipation, knowing Jeff was driving ten hours to meet her in person for the first time...
Favorite Color: blue, of any and all shades but especially the blues of the skies, and the oceans, and the color of woad on pale skin
Favorite Poem: "Keeping Things Whole," by Mark Strand; and more recently, "The Ponds," by Mary Oliver
Favorite Animal: the frog, a symbol of transformation and peace (and pretty awkward-looking and slimy, too!)
Favorite Piece of Furniture: bookshelves, lots of them, in every room
Favorite Holiday: Imbolc (also known as Candlemas, 1 Feb.), the Druidic fire festival celebrating the first tiny flickering flame of spring and new life lit "in the belly" of the earth, a day sacred to Brigid, the Celtic goddess of fire and poetry
Favorite Tea: organic "calming tea" (chamomile, vanilla, licorice) with honey
Favorite Pseudo-Ancient Love Ballad Written by a Fantasy Author in a Made Up Language: "The Lay of Beren and Lúthien," by J.R.R. Tolkein (also the answer to "Favorite Lay")