Happy 60th Birthday, Dan Burgoyne

Dan Burgoyne on the Charleston Harbor

On April 18, 1999 I walked into Glenwood Garden Center ten minutes before it opened.  The garden center manager let me walk on through.  He was talktative - forward, really.  But he seemed to know  everything about plants, trees, shrubs and flowers and light and irrigation and landscaping.  At the time ... I was obsessed with gardening. He was obsessed with me.  His forwardness was offensive at times. But I reveled in his knowledge while I discouraged his advances.

That day I spent over $300, and bought two hydrangeas, two lilacs, scores of bedding plants and a Forest Pansy (redbud tree).  We talked a lot about my buying a Blue Atlas Cedar - in fact, he helped me pick one out.  But the cedar costed almost as much as all the merchandise I'd bought that day.

I said I'd be back back to get it.  He said he'd be there, and he'd save it for me.

I went back four or five times in the next few weeks, and he was there to meet me each time .  He would make his advances, trying to take me by the hand or ask me out.  I coldly - almost rudely - shook them off.  But listening to him talk about growing any living thing was intoxicating. He was brilliant, really.

He was so confident in his knowledge.  One day he asked me if I'd like an Alchemilla (he knew all the Latin names) or Lady's Mantle for my Mary Garden. I said it wasn't colorful enough.  Perennials with green or white flowers didn't "pop."  I liked the drama of color - reds, purples, shades of pink and blue.

A moment I never forgot happened right then - in the conversation over the Alchemilla.  Dan Burgoyne took the fuzzy leaves of the Lady's Mantle into his gnarly, giant hands and said, "When you come out into the garden early in the morning, there will be a little drop of dew right in the center of this wide leaf.  It'll sparkle like a diamond.  How can you not find that beautiful?"

Dan at our campsite - Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho - 2006
That was my first moment of vulnerability. It started the weakening process.  I couldn't resist the spiritual connection.

I was falling in love with Dan Burgoyne.

I purchased the Lady's Mantle,  and five months after that April day when we met, Dan and I were married - in that same garden where he talked about dew sparkling like diamonds.  By then I had purchased enough plants to fill my own garden center - including that Blue Atlas Cedar, and Dan had begun to teach me how to recognize stark beauty in what most people pass off as ordinary.

But more importantly, I discovered that happy endings do exist, and that it is possible to find that one perfect person.  One's other half.  One's soul mate. 

I've spent the last thirteen years living our happy ending, and each day brings its own new excitement.  My husband is a paradox -  with a nature that contradicts itself.  Dan Burgoyne knows about construction, iron work, logging, farming, ice fishing (any fishing), dogs, and how to fix just about anything with scraps of junk he has on hand.  He will never wear a pink tie (or shirt).  He will never drive a car with girly trim, consume a pastel colored frozen drink with a straw, or suffer through a chic flick.

Yet Dan can recite E. E. Cummings from memory, can arrange the most delicate flowers, cradle the tiniest infant, cry at movies and make a lady feel like she's the only person in the room.  While Dan is builder, a fixer, a burden carrier, a hunter, and an outdoors-man who will pick up burning logs on the fire with his bare hands; he is also a caretaker, a nurturer, a rescuer, an artist, a spiritualist, a healer and a lover.

How did I get so lucky? 

Dan at Hoare Abbey - Ireland - 1999 (just married)
My Traveling Partner

The second best thing about Dan Burgoyne is that he is a great travel partner.  Since we've been married we've been back to his home-state of Maine many times. But we've also been to Nova Scotia, to Prince Edward Island, to Montana, Idaho, the Dakotas, Charleston, Savannah, Colorado, Truckee CA, Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales.

Our first trip to Ireland and the UK was right after we were married.  I remember hitting Dublin airport at 6 am (really midnight in our time), then hopping a plan to Glasgow, then renting a car and feverishly driving to Oban to get on the car ferry headed for the Isle of Mull.  Final destination was Iona, a small island in the Inner Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland. 

We were welcomed in Iona in the late afternoon. We'd had no sleep for 36 hours.  All I wanted to see was the bed.  We slept until the early morning hours.  Dan woke up about 2 am.  He said he wanted to explore, to go walk up to the Abbey and take in the island while everything was quiet and still.

He asked me if I wanted to go look for the thin places on Iona while the island slept.  I recall muttering something like "I wouldn't get out of this bed if the St. Columba himself was at the Abbey to greet us."

Like the island ... I wanted to sleep.  Dan wanted to take in every moment, every spiritual whisper, every sense of the two worlds being knitted together in a thin place.  But he was happy to go it alone and let me sleep while he explored.  And I was happy to let him go without me... for that adventure.

We travel well together.

Misbehaving at Corcomroe Abbey - the Burren
He makes me laugh!

What endears me most this special man is his ability to make me laugh - every day.  He can't tell a joke, but he can reveal the amusing in the mundane.

Last year in Ireland after being together non-stop for ten straight days I said to him, "You know, we've been with each other constantly for a week, and we haven't had one fight."

He said, "That's right.  We usually have one big one.  'Course, you're probably saving that for the airport."

So true ... we laughed about that.  And then ... we had a fight at the airport.

We don't always recognize the blessings in front of us

I stated earlier in this post that I resisted Dan's forward advances before we were married.  I couldn't see myself with him.  He wasn't my type.

It was my friend, Christine who said to me, "You know, you don't have to marry the guy.  It might be fun to have someone you can go to a movie with ... or talk to ... or be friends with.  You should go out with him - just once, and see if you can be friends."

Christine may not know this, but it was her message in that casual conversation that pushed me to say "yes" to the first date with Dan Burgoyne - which led to my saying yes on the 4th of July when he asked me to marry him - and yes when I publicly committed to stand by him for the rest of our lives at our wedding in Glenwood Gardens.  I've been saying yes to a lifetime of friendship, laughter and constant discovery with my soul mate, travel partner and best friend.  I can't think of a greater life blessing.

So when women say, "I just can't find the right guy" I always say "What are you looking for?" and "What are you avoiding?"  The very thing you subconsciously reject may be the thing that will make you happiest.  Thank goodness I had people in my life who encouraged me to expand my vision, to look again at what I was about to throw away.

I love you, Dan Burgoyne.  Thank you for always taking care of me, for making me laugh and for being a friend.  You turn 60 today.  Remember, that 60 is the new 50 - so we're still young.  I look forward to many adventures to come, and years of celebrating the simple things.

You are my world.