Rose Rouse writes in The Guardian about her relationship with Asanga, 21 March 2015
For many couples, it would be hell. For us, it’s heaven. I live in Harlesden, which is truly nitty-gritty and inspiringly diverse London and my partner lives in remote, rural north Wales. The drive to see one another takes five hours at least. We see each other every few weeks – sometimes, two, three or four.
How can this arrangement work? How can it be our idea of the perfect living apart together relationship? Well, it does and it can. For a start, we both love our own lives as well as sharing each other’s.
I was a single mother for 19 years before I met Asanga. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have relationships, but no one moved in. After the anguish of not having met a new live-in partner, came the post-50 plateau of fabulous women friends, explorations into the poetry world plus a four-year project that became a book, consisting of me walking and talking in my neighbourhood to all sorts of local characters – from Louis Theroux to my newsagent, who sells boxing gloves that are hand-sewn in the family’s Pakistani factory. Not to mention the regular tennis games up the road in my marvellously ramshackle local club. I wasn’t just busy, I was contented. But I still harboured longings to meet a man.
As for Asanga – it’s a name he was given in the 70s by his spiritual guru, Osho, and, funnily enough, it comes from the Sanskrit meaning blissfully alone – he had been married for 30 years.
His wife died four years ago and, following the grief, new beginnings and openings gradually came. He’d had constant partners for the last 45 years, now was the time to learn to live alone. To fully inhabit his name. To experiment with being himself in a different way on his 15 acres of land and in his stone farmhouse.
Asanga is not the sort of man to have stayed out of a serious relationship for very long, but it’s interesting that he chose me who lives so far away.
We met on a personal development course in 2012 – the immersive and challenging seven-day Path of Love, which takes place twice a year in Wales – where I was a participant and he was one of the volunteering staff. I’d decided that I needed to invoke a partner in a stronger way so I put myself in a position of vulnerability, where I had the opportunity to be witnessed in all the shame I felt about not managing to find a good man.
We didn’t get together immediately.
A few months later, he invited me to north Wales. I decided that I needed to take a risk. We flirted, we recounted our madcap sex lives in an exulted and enhanced manner. I managed to tell him – we were sleeping in different rooms, he’d come in with tea and milk in an obviously special, flowery jug and was sitting in bed with me – that if he wanted to have sex with me, one of the rules would be not having sex with anyone else.
I also let rip with the information that if he needed someone to come up to Wales and look after him (he does have a major rock climbing injury), then that wasn’t me. I also took in how comfortable I felt where he lived – the house itself, his wild paintings of plants and trees, the general feeling of warmth and friendly disarray. Don’t even get me started on the joys of the emptiness within his cupboards. Mine were giddily overstuffed and chaotic; his were spacious and hardly occupied. This was so significant that I even wrote a poem about them called The Meaning of Space.
Not long afterwards, he asked me to be his tantric goddess. I over-hastily agreed and spent the next few months backtracking. I had a lot of what-it’s-like-to-be-with-someone anxiety to get through first. But we slowly got into the long-distance rhythm and the delights of our special meetings. The ebb and flow of having to adjust to each other afresh and the thrill of newness each time. We’re both intensity junkies – well, I like to think I’m a recovering one – and this fulfils that romantic ideal. We also both have grown-up children so we don’t have the added complications of hands-on parenting.
We arrive at each other’s home bearing tasty morsels – Asanga is a dab hand at soups, casseroles, bread-making and is Mr Chutney himself; I’m more of a quiche and mango woman – and gifts, mainly plants or flowers. He’s a rose man, and is wont to arrive with a bunch of deep red roses; I’ve arrived with a cala lily and planted an alpine in a pretty china teacup for him. Last time, I took him a pink hyacinth growing in a glass container so that he can smell its heady perfume while he’s cooking.
The plants and flowers are a way of weaving each other into each other’s lives. I enjoy imagining him in the kitchen accompanied by my gifts, or laying on the candlewick bedspread from a clear out at my mother’s. We email and text each other with the fabric of our daily lives, and then we spend four days together luxuriating in each other’s company. In London we go to art galleries, dance 5Rhythms, Gabrielle Roth’s movement meditation, and do social stuff. In Wales we snuggle on the sofa in front of an open fire, wander along Criccieth beach collecting driftwood in the gloaming, then concoct a meal from his home-grown vegetables.
There’s another reason why I think this mixture of urban and rural works so well for us. I’m from a village in West Yorkshire but came to London more than 30 years ago, and in fact my father was from Tooting; Asanga is from Manor Park in east London but decided after his commune days to live in north Wales on the edge of Snowdonia because he was an ambitious mountaineer. Because of our pasts, we both love the polarities. Somehow we can have a life that is richer by being together in this way.
There’s something about the intensity of parting and then coming together again that acts as an enduring attraction. Differences that so often die in long-term relationships are kept alive by the separation. We have our own activities – I have a women’s group and writing, he has his vegetable garden and all those tantra books – that nurture our inner lives so that we are truly ready for our next meeting. We still dress up for each other – did I mention our mutual proclivity for flamboyance? On Valentine’s Day this year, I wore the electric blue silk dress and he wore the brown wool suit that we had made in Rajasthan last year.
Costa Rica is next on our list – that’s a whole spectacularly special month together. And I intend to buy the right flora and fauna books for it. My man is an adventurer and so am I. But adventurers with a sense of wanting to know what the name of that plant or bird is …
• A London Safari – Walking Adventures In NW10, by Rose Rouse, is published by Amberley, £9.99, amberleybooks.com
Submitted by Mega
Prem Samveta: A tribute from Asanga