She is, quite simply, the person I admire most in the world.
I met her when she was in her late teens. I had never met such a stunningly gorgeous woman who apparently had no need or inclination to be seen as such. I was instantly infatuated with her and her ways. In the early years of our relationship I remember her as an ocean; deep and mysterious; a world in which it was easy to swim on the surface, but it took resolve and energy to perceive and engage what lay below where the beauty seemed endless.
Over the years we have explored the depths together. She epitomises poise, wisdom and discernment. Always, reliably. She is relentlessly gracious and empathetic, but is intelligent and insightful in navigating the complexity of people's emotions and intentions. I have learned so much from her. She has helped me see and appreciate people's realities and circumstances that would otherwise have been "unknown unknowns" to me. But I have never, ever seen her offer her perspective unless asked to do so. She doesn't give much away, especially with people she doesn't know well. She feels no need to present herself to anyone, she has nothing to prove.
She is un-rushed; there is always time. She knows how to be without doing. If she has restlessness or anxiety, she processes it internally, in her own time, when the circumstances allow her to do it well. I have no recollection of her raising her voice in anger. Ever. Four young kids and a husband who had little appreciation for her challenges ... extraordinary.
More recently I have seen her creativity emerge, expressing itself through photography, language learning, mosaics, cooking and gardening. And although it sounds a tad boring, she is a researcher. She digs deep into information in order to understand; whether it is which camping ground to go to, gardening tips or a chronic disease ... if there is intelligence available she finds and assimilates it.
We have been lucky that our personal journeys have been integrated and aligned. We have cultivated a family and a lifestyle in which we can both be thoroughly ourselves. I know we are not unique in that, but heck I am grateful. And I have a suspicion that her finest hours are yet to come; she is on the threshold of grandmothering.
And so this dignified woman's hair is turning gracefully silver. She has never dyed it, and (except for weddings etc) never wears makeup for that matter. Some might say she has the physical features to get away with it. True, but I also think there is a beauty in the confidence that doesn't need to create an image for the world. She has always been a woman of style, but has been ambivalent to fashion trends. I love that too.
Of course, I am biased and Maria would say, blind. But I don't care, even if my love makes me delusional. There is enough objective truth in my perspective for me to know I'm extraordinarily blessed.
Happy birthday Gorgeous.