Perhaps you’re familiar with the Gabriel Garcia Márquez quote “All human beings have three lives: public, private and secret.” And if that line resonates, perhaps you also have observed what it leaves unsaid—that the secret life is often an energy source for the other two.

I didn’t start seeing Colette at her dungeon in order to gather inspiration for the novel I was writing or to begin composing and singing songs as a middle-aged man with no background in music. I didn’t let myself be tied up and flogged for the confidence it transferred to my public speaking. The ideas that flooded into my laptop for film scripts and live performance pieces and bizarre comic strips after our friendship grew deeper were not my original hopes for that friendship. My original hopes were more basic than that. But all those things did result from the years I spent visiting Colette in secret and I understand now they were the lasting fruits of the time we spent together.

Here is a secret about your secret with Colette—whatever you think you’re doing with her, what you’re really doing is shape shifting into the centaur (or songbird) your personal mythology wants you to be. What Colette offers is a place in her story so that you can be set loose to author yours. In that sense she’s like those stewards of the forest who rescue wild creatures wounded by civilization and nurse them back to health so they can function in the wild. Even before the pandemic it had been a long time since I visited Colette in her dungeon, but the impact of our secret is with me still in the books and songs and games we made together and in my ongoing ability to function in the wild.