Love And Learn: Gail Sheehy


Gail Sheehy discusses her marriage to Clay Felker, the first editor of "New York" magazine.

We did think about that door every day. It took us two years to find it. The University of California at Berkeley asked Clay to start a magazine center at their Graduate School of Journalism.

It was his next stage: Clay was now a guru, revitalized. Being connected to a great research university on top of the information technology revolution exhilarated both of us. This move had been for Clay's health, but it ended up having enormous benefits for me as well. I found I was eager to live on the edge, hike mountains, take new risks. We moved into a small faculty apartment with one bathroom and rented furniture. It was hell indoors, but the outdoors was magical. Every morning we'd walk through a forest of towering eucalyptus and jog around a track with a view across San Francisco Bay past the Golden Gate to the sapphire of the Pacific. When we found a light-filled house in the Berkeley hills, I took up gardening in a tropical paradise.


That was seven years ago, and once again—our version of the seven-year-itch—we have entered a new stage: the stage of simplifying, of paring down to essentials. But I left room for nostalgia as we packed up our house in the hills, ruminating over photos and letters, and pasting favorites into half-filled albums. Then I began moving furniture around in my dreams. "Will you miss the old place?" a friend asked as she drove me to the condo we had chosen.

"No, I've dreamt myself into the new place over the last month. Do you know where I can find a pear tree?"

Yesterday evening I beckoned my tired husband onto a condo terrace freckled with shade from the potted transplants of a few favorite shrubs and flowers I'd brought with us. We sat down with a glass of wine and surveyed the greensward of a golf course below. Clay pointed out a hummingbird sipping nectar from our new pear tree. We both smiled.

Later that night, I watched him relaxing in his club chair, with his nose in a magazine and the unread delights of another dozen publications lapping around his feet. That was when I knew it had been a move well made, this time for us both, and that we were truly home, again.

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