The card R painted and gave me for our fifth wedding anniversary
One day, long before I knew R existed in the world, I was expressing to a friend my flabberghastedness at the idea that two people could remain committed, monogamous, for decades upon decades because at the time most of my relationships spanned about three months.
Lately, I've thought a lot about her response: "I asked my grandfather, at his 50th wedding anniversary, how he had managed to stay married to the same woman for so many years, and he said, 'I haven't. She has changed so many times, in so many ways, from the woman I married, and I continually re-discover her.'"
I'm embarrassed to tell you my response, but here it is: "Huh. I wonder how I'll change." The fact that I never gave a smidge of thought to the idea that my partner might also change perhaps speaks to my small-minded self-focus, and possibly the reason for those short-term relationships. But, hey, I didn't have a partner at the time, so I'm cutting myself a little slack on that end.
Karma is wiggling her clever tongue at me. I can almost hear her chanting, "Naah naah nah naah naah," because all these years later I have a husband, and he is not quite the same man I married five years ago.
When R and I fell in love we were city-type dwellers. We enjoyed the occasional hike, but we spent most of our days roaming neighborhoods, evenings at the movie theater. R regularly tried to convince me that he was an outdoorsman, and I would chuckle to myself.
Then we moved to the woods, and R came home. When we first arrived at our little camp on the lake, R pulled a book off of the shelf titled The Homesteader's Guide and told me when he was young he could be bewitched by its secrets for hours. At the time I didn't think much of it, but now I see that moment as a kind of foreshadowing.
Rick left The Woods at 18 after the death of a good friend, joined the Navy and didn't look back for twenty years. It wasn't until his parents mentioned selling the camp that he realized how much it meant to him. There's a line in a Josh Ritter song that goes, "you didn't know that it was home 'til you up and left." I think that line applies to California and me, but for R the opposite is true. He didn't know that The Woods were home 'til he came back.
Now he's re-discovered his inner outdoorsman. In Alameda he spent his alone time studying technology. These days, when he's not running a chainsaw, he watches youtube videos about mushroom hunting, permaculture, cider brewing, chicken and worm farming. He fantasizes about turning all of our land into vegetable gardens and living off the grid.
But every time R mentions buying livestock I think, "Where will we find someone fool enough to care for a llama while we're in Paris?"
That's right. I'm no outdoorswoman. I don't mind getting my hands garden-dirty every once in a while, but if R's gone, the land suffers, and while we currently have no plans to visit Paris, I long for travel, or at least evenings of Indian dinner and a late foreign film. Heck, I long for a date.
At some point during the course of last summer I realized that R's happiness has become one with The Woods, while the thing that keeps me going is, well, going. Suddenly we seemed to have conflicting pursuits of happiness.
Then, I had a complete freak out. Fortunately, my very wise friend Frog Mama told me something she learned about marriage: Not only do two married people change over time, they also have to fall out of love every so often so that they may fall in love all over again. It may sound odd, but I find that idea very comforting because it means that I (we) don't have to remain in a state of wedded bliss at all times. Also, it means that the bliss will return if we welcome it.
And then, to top it all, our UU minister gave a lovely sermon (find it here) about the wrongness of pursuing happiness, about engaging with the world around us and letting happiness, or contentedness, come.
So, I'm engaging with the Unitarian Church and all that it represents (love and acceptance, among other ideals) which goes to show how far my formerly-atheist heart has come, how much I too have changed.
What this means in practice is that I go mushroom hunting with R, and he comes to church with me. While I still check the travel sites for cheap tickets to Europe (and Disneyworld), and I'm terrified that R might one day ask me to eat a foraged mushroom, I'm letting go of the hot pursuit-- and the freak out. Whatever comes, it'll find me here in The Woods.