Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Valentine State of Mind

    “Without You, I wouldn’t be me,” reads the card I lifted from the rack of heart-festooned Valentines. I knew at once that it was the card I’d leave on my husband’s desk before I slipped into bed on Feb 13. Just last month, we marked 49 years of life together—both of us molded and changed by the naïve optimism that set us on this path together.

      We were barely adults when we repeated marriage vows in a ceremony tucked into the break between fall and winter college terms. We’d met a couple of years earlier—a ranch boy from wheat lands of central Oregon and a small town girl from the berry fields of the Willamette Valley. It seems now that we’ve grown up together, sometimes holding hands and sometimes not, through the inevitable course changes of five decades.

      “Without you, I wouldn’t be me.”  I say it now with gratitude, although the course has not always been easy. Change stamped itself emphatically on us as we floundered through the provocative challenges of career corrections, the women’s movement, cross-country moves, investment groups, counseling sessions, personal growth seminars, job changes, childlessness, and self-acceptance.

      When, at 21 years of married life, we felt we were emerging from the most treacherous of those rapids, Dean and I repeated our vows with a new appreciation for the meaning of commitment, acceptance, and support. We rejoiced that our relationship had “come of age.” Even then, we couldn’t see into the distance, to the maturation that has continued to shape us as two individuals, loving, living, and walking together.

      Sometimes I joke that walking has saved our marriage. It’s only partially a joke. At 23 years of marriage, we ventured onto a new path of exploration when we set out to walk 100 miles through England on the Cotswold’s Way. Our first distance walk together. We haven’t looked back. We haven’t stopped walking.

      Whether a local trail or a foreign pilgrimage, these treks seem always to lead us back to one another. We find our footing on paths that bring us into step with each other, restoring the balance and rhythm of our strides. Through rocky stretches, stiff mountain uphills, downpours or flower-filled meadows, we step into the metaphors that reflect our own passage in life.
       So, after he reads his card this morning, I imagine Dean will stand it up at the side of his desk and then turn to the folder that holds preliminary plans for this year’s walking adventure. What could be more appropriate than an exploration of  “The Way”—the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain?

       Without you, I wouldn’t be me. 

Read more about the Camino de Santiago in future blog posts. You won't miss updates if you sign up, above right, for email delivery of A Spirited Life.  Or, "Like" The Spirited Walker Facebook page to get Facebook alerts of new posts. 

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