It’s fully autumn now. We walked the trails again this evening and you could smell the dampness of the leaves and that earthy scent of decay as the summer finishes easing its way into the past, making way for the full splendour of fall. “It smells like Odell Park did, in Fredericton,” I said to John as we walked under the birches arching above our heads. “Like a forest falling asleep,” he nodded as we moved along together.
We’ve been moving along together for a long time. Sometimes one of us stumbles along the way or can’t quite see where to put their feet, but there is never any question that the other will reach out a steadying hand and stop a fall. It’s the part of a marriage that no one else really sees, the intuitive movement toward the other in times of doubt or weakness. It’s a dance, really, this marriage; sometimes it’s a joyous and free-moving celebration of two people gliding in perfect unity, but other times more like the waltz little kids do with parents, where the child steps on the feet of the adult and is guided through the movements until the movements are secure again.
The parts that are hidden from the world are the heart of a love. The times that you reach out a hand in the deep darkness of the early morning and rest it on your partner just to feel their pulse, solid and strong, and their breath calmly rising and falling, and that solidity of their very being reassures you of how fundamentally safe and fortunate you are just to be alive in that moment with them. Timeless ages of shared understanding occur, when you look into their eyes and all you can see is the texture and colour of their irises. You are suddenly completely aware that this in front of you is a wholly unique human whose life overlaps with yours almost inextricably now and you are lost in that universe of their soul and never want to leave.
And then there are the times in every relationship when you stare across that universe and feel completely alone, struck suddenly by the gulf between you that probably always existed but is only now visible and you wonder who they truly are and if you ever really knew them. That’s when walking the trails together suddenly becomes life-critical and the dance must be relearned, the dancers moving gradually closer and closer. Often there are completely new steps and unforeseen turns, if both partners are willing to learn them. That’s the thing that makes a marriage. It’s not the skill of the dancers. That can be acquired. At the heart of a genuine love lies the committment on the part of both parties to continue the dance in spite of temporary disillusionment, to have faith enough in the soul of the dance to learn the new steps even when it seems futile, to fumble their way toward the other person, often blindly and ineptly as best they can until the moves fall into synch and the stumbling abates. When one half stumbles badly or pulls away, it’s the strength and solidity of the other, acting as an anchor, that keeps things stable enough to continue. Knowing that this can be relied upon with absolute certainty is a rare gift.
“Look at the larch trees over there…. they’re just starting to turn yellow,” John’s voice broke my thoughts and drew my attention to the line of trees along the pond. We strolled past wetlands and the golden light of the setting sun cast a glow over the water. “We should keep doing these walks. Even in winter,” he murmured. “They’re important. I think we maybe forgot how important.”
Yes. Yes, they are important. And we will.