O Lord, lately, my preadolescent courage has kicked in. OMG, I’m so glad You watch over all Your children — even clueless ones who stand under creaky trees and those who take pictures (and also take out secret life insurance policies on their spouses?).
Father, thank You for interior decorators, for those who beautify so many inside spaces for us. But, OMG, how thankful I am that You are the Master Exterior Decorator — and You do it all for free!
It was the best of times. Set in the worst of times.
Amid COVID restrictions, how could we celebrate 46 years of wedded stress — er, bliss?
Normally, I offer suggestions way beyond our first anniversary, when Hubby’s parents paid for dinner at the Wagon Wheel Restaurant. Now, we pay for our own celebratory meals, sometimes in restaurants with daunting silverware and equally daunting prices. We no longer limit trips to exotic locales like Wabash, Indiana. Once, we even splurged on Hawaii.
But now, what to do?
Hubby enthused, “Let’s take a hike.”
But we hike so much, Hubby’s Fitbit thingy is exhausted.
“It’s cold,” I whined. Snuggling and drinking hot chocolate sounded saner.
“But I want to play in the snow.”
Snow? Okay! I donned cold-weather gear.
In a nearby forest, verdant pines and leafless oaks looked equally elegant. Outlined in white, scraggly weeds and thorny bushes proclaimed their Creator’s redemption. Though seemingly dormant, the forest teemed with animal tracks — with life.
Our decades together rested on us, light and joyous as snow.
It was the best of times.
Temperatures rose the next day, when we hiked at a nearly deserted park. Trees, having lost magical white clothing, shivered. We plowed through dark, sticky mud, attractive only when I imagined we were adventuring through brownie batter.
Soon, we navigated puddles, then streams flowing across trails. Images of Israelites crossing the Red Sea flooded my brain. Biblical thoughts, at least — more biblical than some eddying in my mind.
At a bison pen, big, shaggy animals barely blinked at our presence.
Bored bison are so romantic. Especially their smell.
Water inspires swoon-moon-June feelings, even in January. But the gray, half-frozen lake resembled an old black-and-white TV screen.
Skinny-dipping? For polar bears only.
Hubby asked, “Want to kayak?”
“Not enough ice and water for you on this trail?” I queried.
Fortunately, he was only half-serious. But he related how he and fellow Boy Scouts, during their winter paddle, chewed gum to mend their busted canoe.
“We had fun,” he insisted.
Despite challenges, we’d enjoyed our second hike, too. Together.
On January 4, 1975, I wouldn’t have anticipated fun on a mud hike. Then, we were all about storybook moments, white and sparkly like my wedding gown.
We still relive those moments, as on that incredible, snowy hike.
Still, mud-hike marriage moments happen, even in Hawaii. On a tropical trail, Hubby extracted me from sucky mud that stained us orange.
Thank God, we haven’t told each other to take a hike. Instead, we’ve taken a lifelong hike together, including the best of times and the worst of times.
We wouldn’t have it any other way.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What are magical and mud-hike moments in your marriage?
Why do I love trees? Maybe because I was born where a tree flourishes on the town’s courthouse clock tower. No, I am not making that up. The town fathers of Greensburg, Indiana, keep the mulberry trimmed, but they can’t bring themselves to remove it.
I also come from a long line of tree huggers who celebrated them when “green” was only a color. Not that I loved my parents’ endless Tree Tours. We lived where poplars, maples and beeches zigzagged cornfields’ edges. So why take everlasting Sunday afternoon drives, incarcerated with siblings, just to look at trees? My parents oohed and aahed about spring dogwoods and redbuds as if at a fireworks display. Dad bought us icy cold bottles of Coca Cola — if we spilled a minimum of blood during back seat battles.
A contractor, Dad avoided tree removal. Rather than chop down a dogwood, he constructed our house’s wooden deck around it. Friends chuckled, not realizing he was setting a major landscaping trend — a few decades early.
I didn’t realize I’d absorbed my parents’ tree fanaticism until we moved to the Oregon desert. Tawny hills surrounding our town looked indecent, bare except for scrubby little pines. Our Midwestern family wondered if we would die of tree starvation. My parents nurtured fast-growing pin oaks like newborns. But I left for college, so they couldn’t grow fast enough for me.
What a relief to return to Indiana University’s wooded campus that exploded into a thousand bouquets every spring! My husband and I later lived in married student housing on aptly named Redbud Hill (aka Roach Hill, but we tried to think positive).
Later, in our house’s backyard, a crabapple’s rosy blossom clouds celebrated our younger daughter’s birthday.
Every spring, I visited a gracious, aunt-like apple tree on our block who, dressed in her fragrant, flowery Sunday best, waved whenever she saw me.
One day, she vanished! I circled the area, hoping by some magic she would emerge among new house studs.
“You expected somebody to build his house around a tree?” Hubby tried to delete his thankfulness that I hadn’t known about Aunt Apple’s removal beforehand. He wouldn’t have relished dragging me away from bulldozers.
I can’t rescue every tree that takes a fall. But this tree hugger can’t help growing grouchy, because it takes even God decades to grow a tree.
Baby trees now flourishing outside my window are, as the biblical psalmist says, clapping their hands at my speech. Thank you, thank you.
Hey, I clap with them. Because the applause belongs to the God of green, without whom none of my forest friends would be possible.
He’s kind of a tree hugger, too.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite springtime tree?