on the nature of love
and hollowed-out trees
In ten days we’ll be married.
In ten days we’ll form our own little family, solidifying the arrangement we’ve kept informally, in good faith, for two years now.
My husband-to-be jokes that he’s marrying me because he adores my dog.
“Can we change the vows? I like, ‘Until Buttercup’s death do us part,’” N. says, a goblin gleam in his eye.
“Gosh, then next time around you can just get yourself a dog and avoid the whole pesky wife business,” I’ll say. Then I poke him in the sternum with a forefinger to drive the point home.
N.’s dad says we should lean into the whole experience; enjoy our wedding day. Granted, he’s the same guy who filed our taxes. Afterward he called to let us know we got a tidy little refund and said, “Congratulations! You’re married in the eyes of the IRS.”
We’re down to formalities now. God knows it’d be asking for trouble, undoing what’s been done in the eyes of the IRS.
Am I scared?
A smidge. Excited, overwhelmingly. A friend described her relationship’s shift after she got married to her live-in boyfriend like this: “Mostly you feel the same, but then you do something like, say, cook dinner. And you think: ‘I’m cooking dinner, and we’re married.’ Or, ‘I’m doing laundry, and we’re married.’”
But the whole thing has me thinking about decisions, about love, about the nature of platitudes. I caught myself saying the other day, “When you know, you know!” And I meant it.
I meant that there was an undergirding sense of stability, of solidity, in the same way that you can walk up to a thick Ponderosa pine, slap its trunk and hear a dense, soft thud. That one’s sturdy. That one’ll last me a while, far as I can tell. A hundred years at least.
It’s miles away from the scooped-out ringing from a smack to a lifeless stump. That’s a sound I’ve heard before and thought—hmm, not a bad place to rest for now. Awfully lovely for birdwatching, for sitting and having a picnic lunch, but will this be here in twenty years? No.
Silviculture analogies aside, it’s tough to crack the nature of love, of our love in particular. I anticipate changes, long journeys, a stressful move or two, broken appliances and plumbing issues, bad hips and even worse hearing. We will endure the hardships and pleasures of the mundane, the stacking of books high enough to hold up the ceiling; my accumulation of objects in triplicate as Nathan leans minimalist. But cohabitation and bodily wear-and-tear are problems minute when compared to the deep contentment I feel when I see N. and the pup, sitting there on the couch together, or N. making us dinner, or lounging on the lawn we’ve grown from seed, the dog basking in the sun and the two of us greasy with sunscreen.
The sources of our bliss won’t always be the same; clouds may shield the sun and spill swimming pools of rain. But I will keep my eyes toward the light, ready to catch glimpses of stray rays.
I can promise to keep choosing him, to keep choosing this, day after day, year after year. We’ve done it for two; we can do it for seventy more.
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