Most anything worth keeping is worth working for. Maybe this is why my Fellow Man and I got married on Labor Day.
It has become a running joke since then. On our anniversary, we are usually slammed with the various labors of the life we choose to live. There are about a dozen miscellaneous food preservation projects to do, fall plantings to tend, butternuts to harvest, and the homeschool year beginning, before we get on with getting the sweet potatoes dug and the garlic planted and mulched. It’s a great time of year, but not an easy time to stop and have a party.
But this year was our tenth anniversary, and we couldn’t let it go by without some kind of celebration. We managed a date, and watched the sun pink up the clouds on the Cookeville horizon over a sushi dinner where we reminded each other not to skimp or worry about the budget. We’re celebrating, for heaven’s sake.
And I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reflecting on our shared journey and what it means to me. There is love, and basic goodness, and fun here, but the feeling I get most when I think back on the package of our ten years of life together so far is that of stability. I feel grounded.
And I certainly wasn’t always that way.
In fact, I was flying by the seat of my pants.
Some friends have told me that they didn’t perceive my years of travel that way at all. From the outside, where they stood, it looked like I set my sights on something and went out and achieved it.
But you know, it feels different from the inside.
I did want to travel, it’s true. And I lived it, from one little temp job to the next, scooting around metropolitan America, saving money for the next leap over the big pond.
But there was something else going on, too.
I did know what I wanted. I wanted pretty much what I’ve got right now. A simple life with a lot of trees, plenty of books, and too much food. I knew that for a long time, and I knew I did not want to live this dream alone. When I was very young, I was terrified to settle down, and so skipped out on a couple of nice offers that just didn’t feel right. As I aged a little (just a little), I began to discern that it was going to take some kind of interesting person to share this vision, and though I had a fair share of fun romances, it was clear that those fascinating, intelligent, exciting boys and men did not share my vision. They might have been willing to make some adjustments to their personal vision for the sake of mine, but we were not coordinated. Sometimes, something close, but always there was a different angle that didn’t fit. After awhile of observing that trend, I just found it in my best interest to keep moving.
I moved with purpose. I moved in ways I believed were good. And I moved because I had no idea what the partnership I needed looked like, or where I would find it. Values, and purpose, were in place, but there was no stability. I was floating, ungrounded.
Sometimes I wasn’t sure it would happen at all. Maybe I was on the wrong track. Maybe I missed the boat altogether. Maybe I DID have to make a homestead alone. But I didn’t really believe that, so I kept coming home between travels and checking in, watching my friends settle into their homesteads and start families. Each family, each home, its own patchwork creation. I believed in that way of living. I just didn’t know what shape it would take for my own life.
I didn’t know until I met Paul. We met in Utah and made an impression on each other. Even before I went to Maui, I had an inkling that this was not an ordinary romance. There was something else afoot. Of course, there was romance, too. It’s hard not to have a romantic time when you have a sweetheart in Maui. But Paul and I functioned together at a higher level than I had experienced before. We could work together.
Once on Maui, I began to bring home big bags of fresh greens from the local farm where I volunteered, and the gears shifted. Before the produce arrived, he knew I was into farming and gardening, enough so to carry a case of canned tomatoes and Steiner’s Agriculture Course all the way from Tennessee to Maui (the tomatoes were very heavy). Enough to seek out a farm to work on, as soon as possible. But it was the quality of the food that changed his perspective. Soon he was coming to the farm with me, and studying farming and gardening of his own accord. He began to make compost from our food scraps, meticulously stirring and moving them from bucket to bucket, turning out an amazingly nice batches, five gallons at a time. I could see he was hooked, not just on me, but on the vision, the action, the reality of good food, good work, and the good life created by our combined efforts.
From a shared vision, a shared foundation was established. I began to feel that our disagreements didn’t matter so much. We didn’t have to like the same music, art, or literature, or agree about what color the wall should be. We shared a deeper dedication, to each other and a life we believed in sharing.
That dedication has carried us these years. As we have lived and worked together, we have firmed the foundation between us, where we build our lives. Our shared dedication has carried us up to places neither of us has ever gone. Into that messy, anxiety-ridden, intense, beautiful place called parenthood, for example. Through mortgage payments, deaths in the family, trips to the ER, big works and small works. The foundation is firm, stable. I love the life we’ve created, and the way we are able to raise our children, in the fields and the trees, in the living world, in work and play, all together. Wherever we are, our foundation supports us. And the love grows from that ground.
That grounding was what I needed. I didn’t know that before. I only knew what I wanted.
I tend to quote ancient sages of foreign origins here, but this time, I’m finding context in the good old Rolling Stones.
“You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need.”
Not everyone needs or wants what we have. Not every couple wants to live and work together, all day, every day. You might need romance, or financial security, or to go to the same church. Or you might need someone who is completely different from you in almost every way.
But if you try sometimes, you might look at your partner and see, exactly what you need.
I’m so grateful that I do.