Most of the time, it feels like we are just caught in the chaos of everyday. Two creatives that married young, trying to make ends’ meet, working underpaid jobs against a mountain of school debt. Before I got married, I had romantic visions of us, starving artists, living in a cheap one bedroom, scrimping by while we worked on our dreams. The vision was right, accurate, but it has rarely felt as romantic as I imagined. I’ve learned that its typical, this early struggle, but it’s easy to get sucked into the madness and feel like we’re straight up failing.
“Matt, are we f*ckups?” like that scene in Away We Go.
And we’ve weathered storms we couldn’t have predicted, ones that wrecked us beyond the “typical” chaos of newlywed, twenty-something life. Marriages close to us that went up in flames. The death of my mother. Job crises. Reminders that we could do everything right, and it would still be hard. Reminders that life is fleeting, and we need to slow down. Reminders that marriage can be the storm, or the safe place.
We went away this weekend. To a place above the rain and storms and chaos of busy life at home, a place far more simple and vast and quiet than here seems right now. Everything downstate was drenched in rain and clouds, but our days in northern Wisconsin dawned bright and crisp, the sun hot and the northerly wind cool. We took a canoe down the Wisconsin river together. We hiked through Nicolet National Forest. We made fires to keep warm and roasted marshmallows, engulfing them in flames, blowing them out, peeling back the blackened sugar to savor the hot, soft center. We buried ourselves beneath blankets in the tent at night and listened to a wolf howl at the moon.
“Whatcha doin’ babe?” I say from behind the camera.
“Settin’ up camp in our new tent,” he says cheerfully. We play along together.
“And where are we and why are we here?!”
“It’s Memorial Day Weekend 2013, and we’re gettin’ outta town in Eagle River, Wisconsin, baby!”
Maybe I hope we won’t be forgotten. Maybe I hope we won’t forget ourselves. This is your husband, 28 years old, look how young he was. Remember that trip, and the eagle we saw on the shoulder of the road?
Our children will find this someday and say, look how much they loved each other. Look at who they were before we knew them.
I am trying to capture time.
On our hike he stopped to take a photo, knees bent, arms poised to hold the camera still. For a moment that world was still. When he was finished he turned and stood straight. We looked down the path together. And just then, a coyote, not twenty feet ahead, sprang through the trees, straight past us, its reddish tail disappearing into the green. I gasped and grabbed his hand, my heart racing. He smiled and gripped it tight. We kept walking.