A Weekend Away

This weekend Amber and I stole away. It's been some time since we've been alone for any extended duration, and the last year has taken a toll on us, what with Titus' medical issues and all. Some people say that marriage gets easier as you get older; others say it gets more difficult. The way I see it, marriage is the same difficult it's always been. There were challenges in the beginning, there are challenges now, and there will be challenges to come, sure as rain. This being so, we try to get away and recharge every now and then. We asked my mother whether she'd come and give us a break from the chaos that is World Haines. She graciously and mercifully (thankfully) agreed. My mother is a brave woman, perhaps even a saint. My four boys are the sweetest, most gentle walking fire hazards this side of the Rockies.

Amber and I started our weekend with dinner and a movie. The way we see it, every good date starts with a good story. And while on the topic of movies, let me say that we typically avoid overly sentimental romantic comedies that turn love into something just shy of blissful serendipity. So, to kick off our weekend, we watched a brooding film about terrorism and Canadian heroism. Despite the fact that the minutia of the film became cumbersome toward the end, we both left theater emotionally satisfied.

We made our way to a cabin west of town. This was our weekend retreat, our place to work out words, to refresh ourselves.

On Saturday, we visited a bakery with an enormous pastry selection. It boasted one of the best corned beef sandwiches I've had in Arkansas, which is not that high of a standard, really. We split chips and a pickle and sat quietly, not talking about anything in particular. Instead, we enjoyed the conversations of those around us, which some might call "eavesdropping." We prefer to call it "active listening," or "dialogue fodder."

There was a chemistry professor talking about her "official course description." She recounted each and every detail of it--the Roman numerals, the sub-letters, the bullet points. Her friend nodded as if interested, but under the table she was fidgeting with her phone. Frequently the professor would refer to the material as her "OCD," which, given the excruciating effort she expended in describing it, seemed about right.

We visited the downtown strip to explore the antique section. Amber thinks there's nothing more satisfying than looking at other people's old junk, which might be a metaphor for something. In any event, she located a pie safe, which is nothing more than a slender shelf with punched-tin covers over each shelf door. "It's so cute," she said. I told her it was a rickety, and too narrow, and that I don't recall her ever having made a pie. She ignored me, turned to a shelf of trinkets, and said, "oh, look at this Holly Hobby flask." It's amazing the volume of junk we Americans have produced over the years. And if doesn't find it's grave in a landfill, it obviously goes to die in a Prairie Grove's antique shop.

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There was a bear in the front of the store, and it held a shovel. It was neither cute, nor ironic, but I took a picture of it because I am currently writing a story about bears. I use the term "about" very loosely. It might be more appropriate to say that the story "involves" bears, but either way I figured the statue an omen of sorts.

We returned to the cabin for a weekend of writing, music, and dancing. There was no internet or television there, so we were left to our own creative devices. This is never a bad thing.

Amber sat on the couch, worked out her words and preached about half of the book of Romans to me. I like the way she's preaching lately, the way she's owning the teachings of Jesus and Paul's explanations of them. She's starting to fire up, and I wonder where this will take us on our marital journey. Regardless, there is no substitute for a spouse on fire. I do not mention this to her, though, as the full roar of the stone fireplace might skew the context.

I continued to tighten up my manuscript. It is a deathbed novel, which, as depressing as it sounds, has actually been quite uplifting to write. The more I wrestle with the material, the more I have decided that I no longer fear death. There's no point in the fearing of it anyway. That's what faith says. And beside, we are all making our way to the end of days one way or another. I'm learning to embrace that.

The weekend was good, a reminder of why Amber and I like each other so much. It's a tricky covenant, this marriage thing, but it's good covenant. The book says to work out your faith with fear and trembling. Sometimes, I think it'd do us good to work out our covenants in the same way. I couldn't imagine working it out with anyone other than Amber. She is the best part of living, these days.

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