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Thirteen years ago today, our marriage began. I brought out the big wedding album for the tinies to see us in our wedding finery. Do kids today still have the big official albums? We said our vows long before Pinterest and digital cameras, let alone iPhones with apps. Instead, we have this heavy leather-bound gold-embossed album with nicely staged photos in the stock poses. Here we are lighting a unity candle.  Here we are with our parents. Here we are walking away into a soft-focus background. But you can still see the real us peeking through the tulle and the tuxedo: our enthusiasm, our youth, our joy, our curiosity, our hope. Remember when we were that certain boy and that know-it-all girl?

To celebrate, we went out to the ocean town for supper last night. I shaved my legs, you put on a clean t-shirt, aren’t we getting fancy? We stood on the western shoreline before supper with our arms wrapped around each other, staring into the abyss. Teenagers were just down the shore from us, taking selfies and posing by the water. Thirteen years, we said in a sort of disbelief. I suppose this makes us grown-ups. In some ways, these years have flown by – weren’t we always together? – and in other ways, we see every single day of it, stretched out to the horizon, remember this, remember that, remember the dozens of men and women we have been throughout these years? We’ve gathered shadows and light.

I briefly considered writing an article with thirteen things we have learned in thirteen years of marriage. But who are we kidding? It’s an art, not a science, not the fodder of click-bait on the Internet, not a performance. We’re not reductionists. It’s a mystery, a thin place between the heavens and the earth, made all the better and richer for the secrets we keep for each other and the freedom we enjoy. I could write those damn thirteen-things-we’ve-learned-in-thirteen-years-of-marriage but I’d still be left with an inadequate shrug and the je nais sais quoi that defines all marriages. We’re still that slow dance under-the-stars, finding our steps together, moving further and further out onto the water. Sure, there are practicalities we’ve learned about how we move through life – budgets and bills, babies and basketball practices, sex and laundry, communication and callings. But underneath it all, really, we’re still curious, we’re still saying yes, it’s poetry that makes the prose worth living, and it keeps us a bit wild, hosanna. 

We sat in the cool spring sunset to eat seafood. When you kept refilling my glass, I asked if you were trying to take advantage of me and you waggled your eyebrows at me: “absolutely.” The bottle of Pinot Noir was empty by darkness.

We talked a bit about the years that lay behind us, of course we did, but really we wanted to talk about the years ahead. We talked about our curiosities: what sounds like fun to learn about? If I wanted to follow a rabbit trail of knowledge for a while, where would I begin? I’m curious about seminary, oh, and I think that after this second book is done, I might try to dig out that novel again. You want to geek out about furniture building for a while, oh, and gardening again. You’ve turned into quite the tree hugger. Perhaps you could find a way to use all of your business expertise towards justice and peace-making. I think I’d like to chase a bit of knowledge about the French woman’s aesthetic, quilt-making, fashion, maybe think about a doctoral degree in what? women’s studies? poetry? who knows? oh, and let’s talk again about living abroad. Maybe England? Which part of England? Holidays in France, of course. So much to discuss and dream.

Over these thirteen years, we’ve often felt like we’re running to catch up with the consequences of saying “yes” to God, yes to our best hopes instead of our worst fears. Would we have been so agreeable and fearless if we knew how much courage it would take to abandon our neatly laid out plans for life, let alone how much we would change? I think so. I hope so. Maybe it’s best that we don’t know what waits at the end of the aisle. Let it come, we’ll keep walking together. I like you curious.

We drove home in the moonlight, listening to old songs from back in the 90s when we were dating. I slipped off my shoes and put my feet up on the dash. You kept your hand on my bare thigh, the window was down, we took the the backroads. Your hair is scattered with grey now – it suits you – but that Midwest-boy grin is the same, can’t you drive a bit faster?

Maybe this is the oneness of marriage then: there is no editing for any part of our selves. We bring it all to each other and abide into the end of it all: body soul spirit mind past present future dreams despair curiosities evolutions desire deference silence song weariness wonder.

You’re waking up again, I think. You’re re-imagining life, emerging into yet another new self. I’ve loved every iteration of you. You have always loved those lines from Yeats for us:

But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face

I write now and again about what love looks like for us.

In which "My Practices of Mothering" is now an ebook
In which I am learning to obey the sadness
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  • Oh my Lord. MISSSARAHSTYLESBESSEY you’re going to have me weep up a lung.

    Kupa and I were engaged two years ago yesterday. (We celebrated with mango popsicles at midnight.) And to think, we didn’t even know each other 3 years ago….

    I’m looking forward to the next 12 with this ragamuffin of mine.

  • Happy anniversary to you both! Beautiful words, Sarah.

  • Gorgeous. I think you’ve captured that certain je ne sais quoi after all:) Many blessings to you on your anniversary.

  • This is just beautiful. I love your posts about your marriage…inspires me to, when the time comes, try to create something just as messily, artistically, divinely beautiful. Happy anniversary.

  • Sandy Hay

    OHHHH so beautiful Sarah 🙂

  • I love love love that quote by Yeats. And the ocean, the wine, the drive home with your tree-hugging man? What a delicious read. Well done team Bessey!

  • Oh Sarah, thank you for writing this instead of a list of what you’ve learned.
    It is beautiful, and just the sort of something that this single girl with a hopeful heart finds to be balm for the soul, rather than sandpaper.
    Love to you, dear one, and happiest of anniversaries (until next year).
    Bon Appetit!

  • 36 years and still curious… Happy trails to you, sweet friend.

  • Just beautiful! I love that there is no editing in married life. We bring it all, we change and we stay to the end. Love growing. We’ll be married 35 years the end of this month & we are still changing & emerging 🙂 Love this post!

  • I love this post and this writing so much. I feel this way about writing most of the time: “I briefly considered writing an article with thirteen things we have learned in thirteen years of marriage. But who are we kidding? It’s an art, not a science, not the fodder of click-bait on the Internet, not a performance.”

    Thanks for sharing, for writing, for the encouragement.

    • Patsy McVicars

      Thirteen years – that was the limit of my growing with my man: yet still, so very many years later, I read your post and believe with all my heart ……of the possibilities….the love that evolves as each of you do and as each new life joins the family….it is a dance – all of it

  • Jill

    I love this. I recognized the source of the post title at once. My husband and I recited Yeats’ poem to each other throughout our relationship and on the night of our engagement. When I hear it, I think of us. I named my blog “Pilgrim Soul” as well (www.pilgrimsoul22.blogspot.com), because I love the image it evokes- of travel, of journeying, of life as a quest and a discovery, just as love is. Beautiful tribute to your marriage, Sarah!

  • pastordt

    Lover-ly, in every way. Thank you.

  • Beautiful.

    Let me know if you decide on a doctorate. I look around every few years or so to see if I can find a university that offers a program that is simultaneously rigorous and flexible – but have yet to find the perfect fit.

  • So so beautiful.

  • Jenn

    Such a beautiful description of marriage as life. Thanks for writing this instead of the 13 things…

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  • Alyssa Johnson

    Sarah, if you move to England, let me know so we can be neighbors! My husband and I are considering moving there, too. 🙂