I’m not sure exactly what I was thinking in planning a mini-vacation right on the heels of getting back from our California adventure! Post-vacation-survival euphoria may have played a part, but the main reason is that today is our fifteenth anniversary and it felt like we really needed to do something for it. Fifteen years is a pretty big deal! On our fifth anniversary, when I was pregnant with our first baby, we took a mini vacation to Elephant Rocks State Park. We haven’t been back since then. So, it seemed fitting to return, ten years later, with our three children in tow this time! We went to Johnson’s Shut-Ins first, which I’d never been to, and then went to Elephant Rocks the next day. We stayed at Arcadia Academy, a restored former boarding school (and once Civil War hospital) originally built in the 1800’s. I splurged and rented a “third floor apartment,” which was still comparably priced to any regular hotel room, but had two bedrooms and a kitchen/living room (with another bed and a pull-out sofa). I’ve wanted to stay there ever since we walked around the grounds on our last visit ten years ago. On that trip we went in and smelled cinnamon rolls cooking and wished we hadn’t reserved a B & B further down the road! So, on this trip we did it right :)
This was a pretty easy, low-key, quick little vacation and while I groaned and moaned about what was I thinking, I don’t have any regrets about going. All of the kids have mild colds and Alaina had a fever the day we left, which was unfortunate. Johnson Shut-Ins was pretty crazy/felt kind of dangerous with a toddler. While we had a really good time there overall, as I staggered and slipped in chest-deep water carrying both Alaina and my little purse (dumb!!! But, I needed somewhere to put my keys and my camera!), it reminded me a lot of the bad dreams I have about water sometimes. The Shut-Ins are kind of a “natural water park” formed by large slabs and chunks of volcanic rock that are resistant to erosion. Very cool looking and fun to play in too. Lann referred to it as: “Treacherous Adventure” and then “Crystal Insanity” when we started finding cool agates in the water. We thought perhaps they’d get even more visitors if they rebranded the park using these terms…
Elephant Rocks is a “tor”—a rocky granite peak composed of large, round boulders that kind of look like massive elephants. Alaina kept spotting “baby elephants” and also obsessing about when we were going to get to, “Batman’s Squeezer” (really a narrow rock passageway called “Fat Man’s Squeeze”).
I wanted to find pictures from our fifth anniversary trip to compare, but apparently the only pictures we have from that visit were from the dark ages of pre-digital cameras. So, just some pictures from our current, fifteen year anniversary trip instead!
When we got home, Alaina tripped on a ball and fell backwards on our hard, concrete floor (though on the living room section where there is carpet). It made the most horrible “head-cracking” sound that I have ever heard (and I’ve had two boys fall on this floor as well!). She vomited copiously immediately afterwards and we were all freaked out, but then she stopped and seemed “normal,” so we’re just keeping a close eye on her tonight!
I don’t have a lot of marriage thoughts to share specifically this year. I have the same thoughts I already shared last year:
I personally don’t experience my marriage as being hard work or difficult. Though I do understand that this is not everyone’s experience, I have a lot of difficulty understanding or appreciating comments that I see repeated in various Facebook-type locations that come from the, “love is a choice that you make every day” angle. Really?!?! I have trouble getting on board with that, because it sounds like if you don’t make the “love” choice, the alternative is just naturally disliking or not enjoying your spouse? My love for my husband feels similar to the love I feel for my children—it is a constant, it is not choice based. It is deep, abiding, and embedded. It doesn’t feel optional, which is what the word “choice” makes it sound like to me. If you choose to love your family, you can also choose not to love them on a daily basis. This doesn’t reflect my own experience in my relationship or my mothering.
I read a similar article along this “daily choice” line in another blog post just this week (written by someone on their first anniversary) and once again I thought the same. Loving Mark is not a “choice” for me, it simply is.
And, as we do every year, we reflected on that longer-and-longer ago Rainy Wedding day:
…But the day hung like an iron bell
tolling rain, rain, rain
all down the metalled sky.
The stones stood dark and forbidding
as thunder upon the earth,
and all our tinseled plans
for a bright and delicate day
were washed away in gray cascades
above and below us.
Yet, there was another kind of beauty there:
Small boys slid like silver minnows
in that heavy green light between the trees.
Garlanded little girls yearned
toward the coming of the bride,
tugged at their mothers’ hands,
pulled at their mothers’ hearts
with the brevity of their innocence.
Family and friends gathered
and sheltering, made a chapel
of their bodies and faces and wishes.
There, in the unplanned darkness,
was unlooked for wonder,
joy beyond ornament,
song beyond instruments.
At last the bride came and like a white flame
blazed among her maidens,
in brilliance more stern and starlike
and vastly more magnificent
than the ribbons and confections
we had planned for that day…