There was an accent of sunshine for most of the week–days in the 60s, but crisp sunlight, making the warms warmer, the blues bluer, the greens greener. As each week comes and goes, I’m reminded how much closer we are to summer. The weather is more summer-like. The work is feeling more and more like summer. When you work at a camp, summer is this alternate universe you step into, this space-time warp where you leave one life and enter into a different one. I won’t warp back out of it until sometime in September. There’s something a little exciting and a little intimidating each time a change rolls around like this, even if it is an annual one.
There is a pair of bald eagles around Smith Lake that I’ve seen a lot this week. I hear their unmistakable shrill calls and look up to try to pick them out with my eyes. Like a lot of bird species, bald eagles are monogamous, so this pair is probably doing something they’ve done before, building a nest, scouting food, taking time out. One one particular day, I heard them and looked up to see them both land in the top of a small tree right on the lake. Next time I turned, I saw them both on the same branch, looking out on the lake. I imagined they were on some kind of date. Maybe they were in the early stage of the relationship, still feeling each other out, learning each other’s idiosyncrasies, still going out of their way to impress each other. Maybe they were farther along, scratching to take time out to be together, doing the work to honor each other, remember why they care. Maybe they are taking a break from a long day of work, just to settle there together.
Wednesday marked Allyson’s and my 9th anniversary. With us being married just shy of a decade, the numbers indicate that we’ve been together for a while–we’ve outlasted an average marriage statistically speaking. I still feel a freshness to this union and that we are still in a process of discovery with each other. We have certainly become comfortable with each other the way I think one should with a spouse. But, I still have this great feeling that there is much left to build and experience together as a couple. To me, we both still feel like young spirits, and our marriage does too–not an immature one, mind you–just a youthful one. I think about us just after we were married and compare that to us now. Much has happened, and we’ve both worked and changed to grow the relationship, to love and honor each other the way we promised. Still, there are many things that feel very much the same. I know this is getting into cliched territory similar to what any spouse might say about another spouse if he/she is in a good mood towards the other.
Still, I feel like Allyson and I are building something special. I think about what I’ve learned in the marriage and what I’ve given to my wife, and it feels like something unique. I think every couple really needs to feel that way. We are probably not all that unique. There are probably many compromises, revelations, and sacrifices that are no different than another couple. But, I think believing we are a part of something extraordinary, pushes us towards constructing something that truly is. You definitely can’t get carried away to some sort of arrogance. But, I view Allyson to be gifted in so many areas. A marriage with her done right would have to be some sort of gift too, right?
We spent the evening in Cannon Beach, having dinner at Sweet Basil’s Cafe, a low key organic restaurant tucked away in a grassy alley just past the busy, touristy part of of the town. We had an appetizer of thinly sliced meats, bruschetta, and an olive tapenade that reminded us both of the time we spent together in Italy. We split the Pork Shank Osso Buco, and it was plenty for the two of us. From there we traveled to Ecola State Park to watch the rest of the day wane from cliffs above the Pacific Ocean and the rock formations of Cannon Beach.
On the way home, we swapped top 5 type questions about our marriage. We talked about places we associate with our marriage. Memories we’d like to go back to. Things that we’ve learned from each other in our 9 years married. Ways that we are better from the other person. Things we appreciate most about what the other person has shared or done. Hopefully our marriage will last many decades, but thinking about everything that has happened in the first decade, it seems like we’ve compiled volumes already in this adventure we’ve set out on together. Still at the dawn of the Oregon chapter of our adventure, it feels like we are beginning to add something we won’t completely understand until much later. I wonder how we will feel years from now when we make our way to the lake and perch together, surveying this place we’ve come to as a pair for many years.
On Thursday night, as I made my way home, I passed a campfire session the Outdoor School was leading. They were singing a raucous song, but one of the staff members noticed me and waved me over to invite me to join them. Sitting down on the back bench of the fire ring, I had this familiar feeling that this type of activity was approaching for me as well. That I would be attending campfire session our staff was leading. I would have this feeling I was witnessing on the faces of the students, counselors, and staff. This understanding that the week had been more than a typical week. That something had happened that might be difficult to understand for a while, but something that would be held onto for a long time. I didn’t know exactly what that was for this group, but I could see it there.
At the end of campfire, the staff began their dismissal song, and students were dismissed row by row. I became immediately intrigued by their dismissal song called, “Barges.” The chorus goes:
Barges, I would like to go with you,
I would like to sail the ocean blue.
Barges, have you treasures in your hold?
Do you fight with priates brave and bold?
I was intrigued, because I knew the chorus, word for word. I could have easily gotten up and sang it confidently with them, but I had no idea why I knew it. To know it as well as I did, I assumed it must have come from some movie I watched on repeat as a kid. Maybe it was an old Disney movie like Mary Poppins or Pete’s Dragon. I asked the staff where I knew it from, and they didn’t know why I would know it. I looked it up online when I got home, and all I could find is that it is a song sung in scout groups very frequently.
I’m still not sure why I know this song so well. My only theory now is that in middle school, we had traveling music teachers who would come in every few weeks and sing with us. Maybe I learned it there. It is so curious how things get locked up within us, and we can not even know they are waiting there, until they are unlocked years later by a chance encounter. How many chance encounters were there that brought Allyson and I together? How many things do we both hold in regards to each other, that we aren’t even aware of. What is within Allyson that I still have left to learn? What new surprises are just waiting to be woken up?
As I walked home yesterday, I heard the familiar call of the eagle couple. They were in the tree just above my head. The spread those huge wings, probably bigger than my wing span, and soared back over into the forest of spruces on the south end of camp. We will cross paths plenty more times this season, I am sure. They will move on to some other place for a time, but in early spring of next year, we will rediscover each other. How will I know Allyson differently at that point? Who will I be then? What new things will I know? What will I have remembered that I did not even realized I had lost?