“Sunrise, sunset

“Sunrise, sunset

“Swiftly fly the days”

from “Fiddler on the Roof”


I do actually know that ours is not the only happy marriage, that happy marriages, although a decided minority, are still sizeable in number, but whenever my mind runs in such channels, I find myself coming up hard against Goethe. He once wrote, “This is the true measure of love: When we believe that we alone can love, that no one could ever have loved so before us, and that no one will ever love in the same way after us.” Of course, in setting that standard, he also stated the obvious, that no happy marriage, however halcyon, is without equal.


We do know that. We are not unique; there are many others who are equally happy, maybe even a few who are just as happy and obscenely rich, but, even so, there are times when our love does seem more auspicious than most. The celebration for our Fortieth Wedding Anniversary is a case in point.


We have always celebrated the moments in our lives, but none so much as our anniversary. We almost always go out of town for a few days, but whether we stay or go, the actual day is a holiday. When it falls during the work week we take at least one day’s vacation, usually more. But two of them have called for more than that.


On our Twenty-Fifth we went to Hawaii and spent a week on Kauai, rising when we wanted to, driving wherever the spirit willed us, holding hands, reminiscing, building a few castles in the air and looking for ways to build foundations under them. One of those was an unframed map of the Sandwich Islands (the original name of Hawaii) that became the impetus for my learning how to cut my own picture mats and make my own frames. I ended up purchasing two hideously-priced Koa boards ($26 a board foot) and using them to frame six items we brought back from the islands.


For the Fortieth, which we celebrated on the 14th of this month, we went to a bed-and-breakfast inn on the northern California coast that is truly exceptional. Dennen’s Victorian Farmhouse bills themselves as “a natural paradise, resting on two beautiful acres of land, designed to be the perfect retreat for couples,” and they really are just that. All the rooms are furnished with antique furniture from the 18th and 19th centuries. This old woodworker identified the mahogany at once, but I’m nowhere near knowledgeable enough on this type of furniture to be able to speculate on the identity of the artisans who created these pieces.


We chose the Mendocino Suite because of its size and its relative isolation from the other buildings, a factor that worked somewhat against us when we had to tote our luggage up a long inclined path and two flights of stairs. Please don’t describe them as short; I’ll lose my excuse for panting so at the end of that trek. But it was in that idyllic setting that we celebrated our Fortieth Anniversary.


Forty years! I’m still having a hard time getting my arms around such a concept. As a geologist measures such things it’s no time at all, but for you and me it’s a staggering amount of time, over half a lifetime. What kind of marriage has it been? Well, blissful, happy, mirth-filled. Face it, we laugh all the time. But also one that delights in the present moment.


As I said earlier, ours was a fairly isolated unit in a bed-and-breakfast on the northern Californian coast. That part of California is heavily wooded, and our little bungalow looked backwards towards the wooded hills. To our surprise—it being August—it was both overcast and much cooler than our own San Diego. But also to our delight. On the evening of our first full day there (we stayed five days and did nothing but be), we moved the couch around to face the back French doors, poured a beer, and watched the woods fill up with fog, holding hands and basking in the warm wonder of still being so deeply in love four decades later.


Our little unit was perched atop another residence, although accessed by a separate entrance. It was a charming little two-room suite with two wood-burning fireplaces that had originally been two separate units. They retained the two separate entry doors when they combined the units. A little metal placard is atop each of them, and reading them I was immediately struck with how ideally suited this unit was to celebrate our Fortieth. The two doors were marked SUNRISE and SUNSET.



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