I can still recall the vision, Bob’s dream of 25 years ago. It was golden hour, and we were loping side by side across a field of grass so tall that the bottom of our stirrups brushed against the seed heads. A gentle New Zealand breeze kissed the prairie, sculpting a sea of undulating waves. “Let’s set our grappling hooks to that open plain,” he said, and I nodded, my heart full of love for this man who had promised to share his life with me.
Our first marriages hadn’t worked for either of us, but now, putting hope over experience, we were keen to give it a second chance. Our families struggled to understand. One brother spoke the words everyone else was thinking. “I hope your love will stand the test of time.” Another brother warned that if we went through with the wedding, we would become the objects of pity and disgust.
I won’t lie and say it was easy. At 40, I was carrying a significant load of baggage. There were legal and financial swamps to navigate, patterns to unravel, and encumbrances to shed. We loved each other fiercely, of that there was no doubt, and so we soldiered on. Our many friends embraced us and provided wholehearted support. In the evenings and weekends, we saddled our horses for brain-cleansing rides, ambling down hard-packed county roads to the sound of meadow larks, poking around the flood plain stirring up magpies, and flushing long-tailed pheasants with gallops along the edges of winter wheat fields.
We had been feeling stuck when Bob awoke from his inflorescent dream. We felt as if we were in a dark forest, thwarted by obstacles, bumping into one tree after another, having to back up and go around, all the while striving towards elusive patches of sunlight. We held onto the golden meadow image and kept inching forward.
A wise friend told me that when we join hands in a relationship, we begin walking down a road together and that although that road is often smooth and wide, it sometimes narrows into a cold, rocky place without a trace of a trail. “The important thing is to hang on. Find your way together. Don’t let go.”
Twenty-five years later, I look over my shoulder at miles and miles of open plain, that tangled wood so far in the distance, I wonder if it ever even existed. Open grassland, moonscape, narrow trail, and wide-open road; we have galloped and trudged over every kind of landscape, hand-in-hand, determined to stand the test of time. The life we’ve built, the goodwill we have garnered, the warm and constant flame of love we’ve nourished—all are proof of love manifested and a life well shared.