As we lightly tread on the pine forest floor, an emotion as exhilarating as our love, embraces us in the final quarter of our lives. The daily 5 to 7 km forest hike has heightened our awareness of ourselves, each other, our lifelong romance and our battle scars. I think there’s a story there.
The moment began in earnest two years ago with the adoption of Poppy and our love of the Bouvier des Flanders breed. Norm and I both studied trench warfare at Trent University and Norm made me aware of the role, played by many dogs, during this terrible time. The Bouvier’s role was as an ambulance dog and messenger in World War I and has its origins in Flanders, Belgium. The Bouvier often pulled a cart to save lives and that was why the tail was docked – to prevent injury. Bouviers often wore gas masks to save their lives and the lives of others. Poppy isn’t saving our lives but, she sure has enhanced our every day experience of the world. If you let them, dogs will take you places that you need to go.
Ten years into a retirement lifestyle, Norm and I have found a place that stimulates our minds and nourishes our souls in a way that we have both worked towards all of our lives. Marriage has been an incredible journey with very few pitfalls in our experience, and I am thankful for that every day. Our biggest challenges have been my mental health and Norm’s determination to see that I get better. I say that with a smile because he makes me smile. Whenever my experiences became overwhelming we worked to break them down and try to make sense of what I was feeling. And, Norm is comfortable with silence. I have become comfortable with silence. Not only comfortable but I crave it after years of commotion and often chaos in a large public school classroom; the silence is my reward. Hence the long long hiking mornings often spent silently listening to the world around us and smelling the campfires cooking bacon and eggs in the early morning summer sunshine.
The hikes have metamorphosed into a much different experience as we have become more complete and comfortable in the woods. We now feel at ease and more fearless, when we are tracking through the snow on snowshoes or swatting swarming deer flies and mosquitoes. We know that each season passes and is an ever changing landscape; just like our lives. Little did we know as we sat on the black leather couch at 11 Barnardo Avenue, in 1977, listening to Zorba The Greek and Anthony Quinn’s contemplation of marriage as “The Full Catastrophe!”; would we find ourselves some 40+ years later recalling this memory with great fondness. Norm was a rascal in the true sense of the word and I was quite serious. I was serious about a lot of things and Norm helped me see the lighter side of life and a really cool side of life. His musical interests were broad and he had a plethora of interesting knowledge to share with me. Now 40+ years later, we still engage in complex conversational debates and listen to a lot of great music.
Respecting and listening to each other is the most important element of a dynamic lifelong relationship. There is no magic pill but, a healthy dose of reality is a potent drug.