Sunday, August 2, 2009

Rocks and Raspberries

The situation started with me making a courtesy call and my wife thinking I needed to be rescued. I had been on a long bike ride and was feeling a little dehydrated. Realizing the time, and that we were supposed to be at a family birthday party soon, I decided to call my wife and let her know I was running late. What I didn’t know was that she was working on a surprise for me. We were about to celebrate our fifteenth anniversary the next day when I made the typical “guy” blunder of miscommunicating. Silly me. The short-of-the-long-of-it is that she came to pick me up, bike and all, so we could arrive together at the party.

I learned very early on in our marriage a principle that has secured me almost certain happiness. “The wife is always right.” While she and I jest about this regularly, I have seen a number of marriages that would have gone much smoother if the guy had only figured this out sooner. Well, I figured out something else that I will carry with me a very long time. It was significant enough that I asked Liz if I could quote her. I think she obliged me hoping that it might actually stick.

Where I really went wrong was in not expressing enough thanks to my wife for interrupting her plans to help me. We discussed the matter on the way home using very short sentences. The next day the subject came up again and she gave me some really good wisdom about gratitude. “Tell me once and it just registers. Tell me twice and I hear it. Tell me three times and it sinks in.” Now you know one of my weaknesses. Hopefully you can relate.

This new insight came while we were walking together on the longest hike that we have taken with just the two of us. It was very rewarding because we had a chance to share, and we were using longer sentences. We talked about ideas. We made top-ten lists of people we are closest to, or who have had the most influence in our lives. After fifteen years, we still had some unexpected answers. We have found that the more we talk, the deeper, richer, and more meaningful our conversations become. There are few things in life that I enjoy more.

Something else I enjoy, though not nearly so much, is raspberries. I think they are hands down my favorite fruit in the world. I keep telling my wife that one of these days I hope to drive to Bear Lake (which is famous for its raspberries) so I can buy a large flat and devour it very selfishly in one sitting. Well, in fifteen years it still remains on my list of things to do.

Earlier before our walk, Liz prepared a small breakfast that I carried in my backpack. It included some delicious fruit but, alas, no raspberries. Most of our hike was uphill to where an arched concrete bridge crosses a small waterfall. I had determined that we would stop for breakfast nearby in a little alcove where a spring emerges from beneath a large rocky grotto. The trees and plants make it very cozy and inviting. I have wanted to take my wife there for about four years since I first discovered this unique little place, but we had never managed to get there. Personally, I had been there many times as the location was also along one of my favorite running routes. However, this time was different.

We had reached the top of our ascent and I had planned to show Liz the grotto. That is when she said, “John, look.” I looked to the side of the path where she stood and realized that she had discovered wild raspberries. There were quite a few of them. Some bushes were low and some were higher up the hill. We decided to try our luck and found that these particular raspberries had a different taste than we had ever experienced before. It was, without surprise, a wilder flavor, and it varied slightly from bush to bush. Some were a little sweeter, to her liking, and some were tarter, to my liking. I stood there and marveled at how many times I had been there and had never noticed my favorite fruit. It was only when we were there together that we made the discovery. I think we both felt that raspberries were personal seashells that day. It was the start of a practically perfect day. We spent a lot more time that day in deep conversation. Though we didn’t spend a lot of money, it was a wonderful anniversary.

Conversation is not the only thing that becomes deeper, richer, and more meaningful as we communicate. Sharing is a significant part of any relationship. The more we share the more we connect, each connection strengthening the bonds between us. Relationships become deeper, experiences become richer, and life in full view becomes more meaningful.

As much as I like to eat raspberries, I really would be self-focused if that was all I expected to eat in a relationship. I certainly cherish the good times, and relationships that are dearest to me, but we don’t find the best berries without a small dose of rocks. The hike is so much more rewarding when we overcome the rocks of life together. We don’t have to chew on them. That just damages your smile. Rather we should negotiate the path to climb them, move around them, and eventually get past them. Once we conquer them, they become our trophies.

The prophet, Moses, identified the ideal society when he described the city of Enoch in Moses 7:18 as a people who “were of one heart and one mind.” I don’t know how we can achieve this state unless we are willing to share things in common and work out our differences. This takes a certain amount of negotiation around the rocks. A good relationship also benefits from faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, kindness, and charity, as taught by the apostle Peter in 2 Peter 1:4-11.

There are many in the world who would have us think that the rocks are not worth it. If you can’t find someone who can always deliver raspberries, then it’s time to move on. Really, that’s the difference between Hollywood and Reallywould. If I really would like to be happy, I have to be willing to take life for what it is and make it better – together.

Yesterday we experienced some different rocks. Some good friends of ours invited us to go tubing with their family. In some places, the stream we traversed had just enough water to let us go by in the tubes. I’ll confess that a couple of times, the combination of my size and the size of the rocks caused me to bottom out and get stuck, not to mention a little bruised.

At one point I was trying to help our youngest daughter negotiate the rocks when her tube capsized and she went underneath the shallow water. Her tube floated down stream before I could catch it. Placing her on my lap, we made another attempt at the stream. Again, she lost her balance, causing me to lose my balance, and we both went into the water. I found that trying to save a small girl from her presumed drowning in shallow water while standing on slippery rocks makes it very difficult to catch your tube as it, too, floats down stream. Once again, I found that “the wife is always right.” Liz had calmly collected our tubes, returned to meet us on the banks of the stream, and had come to rescue me again. Sometimes you just give in and say, “Life is good.”

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