Outdoors commentary: Love and the outdoors

Outdoors commentary: Love and the outdoors

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“Give your love and never count the cost.

Lose your heart and never call it lost.

Let your love be your shelter to the ending of your days.

Love is all that is and all that ever was.”

Garnet Rogers, “All That Is.”

I’ve often wondered how many couples are married today because of the outdoor experiences they’ve shared. I’ve met dozens of people for whom time spent in the outdoors is the glue that cements their relationship. And although there are plenty of couples who are equally committed to strenuous, demanding adventures — mountain climbing, kayaking, scuba diving and the like — I suspect their numbers are far exceeded by the folks for whom outdoor adventures are the spice of their lives rather than the main course.

Those people draw strength from quiet time spent sitting together watching the coals and flickering flames of a campfire, they draw solace from an early morning walk along a foggy beach and contentment from watching the stars appear from zipped together sleeping bags. They derive a quiet joy from trolling around a lake for hours, when each bite is a wonder

These folks draw and share happiness from events and accomplishments that are so mundane as to go unnoticed when they occur within the confines of their homes and normal lives. Things like sunrises and sunsets are occasions of deep contemplation, hot water and showers are a cause of thanksgiving.

And it’s not just the activities that go exactly as planned that help to develop strong bonds in relationships. Sometimes difficulties experienced in the outdoors make you hold on tighter to each other, and over time, holding on becomes a habit, a connection as natural as your surroundings.

This tendency to bond under stress has worked to my advantage over the years.

When we were 17 years old, I lost control of our snow sled on an icy patch and slid sideways into a fence post. Deb, who was riding on my back, hit the fence post with almost the same force as the sled. Both of them experienced cracked ribs. Deb was more forgiving than the sled, which needed extensive repairs. She just required a less energetic form of late-night cuddling.

Later on, after we were married, I took up canoeing and it became a favorite activity for us both. As I began to demonstrate a lifelong tendency to push the envelope just past the limits of my skill, she became less enthusiastic.

“Want to go canoeing?” I would ask.

“Depends,” she answered. “Is the water moving?”

“Yes.”

“Not a chance.”

So, we settled on canoeing in lakes and ponds, which worked very well until I decided to nose in under some trees in a North Carolina lake and a large water snake dropped into the center of our canoe, where our three-year-old daughter sat. Consternation reigned and when the droplets settled, I was operating under a far more restrictive set of rules.

Those rules have been adjusted over time (always tightened, never loosened) even as the outdoors continued to be the focal point of our lives together. We’re not likely to stroll along Alaska’s Russian River again after a grizzly popped up 30 feet behind us. Nor will we hike across the desert during rattlesnake weather. I never would have thought she could move so fast in either case.

I like to think of our 50-plus years together as a glorious adventure, a chance for Deb to enjoy thrills and excitement even as our love grew stronger with each experience.

I’m pretty sure that’s how she’d describe it too. Unfortunately, she’s unavailable for comment right now and just to be safe, you probably shouldn’t ask her.

Pat Wray writes about the outdoors and can be reached at patwray@comcast.net.

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