The snow has been here for so long that I feel like we need more vocabulary for it, like the people of the north do. Light and fluffy, heavy and wet, settled snow, crusted snow, plowed snow, dirty snow, melting snow. Patterns of snow melt. Do you notice that it melts first around the bases of trees? A pocket for each tree, perforating the puffy snow duvet like knots in a comforter. It must be because the dark color of the trees absorbs what little sunlight there is, heating a bit, prompting the first melt.
Sunlight. The days are longer and the temperatures bump up now and then, but not enough to bring spring. One longs for real sun, real warmth. I just dawdled away an entire week planning a vacation in the tropics. It helped me get through the latest blizzard.
April 26 will be our 45th wedding anniversary and we decided recently to celebrate it with a trip. Now, realize that late April is usually prime spring in Michigan, my favorite time in the woods. However, because of the nature of this winter I find it difficult to think of going anywhere in this latitude. I will gladly sacrifice a few weeks of Spring Beauties and Cutleaf Toothwort for coral reefs and Parrotfish. I want to go snorkeling. I am a waterbaby. Because my husband is not so much, we are combining snorkeling with jungling and caving and the like. We are going to Belize.
Arriving at this decision was half the battle. At first I sort of wanted to take the Dream Trip of a Lifetime to the best snorkeling/diving destination in the world, an eco-resort off of East Papua, Indonesia that I’d read about in the New York Times a few years ago. This idea raised a cacophony of voices, both within myself and between the two of us. They boiled down to Follow your dreams vs. My goodness, be a little practical. We ended up on the side of being a little practical, and now I’m planning a dreamy trip that may not be my Dream Trip but still a lot of fun and worthy of a landmark celebration.
It has caused me to think about the “Follow your dreams” instruction that all the self-help gurus hand out so blithely. Following your dreams usually requires sacrifice of some kind, and not all of the sacrifice falls on your own shoulders. What if I would love twelve days in the water but Vic would get bored? What if the trip to one of the world’s last pristine reefs involved days of polluting air travel to a region already polluted by fires instigated by drought and palm-oil plantations?
And then there’s money. As Vic knows, that is way down on my list of considerations and quite a bit higher on his. We have spent 45 years edging toward understanding and accommodating each other on this basic issue that divides many couples. On this front and others, the Belize trip appears to be a perfect symbol of our marriage. Half the cost of the Indonesia trip, half the time in the water, for me, and half the time on land, for him. A compromise.
Which is what marriage is, after all. But the thing about compromises based on moving toward each other in love is that you learn that your likes and dislikes are not absolute. You influence each other. You change, you learn, you grow.
Even this long winter may be teaching us something we don’t think we want to learn. What if, next year, we have no snow, no ice, no stories of missed schooldays and near misses on the highways? I, for one, would miss it. Maybe.