This July marked our 15 year anniversary. We both look very young to be married, don’t we?
I feel somewhat accomplished to have negotiated 15 years of marriage, including some major life stages.
“Negotiated” is a good word. It means we’ve come through a bunch of obstacles with varying levels of gracefulness, rather like kayaking a whitewater river. A river has stretches of challenging bits that are exhilarating when maneuvered successfully, stretches of wondrous calm bits in high-walled gorges with crystal waterfalls that you feel privileged to experience…. and then there are those rapids that you enter unawares and at the wrong angle, where you miss eddies and get trounced by unforeseen obstacles and you come out the other end drenched and tousled and in dire need of a chocolate.
15 years of marriage puts us solidly in the middle age category, along with hatch-marked wrinkles under our eyes, various joint aches, a mortgage, a decent sense of who we are, what we want, and an increasing skill set to negotiate meeting those needs when they differ. That last bit’s worth celebrating, so we planned a trip to the snowy mountains.
New Zealand is in a privileged position during the this global Covid19 pandemic, and we can travel domestically without restriction. So while we couldn’t jet off to Myanmar for our 15 year celebration (my private wish), thanks to our generous friends’ willingness to have our kids, we could head away to the mountains in New Zealand’s Southland for the weekend.
We aimed our car towards Lake Ohau, a lake formed by the hydroelectric system, nestled into the barren mountains of the McKenzie country. After an overnight at Twizel, the snow on the hills looked promising for a day of skiing.
I have only down-hill skied a handful of times, and not once in the last decade. As kids we cross-country skied, our family not being as willing to spend the money on lift tickets as others might have been. But I’ve ice skated since I was a tyke and I’m a proficient roller-blader, so with a bout of uncharacteristic overconfidence, I declared that I could pick up down hill skiing for the day, no problem.
I still own a pair of snow pants, purchased decades ago, with the latest lift pass still attached (Kirkwood, Lake Tahoe, 2007), and Jeremiah surprise-purchased some shiny new goggles for the weekend. The rest of the gear I rented. I was ridiculously pleased that the boots were pre-warmed in the rental hut.
When I stepped outside to shove my feet into the bindings I was reminded that downhill skis are really only designed to go DOWN. I dusted off the old snow-plow stop and set off to the bunny slope, realizing that I’m not as nimble cornering in skis as I am on rollerblades! I must have looped the bunny slope 10 times before being ready to head over to the chair lift.
Ohau ski field is tucked into the south (shady) side of an alpine bowl, and so has a better chance of snow retention in these not-so-cold mountains than most. And it has a chair lift, an important bonus for a club field.
There weren’t many different trails down that had enough snow yet, but that suited me fine, I was happy to stay on the green one with the little kids whizzing fearlessly past me. Jeremiah waited for me at various corners, like a gentleman.
There’s a section of the basin above the lift that a few people access by walking, so just before lunch we hiked up there to have a peek over the other side. The wind was whistling, picking up the snow, and I was thankful for those snazzy new goggles and unfashionable snow pants.
Jeremiah skied down from the top (keeping his nose warm!) while I walked down on snow shoes.
Probably race and economic class is more on my mind than usual because of the current US news, but I was struck by the fact that both the ski field and the lodge were nearly all white European-decent kiwis, and the price ticket of this type of recreation and the gear it requires takes it out of the range of many NZ families. It’s a very different scene than the beach, which is egalitarian in its accessibility.
We were having fun, but the wind was starting to pick up so much that the flinging snow made it hard to see and the chair lift was swinging vigorously, so we called it quits by mid afternoon and headed back down to Ohau Lodge.
Being our anniversary we had decided to splurge on the accommodation. The Lodge is a traditionally comfortable establishment with dinner served in the dining room and views of the lake from our window. We had a soak in the outdoor hot tub, chatting with the kids and parents who were there. I have to say, it is sometimes easier to enjoy conversation with OTHER people’s children for whom I have zilch responsibility than with my own kids. Still, dinner conversations with a 6 year old and a 9 year old are looking up.
If you had told me 9 years ago that I’d get good family dinner conversation in a DECADE, I’d have swooned. But now that we’ve been married 15 years, out of high school for 20, we’re starting to count life in decades and can take the longer-term view. May this coming decade be even better than the last.