Polly Greeks’ Blog: The fertile soil of marriage


Polly considers the anatomy of her marriage. 

The electronic reminder took us by surprise – a decade of marriage. “Only 10 years? It feels like 100.” James smiled sweetly.

The wedding was rushed; we needed a marriage certificate pronto. James had a job in Oman and my airfares and accommodation were covered if we proved wedlock.

“Marry me,” he proposed pragmatically. A dress rehearsal had already taken place – we faked conjugality to smooth cultural wheels during 18 months exploring the Middle East. It was long enough to see that life with James would always be an adventure.

Proving the point, we abandoned an Omani future as soon as we acquired the necessary nuptials, opting to go bush instead. It’s an outrageous lie to say we have lived happily ever after.

While there have been plenty of magical, memorable moments, our relationship’s also been one of extension and renovation. Time in a remote forest valley sometimes runs like a retreat, distilling life in the absence of diversion and offering ample opportunity to face yourself and each other, warts and all.

Remaining together out here has required a stripping back of ourselves to bare framing before rebuilding. We each had rotten boards to remove; some faulty foundations, subconsciously squeaking. Exposed and unvarnished, we’ve thought very carefully about who and what we wished to create. It’s a work in progress, this marriage of ours, but I love that it’s still evolving.

We select our partners according to attraction. There’s the physical pull, but another chemistry potentizes from the meeting of minds. When I put my head to James’, spaces unfold that I don’t see on my own.

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“Pick someone who makes you laugh,” my grandmother advised. I also chose someone who makes me grow. We challenge one another by talking openly. Truthfulness isn’t always easy to speak or hear but learning to honour that voice has built a fundamental connection within ourselves that’s the keystone of everything after. Commitment to honesty is a deepening gift in our marriage.

There have been a million other rewards. The distance we’ve traveled since meeting is a journey made richer by the fact that it’s shared. Besides children, creative seeds sprout all over the place as a result of our union; our adobe home with its immense cast-iron, wood-oven heart; art on the walls; the gardens and orchards; the projects we’ve grown. I live with an artist and woodsman.

Beauty is everywhere he’s laid his hands – in the stair rail fashioned from supplejack vines, in the softly contoured mudbricks, in the sauna and fire bath, in the hundreds of trees he’s nurtured.

Our valley holds our marriage – this lush, forest-filled basin where ancient trees rise as elders from the canopy and rain keeps the pure streams singing. It’s taught us to savour simplicity. In the absence of electricity, we’ve shared a million candlelit dinners. We lie side-by-side, watching stars slide over our heads every evening.

At 2am, if I’m wide awake,  James never complains when I nudge him from sleep for conversation. “I’ve been thinking,” he’ll announce before hitting me with a spiritual or philosophical theory so left-field we’re still discussing it as the first rooster crows.

No matter how embedded one becomes in a relationship, we’re all traveling our path through life; navigating individual weather systems, swamps, mountains, deserts and Elysium fields. Sometimes, inner compasses guide us in different directions. We share experiences but interpret them differently. Marriage requires constant reconnection to ensure the space between remains spannable.

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There was a time when our bridge-building skills looked grim. Backpacking through Egypt prenuptials, there were so many arguments we took to timing the periods of peace in between. When 24 hours of pleasantries finally passed, our celebrations rang with relief. I’m glad we chose to mature together.

“Fairy-tale endings aren’t real,” I tell our children. “But love is a magical force.” It’s like the earth in our valley. Above ground, emotions pass through like seasons, but love remains steady beneath; a fertile soil supporting those rooted in our hearts.

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NZ Life and Leisure This article first appeared in NZ Life & Leisure Magazine.
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