Come December, Ben and I will mark ten years of marriage. Given that, and the pressure cooker that has been our mutual lives for the last year and a half, we decided to take a little honeymoon. We chose Orcas Island, part of the San Juan Islands, off the coast of Seattle.
We have never been here. I've never even been to the Northwest somehow, which seems strange given my love for all things hippy. We've come to the realization that if we go somewhere new to both of us, we can rediscover each other in the new landscape. We can fall in love with a new place and each other (again) at the same time.
And so, Orcas. We have a great love for islands. It seems like an island can only get so corrupted. Only so much American stress and fast-paced multi-tasking can make it across the water. Things are always slower on an island. And this island, let it be said, is gorgeous. The famous rains of the Pacific Northwest have made this place a wooded paradise, tiny ferns growing like shag carpet everywhere you look. From every vista, the sea holds islands and more islands - there's hundreds of them, apparently. And it's a foodie's delight - local produce, fresh bread, organic everything.
We are here for a luxurious four nights. Our pace, now half-way through, has slowed. We chat for hours as we hike instead of throwing information at each other for five minutes in the morning and five minutes in the evening as forks fly past our heads. Yesterday, after a four hour hike, we ate cereal for dinner and climbed into bed at five o'clock with a book (me) and craigslist (Ben), speaking only when Ben found a particularly good Airstream. Hours of companionable silence.
There's no one funnier than Ben when he's relaxed. Okay, no one funnier to me. For whatever reason, I laugh at every joke he makes. Often the stupider the joke, the harder I laugh. Yesterday morning, he lifted his coffee mug, the one with the Orca tail for a handle and said, "That's a whale of a cup." I laughed. Three minutes later, he, again, said, "That's a whale of a cup." I laughed. Harder. I can't really explain why I'm so susceptible to his humor. We always say it's evidence that he married the right girl. I think maybe it's that I love him so completely. I feel so close to him that those jokes, those stupid jokes, crawl right inside me and give me a tickle.
Beyond the dumb jokes, there are some really good ones. We were driving out of our neighborhood early Wednesday morning to catch our plane when we saw our friend, Stephan, walking down the street. Ben leaned out his window and bellowed, "Stephan!" Stephan, somehow unsurprised to see us at seven a.m., lifted his chin in the universal surfer greeting and said, "S'up." Stephan is six-foot-five, of Danish descent (a great Dane, I suppose), a man both mellow and sweet and also such a frenzy of activity that his nickname is "Photon", one of those microscopic particles of energy, always in motion. The rumor is that he never sleeps. Ben, musing as we drove, said that Stephan was like a speed-ball, half heroin, half cocaine. So laid back and so driven at the same time.
As we were nearing the airport, stuck in traffic in Berkeley (in the hundreds of times I've driven that stretch of 580, I think the road has been clear maybe once), we found ourselves next to a giant SUV piloted by a single driver. "That guy," Ben said, watching the exhaust belching out of the tail-pipe "should have a personalized license plate that reads 'Asshole'."
Later, once we hit the island, we noticed that male tourists of our generation wore shpants - half pants, half shorts, what would be called capris on a woman. Older men wore convertible pants, pants with zippers around the thighs that could, in a flash, become shorts. But Generation X (are we still Generation X or did we lose that once we stopped being slackers?) is devoted to the shpants. We feel a little shpants-ish. Ben and I then spent a half an hour giggling as we walked through town seeing men in shpants and trying to get our mouths around "shpants-ish". Try it, it's not easy.
The cottage we're rented is funkier than the pictures on the internet depicted. The view, yes, is incredible. Water as far as you can see. But the interior is a bit cave-like. It is crammed with white wicker furniture, blue glass figurines, eagle paraphernalia (including a candle-stick that looks suspiciously like the eagle from the Third Reich) and, best for last, books about sex. "Roman Sex" which features ancient illustrations of male orgies, "The Medieval Art of Love", "How to Do It", "Looking at Lovemaking", "Sex and Sexuality in Early America", "Sex, Ecology, Spirituality", "Sex, Drugs and Chocolate", "Castration", "Sacred Gifts, Profane Pleasures", "Taking Positions" and, just to mix it up, "Inside the Vatican".
I'm imagining the timid, middle-aged, inn-keeper, Elizabeth, maybe did a doctorate on sex? Then, counter-intuitively, moved her collection out to the vacation rental? Because what goes with wicker, blue glass and eagles like castration? And what's more romantic? The book collection has led to endless cracks about Roman sex. Last night Ben had one of the horrible microfiber pillows from the dirty love-seat wedged between his knees as he slept. In the confines of the double bed, it kept inadvertently bumping me in the butt. "Get that disgusting pillow out of my ass!" I yelled in the dark. "This isn't Rome!"
I miss the kids. Yes, I miss the kids. Ben played a video of Lana yesterday. I couldn't see it, could just hear her singing from across the room. I made him turn it off. Immediately. I love those little people. But it's so nice to see my man. To remember what all this, our family, our life, is built on. That first, it was just him and me.