It’s my wedding anniversary week. I tend to treat it as a week-long event because we had a destination wedding to Sedona, Arizona, that took up the better part of a week. Family and friends arrived anywhere from 1-2 days prior to the actual day, September 26th — also my dad’s birthday, so we joked that it was a destination birthday party with a complimentary wedding thrown in — and some stayed in Sedona a couple days after as well. It sounds odd to have friends around on your honeymoon but I liked it very much: see, I don’t do well with sudden disconnection after intense connection; it would have been a jolt to the emotional system if everyone had left all at once. It was a gradual tapering off, an extended good-bye, and by the time we were alone at the end, we were ready to be alone.
So we tied the knot on Saturday, and by Tuesday it was me, Jeeps and my girlfriends K and E (two of the Famous Five). We were staying at the Enchantment resort, they were at their Bed & Breakfast, and we just met up whenever and wherever (without cell phones!). We had a blast. We went to Flagstaff Observatory one night, and then spent another day hiking one of our favorite trails in Sedona – a rugged canyon rim loop to some amazing Anasazi ruins and cliff dwellings. We really didn’t give K and E much of a choice in the matter, insisting that this hike was something not to be missed, they were going to have their minds blown. And they were game: lead on newlyweds, we follow, blow our minds.
We saddled up with water and provisions (and possibly some other stuff but more about that later) and through the scrub we went, into more heavily wooded trails…
And we finally emerged onto the trail that wound around the canyon rim. You can see in the picture below that there are some dwellings down in the canyon, but the ones up above the rim are more easily accessible and so they were our destination.
Getting up to those dwellings is not death-defying, but it’s something of a vertical scramble and honestly, it’s hairy. The first time Jeeps and I climbed up we were properly freaked out. But once up there, the view is breathtaking, and the notion that you are sitting in what was essentially someone’s house, and you feel all that history, and all that magnificence, and, subsequently, all that loss, it’s humbling.
So we set out. Or up, rather. Jeeps had made it up to the top, I was nearly there, and K and E were about midway. And while negotiating my hands-and-knees route up the rocks, I looked back down to my right and saw that E had frozen.
“I can’t do this,” she said shakily. The sun was high overhead and I could see my fair-skinned friend growing redder in the heat. “I gotta get down. I can’t get down. I…” She was stuck there, afraid to ascend further, not sure how to get down. And about to panic.
“It’s OK,” I called to her.
“It’s OK,” echoed K, “Just stay still, take a breather.”
“Jeeps!” I called but he was already scrabbling down, moving past me like a sure-footed crab.
“You’re OK,” he said, “It’s all right.” He reached into his hip pack and got his water bottle. “Take a drink. Here, put my hat on, get some shade on your face. It’s gonna be OK.” E drank, took a couple of breaths. I could see she was tearing up, keeping one white-knuckled grip on the rock ledge and clutching the water with the other.
A few minutes of hydrating, cooling and calming-down passed. “You can do this,” Jeeps said. “Take my hand. Ready? You can do this.” And holding her hand, he started her up the incline again. Coaching where to put her hands and feet. Coaxing. Encouraging. Giving a leg up. Getting her to laugh at the fear. Getting her to laugh at herself. K and I brought up the rear, cheering her on, and finally we were all safely in the niche in the cliff wall.
We stood around gasping, passing the water, looking down the ledge and laughing with the slightly hysteric euphoria of overcoming a physical and mental challenge. Jeeps gave E a big hug. “You did great!” he cried.
“Wow,” she exclaimed, “I didn’t think I was gonna make it…” She was red in the face again, but her eyes burned with accomplishment.
“Of course you were,” Jeeps said, his arm around her. “You were awesome.”
My own eyes were burning with a possessive pride. That’s my husband, I thought to myself, and as if reading my mind, K jostled my side and grinned at me. “You made a good match, dear.”
“He gets me through shit like this all the time,” I said to E.
And it’s true: up every canyon wall I’ve had to climb, Jeeps has been there. He’s a good coach if I need him to be; he can help me map out a safe route. But more importantly, he knows that I usually need to figure out my own way, and he really just needs to tell me to take a deep breath, give me a drink of water, and tell me it’s going to be all right, and tell me: you can do this.
We stayed up in the cave niche for an hour, enjoying the view and company, and…OK, maybe there was something else going on that may have led to an improvisational jam session on some native American instruments we just happened to have in our backpacks, I’m vague on the details now and anyway it’s wandering off topic…
Yeah, I know. Anyway!! We stayed up there a while and then we helped each other down, went swimming and then probably went out to dinner.
This was our honeymoon.
This is my husband.
The husband of my days…
The friend of my life…
The father of my children…
and the partner on my path.