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The miracle that is still being in love after 30 years of marriage

I’ve been married 30 years today. To the same woman. And never regretted a moment. I woke up alone this morning because she’s somewhere on the Great Ocean Walk down around Aire River, incommunicado, wandering along clifftops and beaches with a posse of lady friends.

“As I walked I noticed I was scanning the beach for seashells...”

“As I walked I noticed I was scanning the beach for seashells…”Credit:Robin Cowcher

At dawn the dog and I went for a walk along the beach beside roaring seas through the driftwood and foam. And as I walked I noticed I was scanning the beach for seashells. I have no use for seashells, no natural appreciation of them. I was doing it out of habit, because I always have, for so many years. Find a pretty seashell and take it to her. She might want it. She might not. I never quite know. Only that she loves some seashells, and because of that they have a value for me as well, so I walk the beaches with my eyes down.

As I walked the beach this morning I realised I didn’t have to search for seashells today. The seashells were for her, and she wasn’t there. Standing on the beach, I looked at them laid out in tidal lines, like farthings, pennies and shilling, precious coin become a dead currency. Which made me realise how completely she and I had come to see the world through each other’s eyes.

Because it isn’t just seashells; it’s everywhere, it’s everything. The long, slow conjoining of minds, which has taken most of our lives, has left me imbued with her psychology; her aesthetic has bled into me and will always be there, Angkor Wat in the jungle of my thoughts. And just as surely there’s some jerrybuilt shrine in the gardens of her mind, raised brick-by-brick from my daily pontifications and antics.

As I wandered the beach I wondered; if she left me somehow, if she was gone, how long I’d scan for seashells and have to stop myself snatching up a cowrie for her before that impulse faded and I was able to walk by without seeing them as anything but what they were before her, when I was a boy? Never, I realised.

You take a vow to surrender the version of yourself that steps to the altar, understanding, hoping, there is a better one on offer. And if you’re stepping towards the right person they will make it so.

You take a vow to surrender the version of yourself that steps to the altar, understanding, hoping, there is a better one on offer.

We were married in the beautiful garden of her family home out west of Geelong, surrounded by flowers and trees and stone walls and statuary. I remember watching a sandstone cherub throttling a sandstone goose as I waited for her and made small talk with the celebrant. I had make-up on my face to camouflage the stitches under my left eye because her eldest brother had spiked my drink at what was supposed to be a civilised buck’s party at Lynch’s on Domain Road. I woke the morning before our wedding with the pillow stuck to my face with dried blood. An inauspicious beginning.

But when we got to her family property to set up for the wedding she swore a blue streak at her brother, calling him an assassin and a fool. Then she took me in her arms and began to heal my wounds. Shit, I thought, this girl might be too good for me. Am I wrong to let her sign this contract? I’ve thought it often since. It’s a doubt that naturally accompanies love, I think.

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