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the best thing about us is the people we know.
 

Anniversary

It happened again. I forgot my own anniversary.  

Amazing, right? I mean, it's my anniversary with myself, my dreams, the life I created for myself. My beloved Jeep is the only one who could complain, but he doesn't--just sits out there, ready for adventure. (And the set of new tires he needs.)

There's no one to shame me for this, and yet I feel ashamed now that I've forgotten it twice.

At least this year I have an excuse:

A more important anniversary is coming up.

Bryan and me, artesian well in Ashland, Wisconsin
Bryan and me, artesian well in Ashland, Wisconsin

The dry, hastening winds of impending fall always quicken my pulse with a lamenting anxiety. The year is getting older, and so am I...that kind of stuff. But now all the sense memory is wrapped up with a week I spent in Santa Fe at this time last year.

I smell the Hatch chiles roasting in hoppers; I close my eyes and see the sky stretched out in the valley as smooth as a bowling green; I feel the morning chill through silk sheets as I rolled over to reach for my phone and see if Jackson, Wy. had texted me again.

Everyone...well, not everyone, but enough to make me say "everyone" when I'm feeling frustrated...suggested that life on the road was nonequivalent with finding love. (Two people I remember said that it wasn't: Alli and Chris. To whom my hat is eternally tipped.) They said it was impractical at best, sabotage at worst. If I never stayed anywhere long enough to follow up on a connection, it was my own damn fault I was lonely.

In my worst moments, I feared they were right, and this stubborn streak inside me was determined to prove them wrong. Or else to prove them right and not care. I had to keep going until it felt right to stop. I wasn't even sure love, if I found it, would be the right reason to stop--I feared it, in fact.

A photo posted by Chelsea Batten (@thechelseagrin) on Sep 29, 2015 at 8:20am PDT

We stood on the edge of the world last week, up to our ankles in Lake Superior.

The water was the warmest I'd ever felt it; the wind was like the output of a space heater. But you could feel the change in the air. The birch leaves were beginning to rust.

In the distance Jackson pointed out freighters--two, then three, then five. I could only find one. But he knows how to see them.

A photo posted by Chelsea Batten (@thechelseagrin) on Sep 29, 2015 at 8:20am PDT

In the back of my mind was always a nod to the future: I'll keep my eyes peeled for a place that I could someday call home, if I want to.

But Jackson wants a place of his own--a very manly enterprise--where he can chop down his trees and listen to his music and make love to his wife without listening for the door. He talks about winter: building fires inside walls of snow, walking across the lake on skis.

I can't imagine more than a frame or two. But I feel the energy of the water, the cedars and birches, the copper-stained agates under my feet, and something new inside me says "Yes" to the shining of his eyes.

I don't know what it is yet, and I hesitate to give it a name too soon.

A photo posted by Chelsea Batten (@thechelseagrin) on Sep 1, 2015 at 9:21pm PDT

It's funny how each anniversary comes at the General's expense.

My first anniversary--Sept. 4--was marked by a t-bone collision with a Subaru wagon on Ventura Blvd., which took out the radiator and the front grill. My second anniversary--Sept. 27--brought a sideswipe from a Volvo semi truck, which mercifully only gouged the door frame and broke off the rearview mirror. I thought perhaps I'd find a man to love me, but I never guessed I'd find one who loved the General as much as I do.

A photo posted by Chelsea Batten (@thechelseagrin) on Sep 12, 2015 at 12:50pm PDT

He teaches me every day that love doesn't mean an end to travel, road life, me, but a change. The attendant lamenting anxiety has become excitement--the dying of one season is the birth of another, one less explored.

The winter can be warm and bright, Jackson tells me.

I've never seen it that way, but I trust him as he leads me into it.

Bryan and the General, Cannon Beach, Oregon
Bryan and the General, Cannon Beach, Oregon

Happy anniversary, my loves.