Packaging Restyle

Packaging is important.  It is also one of my favorite parts of selling my jewelry...wrapping up something in a beautiful way to present it to a stranger on the other end of transit, just makes me happy.

I have read a lot of forums about packaging on Etsy, and believe it or not, there are so many sellers out there that don't package their goods in a special way, using reasons like...it's a waste of materials, money, time...

But what you miss out on as a seller when you don't have great packaging is a chance at branding your business, and making your customer feel, well, appreciated, or loved, or you know, like they matter.

To me, packaging is another way to say thank you!

Since I opened Tarnished & True, I have sent all of my orders packaged in a little handmade wooden crate (made generously by my handy husband).  To create that packaging, Matt is responsible for, cutting the wood, making the box, burnishing the lettering onto the box, and then cutting cardboard so I can wrap and ship the box.

The box looks like this:

What was once a fun pastime for Matt has become an overwhelming demand with about two orders a day...(can you believe he works his stressful job and is enrolled full time in a masters program, and still makes time for these boxes??)...so we have come to a crossroads of sorts in terms of efficiency and time...

The easy solution would be to switch to pre-made paper boxes.  The only problem is that we love the little crates!

So we came up with a few innovations to make making the packaging more efficient.

Instead of using cardboard that Matt would cut up for me, I now use brown paper to wrap the packages up myself for shipping.

Instead of Matt burnishing the lettering on the box (he is much more patient than I am at that), I designed a stamp!  It is being made as we speak, and I cannot wait to try out the wood ink stamp pad and see how it looks on the box!

The new design looks like this (very crate-like, don't you think?):

Restyling just a few steps of my packaging is going to make a huge difference, and save us a lot of time!

If you still aren't convinced that packaging is an amazing part of any online business, here is some real life feedback from some happy customers who shopped Tarnished & True.

"OMG I was so thrilled to open this darling little wooden package!! The rings are even daintier than I imagined and my babies' names so cute and tiny, I just love it. Annie even "extra" customized the font for me by dotting the "i's" in my daughter's name and it turned out great. Love love LOVE how they turned out, Annie. Thank you so much. This is a forever keepsake -- something I will get to pass on to my kids when they've grown."

"Love them! LOVE THEM! They fit perfectly on my tiny fingers, no mistakes or errors, exactly what they were represented to be. I could not be happier! Annie was a saint, very communicative, patient, willing and understanding. The order was finished and received on the exact schedule her policies list. I had my beautiful rings in their beautiful box sitting on my lap exactly 10 days after placing my order. I really can not express enough how fantastic this entire experience has been. Thank you, thank you so very, very much Annie!!"

"The earrings are gorgeous and classy, and came in a beautiful wooden box. I will definitely be shopping from TarnishedAndTrue again!"

"I LOVE them so much! Just as I pictured in my mind and the workmanship is A++++. The presentation (sweetest little box & raffia, which the cats enjoyed) was super excellent. I am a true TarnishedAndTrue Groupie now! Thank you so much. Will be ordering more!"

I just love knowing that my customers enjoy opening their purchases, that my packaging made them smile, and that I made a positive lasting impression for my business.


Grafitied Friday: Still Breaking

McMenemins, White Eagle Hotel, Portland

This week:  Catching up on jewelry orders, stealing a lunch date with Matt, stocking up on books at the library, working out, eating healthy (minus the lunch date :))...still enjoying the break from classes!

I am grateful for this time to relax, enjoy a day without too many deadlines; this mini "stay-cation".  

Gratitude is the Best Attitude.

Are you grateful for something this week?


WOYWW: Variety Is Good

Ahh, this week was so nice in my shop.  I had a variety of different orders to work out:  hoops and post earrings, and even some beaded earrings...and of course the usual pile of stacking ring orders.

And, since it is spring break, I had time to re-photograph a few things that I made for the shop (I just love photographing my jewelry, and I have missed doing it!

1.  I am Loved Necklace
2.  Fire Dancer Hoops
3.  Traditional Basket Earrings
4.  Menkaura Pyramid Posts

It felt so great to start the week out with some serious artistic productivity...and without cramming it in between writing papers and taking silly quizzes.

Happy WOYWW everyone, thanks for the visit!

Linking up with Stamping Ground-What's On Your Workdesk Wednesday and A Stylish Little Lady-Life Lately

Free At Last...for now

It is here!  Spring break!  That means more time to play the bitey bitey game with puppy Bella!  Isn't she growing fast?

Today, I can safely say that I am not overwhelmed with things I have to do, so it is high time I start on that list of things I have been wanting to do but couldn't make time!

That list is very long, because life is VERY short!

Ahhh, freedom.


I hope you are all finding time for the things you love.


Gratified Friday: Quote

"I like to walk alone on country paths,
rice plants and wild grasses on both sides,
putting each foot down on the earth
in mindfulness, knowing
that I walk on the wondrous earth.
In such moments, existence is a miraculous
and mysterious reality.
People usually consider walking on water
or in thin air a miracle.
But I think the real miracle
is not to walk either on water or in thin air,
but to walk on earth.
Every day we are engaged in a miracle
which we don't even recognize:
a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves,
the black, curious eyes of a child--
our own two eyes.
All is a miracle."

Thich Nhat Hanh, "Miracle of Mindfulness"


The Efficient Juicer

 Sometimes all it takes is a good short cut.

As you probably know, I am a big fan of fresh juice.  What I am not a big fan of is...cleaning the juicer!!  And being as busy as you also probably know that I am, the whole cleaning process involved with juicing can be a turn off.

But wait!  Problem solved!  There can be juice and a busy lifestyle!

I started juicing in bulk.

I spend some time chopping everything up, carrot, beet, lemon, celery, ginger....and as I juice, I pour it into one big pitcher.  This makes the juice mixture evenly mixed. 

Immediately after I finish, I pour equal parts into smaller containers which I freeze!

It is very refreshing to drink the juice as it slowly thaws throughout the morning, great to have at hand as I start my day!  And now I have days and days worth of juice and only one day of juicing and cleaning.


WOYWW: In Numbers

Here it is folks, the bench this week.  While I was working, I thought about the past week, since last Wednesday.  All I can say is...A....LOT!

13-separate jewelry orders filled
21-total rings made
3-earrings made
102-temperature on Monday
8-feet of sterling silver wire purchased
803-views in shop
2-sleepless nights
4-assignments due
1-quiz due
2-plays read

I bring this all up because, isn't it funny how timing works out?  When I signed up for spring classes, I was getting maybe an order a week in the shop.  Now, as I am enrolled full time, my shop has completely taken off, and I am finding I get an average of 2 orders a day.  I love my shop!  I love making jewelry!  I want to be doing just that.  I have all of these great ideas to redesign my business cards, redesign parts of my packaging, change around some of my listings....But this whole school thing is really getting in the way, and I am paying for it (notice the fever of 102 I mentioned).

And then there are those weird unplanned for happenings that are out of your control, and eat up even more energy.

Monday night the wind abducted our puppy.  We forgot to lock the front door, and it was so windy and stormy that around 2 AM the wind threw the door open!  Out wandered the puppy, Bella into the night.  An hour later the doorbell and the big dog Reuben's barking (what a good boy for staying in the house!) woke us up to our neighbor, the policeman.  (I don't call our neighborhood "Pleasantville" for nothing.)  He was worried about our door being wide open.  Matt combed the neighborhood, I couldn't sleep.  Finally at 6AM we got a call from the people who had found her (thank you, nice people!).

Next week is Spring Break for me.  I cannot wait!

No more pencils, no more books....

Linking up with Julia, from Stamping ground.  See more wonderful work desks here!


Skate Your Heart Out Party & Hippo Cupcakes: Win, Win

Do you remember skating, the wind in your hair, that straight away, that turn coming up, and the exhilaration of speeding around that rink?  There is something to be said for muscle memory, because the kids weren't the only ones skating...I really skated my heart out!  

I remember my Dad taking me skating when I was too small for skates.  I skated around our local Skate World in my socks.  But in no time I was out there on that big expanse of white rink, dodging the fallen skaters and playing tag.

I guess that must be why I taught my kids to skate so young, though on roller blades.  And it shows!  MyGirl was queen of the rink and the best skater of her bunch, even on those clunky rental skates!  *so proud*

This year, MyGirl decided on hippo cupcakes.  We had a ton of fun decorating these little guys:

Hippo Cupcakes!

Cream Cheese Frosting (of course!):

 2 Packages Cream Cheese (16 oz total)
1/2 Cup Butter
1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
2 Cups Powdered Sugar
Food Coloring of Choice

Mix cream cheese and butter until fluffy.  Add vanilla.  Gradually mix in powdered sugar.  Add food coloring to your liking.  Easy!


Good N Plenty Candy
Round Sweet Tart Candies
Fine Tipped Black Gel Icing

Frost the cupcake like you normally would.  Then using a butter knife add a generous dollop for the hippo snout.  Smooth the shape out with your knife.  Add Good N Plenties for teeth and ears and Sweet Tarts for eyes.  Use a fine tip black icing for added details like nostril, eyelashes, and eyebrows.

That concludes MyGirl's birthday week...What was your most memorable birthday?


Grafitied Fridays: A Decade of MyGirl & Make a Paper Doll

I just love birthdays, and making crazy creative fun birthday cards!  You may remember some of my pop-up cards from here and here, and the little paper movie I made here.  

This week was a birthday week.  MyGirl turned ten!  (Happy birthday you sweet, beautiful, smart, talented, sassy, girl!)  

Instead of a card, I made MyGirl a paper doll with moving parts (brads are fun, especially these tiny little star shaped ones).  I thought it would be a cute way to give MyGirl the necklace I made for her, and a fun way for her to start her birthday morning.

This doll is how I see MyGirl in a few more years.  She has grown so much, I am very grateful for her beautiful presence in my life everyday, for the past ten years, and for many more to come!


WOYWW: Shiny Sparkly Pretty

This is what my bench looks like today.  An ariel view:

I have been unbelievable swamped with orders.  I think I have 15 open orders to fill right now.  It feels like every time I refresh my email, there is a new order!  I have been working on my efficiency so that I can keep up.  :)

I used to polish my rings by hand with super super fine sandpaper.  That works really well, but my shop has become too busy for my hands to handle that kind of repetitive work.

Recently I rediscovered the dremel set Matt had gotten me a while back, I think as a birthday present.  I am in love!  There is this cute little cotton covered attachment that I put in the flex shaft.  Add some rouge (polishing agent), and done!  Easy.

My rings turn out shiny sparkly pretty, with hardly any effort.

The necklace I made as a gift for MyGirl's birthday tomorrow (shhh, don't tell!).

Thanks Julia for hosting WOYWW, again!  Happy Wednesday, WOYWW-ers!



Is there a woman figure you can think of that really inspires you, that you consider to be hero material?

The obvious choice:

We were discussing this in a literature class in terms of Antigone, the greek tragedy by Sophocles.  She heroically stood up to King Creon in the name of her brother, risking her life in the face of deadly consequences.

Heroic Attributes:  Bravery, Defiance, Beauty, Wisdom, Strength, Confidence, Endurance, Morality...

My top ten heroines are (in no specific order):  Frida Kahlo, Ayn Rand, Anais Nin, Georgia O'keef, Amelia Earhart, Margaret Thatcher, Virginia Woolf, Gertrude Stein, Liz Phair, and Joan of Arc.  I know this is a really broad collection, but they all have one thing in common.  Each of these women went against the grain to achieve what was important to them.  In the face of criticism and doubt, these women were heroes.

For class, I wrote about Frieda Kahlo:

When I think of female heros, Frieda Kahlo is among my top ten. She was courageous beyond words.  She defied her culture’s limited expectations of women during her time, she defied her body’s limitations, and she defied her era’s idea of relationship (she was married, divorced, remarried and also experimented with lesbian relationships), and she was very politically active, even giving asylum to leader Trotsky who was in hiding from Joseph Stalin.  

For a woman living her prime in the 1930’s, she lived like a goddess, taking her life in her own hands, living for what she believed in.

Kahlo and Painting, Two Friedas

Frieda Kahlo, was not one to give up.  Not on life, not on her art, and not in the face of ultimate adversity; a near death accident.  At the young age of 18, Kahlo was riding a bus through town when it crashed into a streetcar.  A metal handrail impaled her body leaving her with life long injuries, spinal and pelvic fractures, the need for dozens of surgeries, and often married to a hospital bed.

Kahlo Painting Her Cast

"Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?"
~Frieda Kahlo

She began to paint during her recovery and created her first self portrait  a year after her accident.  Throughout the rest of her painful life, she painted, determined to live as much as she could from the confines of her bed.  Kahlo’s surrealist paintings were deeply personal, darkly physical, and like nothing anyone had ever seen.  

In 1953, though bedridden, Kahlo again looked life defiantly in the face.  In order to attend her own opening at a gallery, she made arrangements to arrive by ambulance, and was set up in a four poster bed.  She was determined to live her life.

Little Deer, Frieda Kahlo

I think one of her most audacious and defiant moments was her blatant approach of her future husband Diego Rivera.  He was busy, a prominent name in the art world and famous for his beautiful and often political murals.  Kahlo, with all of the assertiveness you would never expect from a woman in Mexico in the thirties, called up to him on his scaffolds.  She held a painting under her arms and insisted he give it his attentions and critique.  

Frida has been described as:
 "…one of history's grand divas…< /i>
a tequila-slamming, dirty joke-telling smoker, bi-sexual 
that hobbled about her bohemian barrio in lavish indigenous dress 
and threw festive dinner parties for the likes of Leon Trotsky, poet Pablo Neruda, Nelson Rockefeller, 
and her on-again, off-again husband, muralist Diego Rivera."

The Broken Column, Frieda Kahlo

Who is your heroine?


Ready For The Roller Rink!

MyGirl is turning a DECADE this week.  So proud, amazed, shocked....no little ones in this house any more.  

To celebrate this momentous occasion, we have secured her the "Sparkle Room" at our local Skate World.  She is a complete bada** on skates, so this is going to be a blast for her!  I just hope her friends can keep up.

Speaking of friends...MyGirl and I made these neat-o invitations:

Step 1--->>>  Cut paper for card, and create and cut informative insert for the inside of the card.

Step 2--->>> Design a template for your card.  Then trace and cut out as many as you have guests.

Step 3--->>>
 Color and decorate design.  (We just loved the dimension the ribbon added to the skate laces!)

Step 4--->>> Glue design to card, and also glue insert to inside.

Step 5--->>>  Hand out to friends!!

Now on to the cake planning!   I bet you can't guess what animal will be gracing MyGirl's cake/cupcakes this year!  Hint:  it isn't what we did last year.


Ahhh..it is Sunday, and I just love Sundays!  Sundays are for sleeping in, having brunch, family, and relaxed laziness.  What's not to love?

Some photos from the week:

Flowers from Matt

Healthy breakfast and coffee

MyBoy's science project of flowers and blue food coloring (he really wanted to create a new power source for the world using electro magnets, but his teacher convinced him to lower his expectations of his project...hmmm)

And finally, puppies in the sunshine (isn't Bella getting big?!?!)

What do you like about Sundays?


WOYWW: A Days Work, Step by Step.

Today I made this.

This ring is solid sterling silver with a beautiful piece of fossilized Indonesian Coral set in a fine silver bezel.  I have been holding on to that stone for quite a while now, and not because I wasn't inspired!

It is just beautiful.  I just haven't found the time lately to get creative in my shop, but today was it.  I just let everything go (well, after the two rings and pair of earrings I had to make for orders due).

Yep, I did not do the dishes.  I did not do any homework.  And, I did not remember to eat lunch.

That's the way it goes sometimes in the land of the inspired.

I had a lot of fun cataloguing the making of this ring and spending a good full day doing what I love.

Happy wednesday all, and to visit more work desks....go visit Julia at Stamping Ground.

P.S.  This ring is a size 7 and will be in my shop by tomorrow!


Come Along With Me For A Spring Picnic

Hello, would you sit and enjoy this spring day with us?  See the Daffodil's first bloom, and the early Crocus?  Look there, some new Rhododendron and Azalea blooms!  Sit and feel the sun at your back, take in the clean air.  Shall we take a little walk through the tall Cedar and Evergreen trees?  It is so nice to sit here and read a book, or draw a picture, to just be here.  The swings call.  The open blue sky invites us to all of the possibilities of a Sunday and perfect spring weather.

No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow.  ~Proverb


For Your Reading Pleasure: A Personal Essay

So I wrote a personal essay this week.  Here it is, a little long for a blog post, so I won't be offended if you skim it over.  :)  I added some photos to make it more interesting.  Enjoy.

Together:  A Hike
      I got out of my car, hurried, I didn’t have a lot of time to spend on this lunch date.  But I was really hungry, and I wanted to meet this guy.  As I shut my car door, I saw him standing in the parking lot, tall and stoic.  He looked handsome.  I waved.  My heart feels a little smack, like it should wake up!  But I am too hungry to notice.  We say a brief hello and find our way to the patio. I go to sit, but Matt is already there pulling the black iron chair away from the table.  I am not too eager to believe that this gesture means anything significant.  After all, I can take care of myself.  Beyond the patio is the Boise river and the greenbelt that follows it throughout the city.  People walk by on their lunch breaks enjoying the stretch of paved pathway.  I haven’t eaten breakfast yet.  With my stomach calling all of the shots, I order a beer and a salad.  

     Here we are, finally on our first real date.  Matt hasn’t said a word yet except to order his own drink.  We wait for our food.  I look at him, try to coax a conversation from his mouth.  Finally the food comes and I am relieved to give the food the challenge of engaging Matt.  I focus on my food, cutting the lettuce with my knife, my fork holding things in place, my chair solid beneath me.  I decide that Matt and I aren’t very compatible, I am already exhausted with trying to get more than a few words at a time from him.  But all of a sudden, a duck saunters over , bold and rightous, at home here at this riverside restaurant.  Just a few feet from our table, I hear a loud bodily sound and watch as the duck releases the foulest amount of duck diarrhea.  It covers a good portion of the patio and smells like rotting sewage.  

     Laughter overcomes me, I jump from my chair’s confines almost knocking it over and sprint to the table farthest from the incident.  I hear Matt laugh behind me, a sound new to me.  He gathers our drinks and my plate.  I look back, and see him smile.  I can’t talk, I can’t eat.  I am too surprised, disgusted and laughing too hard to do anything!  I am crying!  Matt just smiles, watching me struggle through all of these emotions, composure eluding me.  I guess angels come in all shapes, because I knew that duck had just sealed our date.  We know at this moment that this date will not be the last.

     My back pack is carefully packed, each item stored at it’s optimal spot considering weight and easy retrieval.  I always, always take a bandana, pocket knife, and a flashlight and put them in the top pocket of my pack where I can reach them without taking the pack off.  Bandanas are endlessly useful, for dipping in a stream to cool the forehead, as a napkin, or as head covering to keep the part in my hair’s pigtails from being sunburned.  I have on the one pair of pants that I will be wearing for the trip, a pair of light weight zippered hiking pants that can alternatively be converted into shorts.  Other clothes items I carry are a fleece top and bottom for layering during evening temperatures, extra socks, and a rain jacket.  These are all packed tightly inside the main compartment of my pack.  Beneath that I have stored the heavier items, since I know to carry most of my weight on my hips.  Men carry their heavier weight on their shoulders.  My heavy items are the kitchen gear; cook stove, cook fuel, pans, and some food.   And, since I had the kitchen gear, Matt had the tent.  Distributing weight and gear between the two of us was an easy task, hopefully this was some foreshadowing for the rest of our lives; we were setting off on our honeymoon to backpack the Mckenzie River Trail.

     I am sitting in the back of our car, a little two door orange Datsun.  The black pleather bucket seat is familiar beneath me, my seat squished up to the back of the driver’s seat where my Mom sits ready to back the car out of the driveway.  My sister is little sitting next to me.  I hold a small bright lime green rubber cow in my hands.  It is my latest favorite of my eraser collection and I take it everywhere.  The cow is squishy as I gently change its postures; ears down, tail around, feet in a pretend prance. The car purrs the way that cars do when they need a little work, and from my five year old view point, I can see my mom’s curly brown hair framing the head rest of her seat.  She turns around and looks at me, a tired look, maybe she is worried?  She looks more worried as she glances at my sister, I think.  And she starts to explain to me and my little sister about what it means to get a divorce and that Dad won’t be living with us any more.  I don’t know why my sister is crying.  I just sit there, glad there won’t be any more late night fighting.  

     Years later I tag along to a jeweler’s shop with my mom, always desperate for emotional support from me.  She is quiet, there are no words for this experience. I realize that this is how it ends, with some stranger, snips in hand, sitting behind a glass counter holding your hand.  My mom reaches out to the stranger and in one quick clink, her wedding ring sits on the glass counter in front of us.  I wonder if she remembers thirteen years ago, back in our old kitchen, giddy, waiting for that same ring to arrive?

     Parts of the McKenzie River Trail are very rocky.  Matt walked ahead of me, tall, sure of each step, his hatchet strapped securely in the little velcro strap of his pack.  He took the dog’s leash from my hands, happy to relieve me from the tugging.  We climbed stepping up between jagged walls of lava rock and each time my foot became unsteady, there was Matt’s hand thrown easily behind him.  My hand sure in his, my step is steady, somehow I always feel like this with him.  As we come to the summit of this rocky stretch, I feel like Matt’s wife.  He stands looking out over the Tamolitch Pool, called the Blue Hole by locals, and I just watch him stand there, carrying everything that I could ever hope to need in a man.

     Sometimes you have to take a path that seems unlikely, and so it is with this Blue Hole.  Below us, the water sits as perfect and happy, still as a fairy tale lake.  It had found its resting place here, surrounded by the beauty of this old forest, safely cradled in this valley below us.  You should never judge a person by how successful they are now, because you haven’t seen all of the failures it took for them to reach their precipice.  Forced deep underground by six thousand years of ancient basalt flows, the McKenzie river pushes on.  At once finding itself dammed by rock, the river finds another way, an unlikely underwater path.  It flows for a few miles this way traversing dark underground channels through the lava that initially stands in its way.  Finally it raises its head to the world, it becomes this perfect beautiful pool.

     In a small bookstore in Olympia, before I had ever met Matt, I find a tattered copy of The Prophet.  I know the book is for me, there is a small white feather between it’s yellowed pages, hidden well from the shop keeper.  Kahlil Gibran, the well known philosopher,  has told me his truths for many years now, and in marriage he is also wise.
“...For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together, yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”
     I thought it was appropriate to spend the first week of our marriage isolated together on the trail like that.  We are just us, two people, and the experience.  We have to rely on each other.  We have to trust each other.  We have to be able to stand each other for days at a time, in quietude and without any of the modern distractions daily life provides.  But we each have to be able to carry our own weight too.  This isn’t our first trip, we had been successful backpackers together before.  It was the sentiment that counted to me.  If we can spend four days backpacking together, we can spend the rest of our lives together too.

     Hiking is a relationship sport calling on the body to be alive.  Just as each rhythmic step awakens the body, it can have the same effect on a relationship (Rozday).  From the very beginning, Matt and I would go on walks together, for miles.  We can just walk, hand in hand, content with each other’s company and the scenes floating past us.

     On a different trip, we are in Idaho somewhere, in early April.  We wake from a haggard sleep and decide to hike over a ridge to a mountain lake we see on our topo map.  The map shows us our elevation, and we think gives us a pretty good idea of what lies ahead in jagged little blue lines.  We pack everything up and swing our gear over tired shoulders.  The trail inclines.  Before we know it, we are surrounded by snow and too far from our last stop to turn back.  There is no trail to be seen, it is covered in at least three feet of snow.  We become really good friends with the little rock markers we learn to spot along the way, officially called kairns by saavy hikers.  Every time we see one we yell out, “there she is, it’s Karen!”.  We don’t lash out at each other, we don’t break down in frustration, not even when we see prints from a pack of wolves.  We just trek on, committed, for hours in the deep snow, making jokes and hoping to find “Karen”.

     Marriage isn’t just a pretty couple at the altar, all white lace, and perfect centerpieces.  Marriage is what happens after all of that, a lifetime of togetherness.  And a successful marriage depends on the ability of the couple to overcome adversity.  “Adversity”, the word sounds like some arch nemesis, a foe who will appear when least expected, to tear the marriage to bits.  He is a tricky creature, found in the most trivial of things like, who’s turn it is to do the dishes, a misplaced coffee cup, or in something more pressing, like wolf tracks.  That is why I don’t understand the island honeymoon.  

     An illusion, that kind of honeymoon sets a very idealized precedent for the rest of the marriage, I imagine days spent awash in the smell of orchids and island breezes, time stands still, and fine food and wine lies within easy reach.  Not that I have anything against Hawaii, or Bali, or even Mexico, I’m just more of a realist when it comes to my own marriage. I wanted a souvenir of the heart (Stephens and Gray). 

     The oldest couple ever to get married live in the UK, and as far as I know are still enjoying themselves; Rose at age ninety and her husband Forrest at one hundred.  They dated for twenty five years before they finally tied the knot.  I think sly old Rose knew exactly what she was doing waiting all that time.  She followed her own advice, to “Take your time and get to know one another(Daily Mail Reporter)”.  These days, “couples work hard to enrich their relationship and deepen their intimacy, with a dedication that [is astonishing],” as opposed to the typical marriages of yonder years where couples married for social status and economic gain (Coontz)”.

     The McKenzie river trail runs a little over twenty six miles through the Willamette National Forest; plenty of trail for us to enjoy each other.  It’s early in the morning and we arrive at the trail head.  Matt has picked the location.  We had only been living in Oregon for three months so neither of us were very familiar with the territory.  He found our hike in a going away present from my Dad before we left Idaho, a book on hiking Oregon.  I think we were both hooked on the description of “the blue hole”, a beautiful blue lagoon sitting in the midst of an old growth forest and volcanic rock, a bit of paradise included in our realist’s honeymoon after all.  

     When we arrive at the trail head, the lot is empty except for us and we load up, exchanging our shoes for hiking boots.  It is still cold from last night’s lower temperatures and I pull on an extra layer before hauling my pack onto my shoulders.  We set out into new territory.  We walk across a log bridge that takes us to the other side of the river.  It is a catwalk, only wide enough for one, but it holds us both and the forest is waking up around us, sunlight sifting through sleepy cedars.  We continue along the trail, Matt leads the way, the dog leads him, and the weight of our packs promise adventure.  Almost immediately, Sahalie Falls is upon us, we watch as water flows down, one hundred and twenty feet over giant moss covered lava rocks.  Cold mist tickles my face, the water is a deep dark green and I hold onto a solid log pole railing, but I find the most security in Matt’s solid frame anchored securely beside me.  The enormity of the fall makes me feel dizzy.

     Today I am here in our home, the dogs play outside, their familiar barks and chirps sound like home.  The newest addition, only eleven weeks old, tackles the older dog instigating more play.  Today the sky couldn’t be more clear, teasing winter away with promises of spring. Morning sun shines through the window, and I realize, it has been exactly a year since Matt asked me to marry him.  
     I can’t think straight.  We are sitting in a restaurant in downtown Boise.  Suddenly, without warning I am wearing a stunning sparkling ring on my finger.  That thing, the “M word” was beginning.  Marriage.  We had just returned from a plane ride in a tiny Cessna.  Matt is just full of surprises today, it seems.  The floating feeling of flying is still fresh in my chest, the altitude of the flight and images of our tiny distant city replay themselves in my mind.  The waitress is back for my order, the low lighting hides the multitude of emotions I feel overcoming every part of me.  I have no idea what I want to eat.  Eating seems so silly!  Somehow I manage enough words to shoo her away, and the waitress leaves me with Matt.  He just watches me, his mouth hints a confident smile.  I look at him, I look at my hand.  There is no one else on the entire planet at this moment.  Just me.  Just him.  

     Idaho holds some secrets that only the locals know.  Growing up here, Matt knew just where to take me.  The water’s heat seeps into my bones, I feel steam on my face, the winter breeze teases me with it’s stark cold contrast, and all around me are trees, snow, jagged rock, and mountain sky.  Matt reaches over and turns the lever to slow the cool water and then turns the other to release the hot water, always monitoring the temperature, keeping it just right for me.  The primitive PVC pipes are impressively modern in this rustic little spot.  I find hard to imagine the sweat it must have taken to install the hundreds of feet of plastic piping that controls the water flow into our pool.  Who were they, the people who decided to harness this spring, working for nothing but the pleasure of what they were to create?  The day begins to ease the misty morning away, and sunlight escapes from the fog.  Our clothes lie a few feet away, a pile of winter boots, hats, and sweaters but our bodies are warm, immersed in the natural hot spring.  I remember the signs on the way up, “ Beware of the Bare,” the tamers of this natural hot spring left their mark.  Matt hands me a coconut water from our picnic lunch which he had prepared and begins slicing apples and cheese for us to eat.  This perfect moment, I realize as I watch him, he created  just for me.  I sit with him quietly, drinking in the moment.

     My feet, finally released from the confines of my boots, I lay back on the picnic table beneath me, my head rests on my pack.  The McKenzie river trail has worn us out completely.  Matt is off looking for the campground hosts so we can set up camp for the night.  Maple leaves shift above me, a kaleidoscope, letting in sunlight and whispering to the blue sky beyond.  My whole body feels an exhaustion that only backpacking can bring.  I can still feel the straps on my shoulders, my feet pound, the trail still fresh in my muscles.  I close my eyes.  I am his wife.  And just as I feel myself drift off, I hear his familiar footsteps.  We beg our bodies to unpack the tent, sleeping pads, bags.  Even though it is only afternoon, once inside the tent, I am asleep in a cocoon, wrapped up in my husband’s arms.  And the trail ahead, our life?  We will hike it together, at each turn, our map is each other.

Coontz, Stephanie.  Marriage, A History.  New York:  The Penguin Group, 2005.  Print.
Daily Mail Reporter.  “World's oldest newlyweds give marriage tips... and reveal secret to longevity is wine, whiskey and fried food.”  Mail Online.  5 May.  2011.  Web.  21 Feb. 2012.
Gibran, Kahlil.  The Prophet.  New York:  Alfred A Knopf, Inc, 1972.  Print.
Gray, John, Phd.  Venus on Fire Mars on Ice.  British Columbia:  Mind Publishing, 2010.  Print.
Stafford, Kim.  Having Everything Right.  Seattle:  Sasquatch Books, 1997.  Print.
Stephens, Steve and Alice Gray.  The Walk Out Woman.  Sisters, Oregon:  Multnomah Publishers, 2004.  Print.
Rozday, Bill.  “Seven Reasons to go on a Hike With You Spouse”.  Hitched.  2012.  Web.  21 Feb. 2012.