An anniversary

Today, Judy and I celebrated our wedding anniversary. Ten years ago, we made public vows to one another to ‘establish our marriage in the cross of Christ’, we shared in our first holy communion together as partners-in-covenant, and then we enjoyed another meal together with family and friends, some of whom we still keep in touch with.

Though this morning’s news that parts of the recently-opened Mediterranean Garden at the Dunedin Botanic Garden had again been vandalised left something of a cloud over an already-cloudy Dunedin day, it was good to pack the troops into the ute and drive down to the Taieri Mouth where we sat in the car, ate home-made salami Caesar salad out of old ice-cream containers, drink a bottle of cheap-but-Aussie Cabernet Sauvignon out of chipped plastic picnic glasses, and enjoy knowing that the downpour which was blurring our view of the Taieri River at its low and muddy tide was also filling our near-empty water tank at home. I think we also broke the record in how many knock-knock ‘jokes’ (I use the word loosely) a perfect four-year-old daughter and her besotted-father can author in an afternoon. Samuel appeared unimpressed. A stop at Pier 24 – for hot chocolate, a fluffy and a barely-passable flat white – on the way home was required by all, and was ruined only by watching the seagulls defecate all over the car that I’d just washed for the first time in twelve months. It’s not like they don’t have anywhere else to void excrement from their little sand- and chip-filled bowels!

We decided that dinner tonight would be at one of our favourite eating holes – Fleurs Place. It was a good choice. We began with seafood chowder, and scallops (from Nelson) cooked with mushroom and locally-cured bacon. Then came the main course: a whole blue cod, baked, and served with locally-grown vegetables and four additional fish fillets – sole, moki, gurnard and more blue cod – lightly pan-fried and served with chilli, coconut and coriander. Good Central Otago wine and an appropriate amount of pilsner accompanied a conversation in which gratitude, joy and hope recurred as dominant themes. It’s often hard, but it’s good to love, to keep loving, and to share together in the hope of love’s great victory. There was no room left for dessert.

The drive home was slow, as after-dinner driving should be. The heavy fog on the highway had by now largely lifted, or was blown away. We talked more, and wondered about these two poems by RS Thomas:

Nineteen years now
Under the same roof
Eating our bread,
Using the same air:
Sighing, if one sighs,
Meeting the other’s
Words with a look
That thaws suspicion.

Nineteen years now
Sharing life’s table,
And not to be first
To call the meal long
We balance it thoughtfully
On the tip of the tongue.
Careful to maintain
The strict palate.

Nineteen years now
Keeping simple house.
Opening the door
To friend and stranger;
Opening the womb
Softly to let enter
The one child
With his huge hunger.

– RS Thomas, ‘Anniversary’, in Collected Poems, 1945–1990 (London: Dent, 1993), 103.

A Marriage

We met
under a shower
of bird-notes.
Fifty years passed,
love’s moment
in a world in
servitude to time.
She was young;
I kissed with my eyes
closed and opened
them on her wrinkles.
‘Come.’ said death,
choosing her as his
partner for
the last dance. And she,
who in life
had done everything
with a bird’s grace,
opened her bill now
for the shedding
of one sigh no
heavier than a feather.

– RS Thomas, ‘A Marriage’, in Collected Poems, 1945–1990 (London: Dent, 1993), 533.




  1. Yes, felicitations, Jason and Judy.

    BTW, do you know much of Thomas’ relationship with his first wife Elsi? It does not appear to have been very romantic or passionate. Ronald and Elsi were never seen to touch. Even their wedding photographs show two people with a short-long distance between them – and R.S. looking as wet as Welsh weather. Yet Thomas wrote poems to Elsi before, during, and after their married life. And “Golden Wedding” is poignant:

    Cold hands meeting,
    the eyes aside
    as vows are contracted
    in the tongue’s absence.

    over fifty long years
    of held breath
    the heart has become warm.

    And, apparently, it became warmer. Thomas’ second wife Betty – about whom “Ronnie boy”, as she called him, wrote, “We had lived in sin, and it was wonderful, then we got respectable” – she found the old goat “really sexy [and] full of fun.”

    I’m 62 – and now looking forward to my eighties!



  2. Congratulations! The color of the tenth anniversary is blue (who thinks of these things?). A poem from the Bluegrass poet, Wendell Berry, about the be-ing in of marriage, entitled…

    The Blue Robe

    How joyful to be together, alone
    as when we first were joined
    in our little house by the river
    long ago, except that now we know

    each other, as we did not then;
    and now instead of two stories fumbling
    to meet, we belong to one story
    that the two, joining, made. And now

    we touch each other with the tenderness
    of mortals, who know themselves:
    how joyful to feel the heart quake

    at the sight of a grandmother,
    old friend in the morning light,
    beautiful in her blue robe!

    14 years this month


  3. Lovely Jason – congrats! May the image of God as male and female – centred in Christ and filled by the Spirit be yours and Judy’s for many more years to come. My own wedding anniversary coems up in 2 weeks and I am looking forward to it very much as well :-) Wives are truly one of God’s greatest gifts, I hope I’m not too shabby in return.


  4. Congratulations, Jason! It sounds like you guys had a good day together. We just celebrated our 11th so we’ve got you by a year. May God give you many more as He tarries His return!!


  5. Many thanks folks for your kind and encouraging words. Pat, thanks for the poem by Berry. And Kim, thanks for the wee report on RS Thomas’ love life. Fascinating. BTW, have you read The Man Who Went into the West: The Life of R.S.Thomas by Byron Rogers, and/or Thomas’ Letters to Raymond Garlick, 1951-1999?


  6. Happy (belated) anniversary! Jessica and I hit ten six months ago and had a lovely time with Aurora celebrating in Orkney. Unfortunately, no aurora borealis, but plenty of great memories.


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