Updated: Nov 13
On Sunday afternoon October 15, while driving home from church, I impulsively said to my husband, "There is a special place in the woods I heard about from a client of mine--lets go check it out." We were in need of some respite and healing during a particularly challenging time in our marriage. Nodding, he turned the car around and we headed to The Conservancy for Healing located behind the Reiman Cancer Center at 7410 W Rawson Ave in Franklin WI.
This beautiful little chapel with a soaring roof is open to all for reflection and rest 8am-5pm and this is where my husband and I started our visit. A powerful sense of the sacredness of this place enveloped me as we stood gazing out at the woods through the windows.
The tree canopy sheltered us as we strolled along the wide easy one mile trail from the chapel winding through woods. Holding hands, every so often we paused and read the name of someone's loved one inscribed on a bench. This trail brought us down to a serene little lake with a viewing platform for contemplation. The healing balm of the lapping water was palpable as we sat in stillness.
After a while, we seemed to know when it was time to get up and walk back. Taking another trail back up from the lake, I noticed a Little Free Library and stopped. A proud owner of one myself, I never pass up the opportunity to explore them. Riffling through the neatly shelved books, I came upon a slim collection of poems called "Twenty Poems to Bless Your Marriage and One to Save It," edited by Roger Housden. Turning back the cover, I read this inscription: "With love from Jack and Ashlee, married at the Conservancy October 14, 2023." I exclaimed to Jeff, "Look, they got married here just yesterday and left this book! I feel like it was meant for us."
We sat on one of the memorial benches and read some of the poems. Phrases like "There is a crack in everything...that is how the light gets in," and we "have to abandon our longing for the perfect" in marriage, and "let there be spaces in your togetherness to let the winds of heaven dance between you" both normalized our pain and inspired hope.
My favorite was "Tigers" by Eliza Griswold:
What are we now but voices
who promise each other
a life neither one can deliver
not for lack of wanting
but wanting can't make it so.
We hang from a vine at the cliff's edge.
There are tigers above
and below. Let us love
one another and let go.
God is helping us with the tigers.
Thank you, Jack and Ashlee, for this gift on the first day of your marriage. We received it that day in the 39th year of ours.