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Portrait of an alpine cow with a traditional cow bell in a Swiss Alpine Meadow.
  • Post published:May 15, 2024

On a visit to the village of Murren, Switzerland, accessible only by foot or gondola, Kay and I arrived as the sun descended behind the Alps. After dinner in the village, we were walking back to our lodging and kept hearing these bells. Kay immediately said these were cow bells. The terrain was so steep, so I concluded, it was too treacherous for cows. Goats maybe, not cows. I spoke with usual confidence (personal motto: often wrong but never in doubt), and Kay kept her own counsel. Our personalities were on full display.

The next morning when we began our hike into the mountains, what should be coming toward us on the trail but a small herd of cows each one with a personalized bell around its neck. We laughed, of course, after my apology, of course. And to add to my shame, as we kept hiking, more and more cows appeared.

Murren was full of cows. Not a goat in sight. Cow bells decorated the entryways and front doors of chalets and private residences, some big enough for cathedral towers. Once again fissures in my certainty had appeared, opened up, and swallowed me whole.

Swiss aeronaut Bertrand Piccard said of his adventures as a balloonist, “An adventure is a crisis that you accept. A crisis is a possible adventure that you refuse, for fear of losing control.” After forty-five years of the adventure of our marriage, Kay and I have learned, often through disconcerting experiences, that we need not fear losing control.

Control is an illusion in the first place. Accepting the daily messes and enjoying the unpredictable qualities of our life together has been the slow and steady process of transforming us into a sculpture of nearly perfect soulmates.

Falling in love is easy. Making a good marriage is hard work. Soul mates are not discovered, they are created; they are fashioned and made through persevering together because you love each other. When asked how we have stayed together, my answer is simple, “enjoy the cowbell moments.”

Like the Timex watch, our marriage keeps on ticking; a miracle, Kay likes to point out. Not only can God fashion two human beings and create the majestic Swiss Alps that awed us, but He can also drop in a “more cowbell” moment to remind me that all of this life is an adventure. This trek with my life companion is one of flourishing beauty.