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Expectations are joy killers. It’s so much better to have no idea what will happen and let a situation unfold. But I suck at that. I expect at every turn.

It is my birthday. Joy leaks out of me like a balloon with a pinhole and I’m frantically searching for a piece of duct tape because my husband has been so kind and I don’t want him to see me flattened. Music! “Could you put some music on?” I ask. It’s his truck and I don’t know all the hookups.

“We’re almost there,” is my husband aware of the descending dread inside my skin?

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So I breathe. Intentional breathing helps more than I think it will and I keep at it. My husband apologizes for taking us the wrong way. I hear myself say, “When you go to a new place everything is an adventure. There are no right or wrong places. Isn’t this pretty?” I don’t recognize this upbeat voice, but it was true, I was enjoying the scenery down this wrong road. Was it because it more closely matched my expectations or because of the breathing? Either way I was grateful because I wanted so much for my husband to hear from this part of my voice rather than the critical voice inside me that tends to find fault with him like I find fault with myself.

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It wasn’t long, however, until we found the right road and were out of the car and hiking through a moonscape of goblin rocks shaped like turtles, camels and other sand castles made by giants. We climbed them and the exercise liberated us. Laughter ensued. We teased each other; we raced. We joked about how many rocks resembled penises. We climbed some more.

A good date for me is being a little frightened and having David make fun of me. We climbed higher, I put my knee into my armpit, bracing my new sticky bottom shoes on the slick rock, then heaved skywards, and I was up the tower of clay, climbing these prehistoric mounds of mud. Up and over tower after tower we went until we came to a crevasse littered with giant boulders and deep shadowed pits. David leaped over with ease, but I stopped short. “Come on,” he encouraged, “you can do that.”

“No I can’t,” feeling fear freezing me. “Don’t you know that goblins live in those cracks?” I chose instead to take the long way around scooching on my bum and lowering myself first down then climbing up again so I could avoid the dreaded leap over darkness.

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We were both laughing when I finally caught up to him.

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Hours later, we arrived at a massive cave, the entrance to which involved more rock scrambling and squeezing. But once inside, 90 foot ceilings towered above the floor and four small sky lights offered just enough light into the cave to illuminate the entire thing. It was a dwarf’s stone cathedral. It smelled dusty, and while it was exhilarating to explore, I was anxious to leave before any of the rocks perched on the ceiling or walls fell.

Outside again we found a sunny spot and sat down for a snack. “See all those boulders?” said my husband, pointing to a massive pile up of rocks at the base of the towers above. Clearly this is to be the fate of the rocks inside the dwarf’s cathedral someday, once enough weather elements and time have weakened the mud that are currently holding them in place.

“Yes!” I said, feeling like we had gotten away with something escaping the cave intact. The boulders were just a little smaller than my car, and there were dozens, littering the side of the hill. Above, you could almost puzzle out the spots where they sat perched in some era previously, before the mud had given way.

“Those are the rocks the goblins throw at girls who leap over crevasses,” then he smiled his golden smile.

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