— From CB —
Writing this on Thursday, as I’ll likely be zonked on Sunday when we post this.
Our son Eli is being married on Saturday. His lady Meg’s parents are arriving from Illinois, our daughter Johanna and her guy are flying in from Tuscany, for an outdoor wedding with seventy guests. It’s all quite terrifying.
Terrifying in our joy. From some distance, we’ve seen our kids both through a range of relationships, always with fascinating individuals, but none that I felt in my gut, Aha, this is right! Now, with Eli’s Meg and Jo’s Francesco, I feel the humor and core of kindness that are needed for the long haul. I’m quite sure the bristles and sharp elbows are there as well, but those are part of the indignity of life. Those can be managed.
The fear is in those ceremonial markings that seem to stamp Permanent on the flow of impermanence. You see the newborn baby, and you know that he’ll look different at the age of two, seventeen, forty, and yet when you take the snapshot you’re trying to seal that moment in amber to preserve it through the millennia. Likewise, public vows in an age-old ritual (whatever one’s feelings about age-old rituals) imply a new state of being.
But of course it’s not. Rather, like birth, it’s taking a fork in the path — a new state of change. That holds the same terror as the folktales of the child entering the forest. However well equipped with lunchbox, hatchet, or parental advice, he’s unprepared. The story is about improvisation, discovery — venturing where there be dragons and embracing the treasure.
“Well, you better take a knife and fork at least,” you want to tell your kid, even though the kid’s forty-one. And so much else. Listen, listen deeply. Be insistent and infinitely patient. Be kind. Learn slowly to tell the truth. Learn slowly to hear the truth. Shed old skin. Keep the spine supple. Enlarge your circle of friends. Expect change. And so much more.
But those can’t be given like wedding gifts. Our very modest gift is a tent like our own — one that a six-footer can stand up inside — with a groundcloth. It offers this couple the magical nights we’ve had, along with inevitable spans of storm-soaked misery — a tent ain’t a Winnebago.
Two people sharing warmth, under canvas and for life, waking to the gifts they work to offer each other. That’s my notion of marriage. Each of us forms our own.
— From EF —
The air was cool and fresh, and dapples of sunlight made the deep-blue jays flash like lightning against the furry red trunks of the enormous trees. White chairs were set in concentric rings on the brown bark of the little clearing downhill from the Trocadero Clubhouse in Stern Grove, and at four-thirty Saturday afternoon, about seventy people sat waiting as Eli and Meg came to take their seats at the head of the circle. No organ music played, nobody “gave away” the bride. We all sat together simply listening, tuning in, finding the rich sense of presence that rises when human speech is suspended.
When the time felt right, they spoke their vows. Not the phrases that we have heard so often that the meaning has lost its power to startle. What they offered each other was simple, deep and profound, startling in its directness. These promises were absolute. When the rings were exchanged, something had changed — and nothing had changed.
This beautiful man and woman had already come into a life-long bond, and now they were bearing witness before friends and family in an ancient ritual. In the second span, many people spoke briefly, one after another, allowing the ripples of feeling to smooth into silence after each one. The air was alive.
Eli and Meg signed their marriage certificate, and then every single guest did likewise. Witnesses, in all senses of the word. All different, all united in their love of this pair. Husbands and wives, wives and wives, at least one trio, parents, children, friends, co-conspirators all. In our hectic fragmented society, connection is a cool drink of water on a hot day.
This ceremony was a gift to all of us.
— From the Fool —
I was in this bar, and a little green man walked in. He was three feet tall with a big nose, but it takes all kinds. We talked, and he said he was from Mars.
On vacation? No, it was scientific. He was here to find out about people. He teaches Humans 101 at the college there.
I said I thought he was supposed to say, Take me to your leader. No, he said, they did that a long time ago, but all they got was bullshit, so they thought well, maybe in vino veritas. Hit the bars.
So I thought he was going to ask me my opinion, but turned out he just wanted a beer. He’d found out what he needed to know.
The question was, Are people nice or horrible? Big debate on Mars: some said nice, some said horrible. He’s decided we’re nice.
Well, what about war? I asked.
That’s a proof of it, he said. People know there are too many people and it’s bad for the planet, so we buy bombs and blow ourselves up.
But what about some people have all the money? Answer to that is simple. We know greed is bad, so the nicest guys agree to grab all the money and relieve all the rest of us from the hassle.
Carcinogens? They keep us from dying of other stuff.
But men beat up their wives and wives beat the kids and the kids beat the dog and the dog bites the old lady in the flowered hat.
Inspiration for artists, he said.
But then what happens if there’s climate change and stuff gets hot and it’s all a desert? Makes it more like Mars, he said. It works for little green men: they don’t need plants, they’ve got chlorophyll skin.
His name was Bob. He looks on the bright side. I felt better too, after three shots of whiskey.
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© Bishop & Fuller 2014
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