One of the highlights of my year has been watching my cousin and his partner deepen their commitment to each other in work (they are both farmers and started farming together) and life (marriage, baby, the works!). They are both extraordinary people who are taking a very personal approach to building their lives and I am proud and honored to be a part of it.
They had a small wedding ceremony this summer and I am not sure what I was expecting but I was blown away by the power of it. The day started in the barn with regular chores and cow milking and then on to the ceremony at a waterfall not far from where we live. My husband had written the ceremony and it was, for me, an unforgettable tribute to the idea of union. Here's a small excerpt:
What makes a place holy? Is holy in the place, or is it brought to the place? I think it must be a bit of both.
Look around us: water, rock, plant and animal.
Now close your eyes.
Now picture yourself in the middle of a wal-mart parking lot in Oxnard, California. Now, I'm not here to diminish Oxnard, and of course, this is just an illustration, but sometimes by taking away, you see more clearly those things which are meaningful. We have all heard about places that indigenous people, all over the world, designate as holy, why? These are people who didn't have the benefit of organized religion, but they also didn't have the bias of organized religion. What they do have is the patience, the quiet, the open eyes and open heart necessary to see holy qualities; qualities that emerge from the landscape.
...We have talked about the place and decided that it is indeed holy. Now I would like to talk about family. How about this for a segue: think of the union of Sam and Tim like the colonies of New England who 235 years ago declared that they were a whole and independent entity, and severed ties with England. Today, this ceremony is a declaration of independence, a statement of a new, fully formed and unique family, no longer governed by parents. I know it's a stretch, but think about how traditionally the father walks his bride to the alter and hands her over. It's really a quiet revolution.
But our preference is to emphasize the growth of the family through marriage; as the pooling water droplets and the swelling tributaries. This is a happy occasion for the family because the family grows. Think of what Tim's dad said about all the smiling loved ones, looking down at the growing ranks.
Very often we think of the family as tree with it's many branches, forever growing upward and outward in fractal fashion. And as the branches grow outward, the trunk grows stronger. The roots stretch ever deeper. This is a great metaphor for family.
I also like to think of family as a fabric. We are individual strands, but made up of the fibers of our forbears. Their strength flows into us and through us in ways that we sometimes can't even recognize, and that sometimes lie dormant, but emerge when they are called upon by challenge. We bring our strands together through marriage and through the bearing of children. But remember that these strands, require a stitch to bond them together. You can have many strands, does that make fabric? What makes the weave? What is at the core of this strength. The fabric is one of these kinds of things that is greater than the sum of it's parts. It is the joining and the bond between the strands that makes the fabric strong. And beautiful, too. Think of all the patterns that the colors of the individual strands bring to a piece. The color of individual strands and the way that they are woven, again, makes art, makes something that transcends the elements of which it is composed.
And here's a few pix from the day: