Fade Into You
It didn’t take long to regret lobbying so heavily for a pre-wedding run.
I was the first to change into running shorts. I thought it might motivate the others. Eventually, amidst the place setting, flower arranging, and chuppa building, Matt, his brother Marc, and friend Daniel (aka “B Love”) readied themselves for a few miles in the mountains.
We walked the first few hundred feet along the ridgeline. The sky had not yet cleared. A vast and varied gray was tucked into the blazing green hills. We likened it to Rivendell.
We ran six long miles of muddy road through sweeping vineyards, wide meadows, and shadowed evergreen groves. Apple, a mangy, spirited mutt, led the charge, darting in and out of the woods, and leaping through small sheep herds. Our conversation, initially enthusiastic, became sporadic. We settled into the steady rhythm of our footfalls and breath, taking in the scenery around us and the impending gravity of the afternoon. When the gravel yielded to pavement, we turned for home, and Matt’s approaching ceremony.
Matt was stoic, if not enthusiastic, as we walked back to the vineyard. The place was transformed. An alter of flowers was set in a small northward-facing field. The interior was well manicured: rows of tables and chairs, china and linen. The kitchen was buzzing.
One by one, we repaired to our tents and SUVs to dress for the wedding. I met Matt in line for the outdoor shower, there behind Frank and Susanna. I snapped a photo of him in the shower’s window: thumbs up and smiling.
My shower was long and warm. Plants grew through the weathered slats of the small structure. Spider webs hung in the corners. I never felt cleaner. The scenery was pristine. I could get used to getting dressed outdoors. The breeze was cool and dry. The air was sweet. I didn’t care who saw. No one did.
We assembled for the ceremony. There were no pre-wedding jitters, only an atmosphere of tranquility. The klezmer band struck up a tune. The chupa bearers appeared first, then Matt, flanked by his parents. He wore a black, Nehru collared coat with gold embroidery over an off white shirt. Sarah, makeup less, approached in a simple white gown. Matt smiled.
Carrie, a colleague from the Breema Institute, began the ceremony with a meditation. I resisted the urge to roll my eyes and instead closed them, listening closely to the sound of my breath, and the wind through the trees. I opened them slowly, absorbed in the blades of grass at my feet. When I looked up, the valley came into a newer, sharper focus. There was nothing but nature for as far as the ey could see; no signs of man. Swallows swooped playfully on the chuppa. And the ceremony began in earnest.
It’s been a while since I sat straight faced through a wedding. The patriarchal, Bible-intensive symbolism and sheer force of optimism are difficult for me to stomach. This wedding would prove no different. The opening “prayer” involved the following recitation:
We pray that we may be aligned with You
So that your powers may flow through us
And be expressed by us
For the good of this planet Earth
And all the living beings on it
Matt and Sarah had written their vows. They too were strewn with New Ageisms like “life force” and “great Grandmother Earth.” But however foreign or hokey or just plain out there the whole thing was, it was impossible to resist the beauty of the situation. Or its earnestness. Big Media may not relate, but it wasn’t Big Media’s wedding. It was Matt and Sarah’s. It was all theirs. And it was beautiful.
True, I’m dubious about marriage. And why not? The primary example in my life — my parent’s — dissolved spectacularly. And I’ve seen more than one friend’s fade into oblivion since.
Similarly, though, I have seen success: my dad and his wife, my brother and Jen, Jon and Lisa.
So I haven’t given up on love, not yet. And I certainly haven’t given up on marriage. I hope it happens for me someday, and I’d rather it sooner than later. If it does, and if my yet-to-be-identified future bride is ok with it, I hope our ceremony is as beautiful, as earnest, and as individual as Matt and Sarah’s.
And I hope that afterwards, in the wee hours of the morning, when all of the guests have fallen asleep beneath a canopy of stars, we sneak downstairs for a piece of baklava and a glass of fresh goat’s milk, and laugh uncontrollably. And we’ll turn to each other and say through the crumbs, “We did it!”