I’m feeling a little sleepy this week (is it the beginning of summer slipping over me?), so I thought as part of our meandering discussion on ceremonies we’d re-visit some classic APW posts, namely Amanda’s posts about wedding readings. These are, in sum, some of my favorite things that have ever been run on APW, and I had to share them with the many of you that were not around back then.
More than a year ago, I asked Amanda, she behind the lovely First Milk, if she’d gather up some inspiring wedding readings. By inspiring, I don’t mean “inspirational” (god help us), but instead, readings that say something real, readings that gain traction in your heart. It ended up that we picked every one of our modern wedding readings from this collection.* They made us cry and laugh, and they made David’s and my high school honors English teachers sit up and take notice, and ask about them after the ceremony. So, as we go into “Ah, we have to write our ceremony” season for you summer brides, some posts and notes, brought to you in bursts. So here, Amanda (with photos all by Cara. They were not before, but now they are. It seems better that way):
I tried to stay away from religious texts (not because I don’t think they’re appropriate and full of lovely, but because folks have such strong feelings about them, and because many of them are so well-known) and Shakespeare (obviously, even Sonnet 116, which was very hard to ignore), and found myself drawn toward passages that I love anyway–not just for weddings. There isn’t a lot about love, I’m afraid, because I figure by the time folks are getting married, well, there’s just more to it than that squishy kind of love. And I tried to come up with passages with which people might not be so familiar (or might simply have forgotten about), some of which are classic, and some of which are more modern. That’s all.
Today, a collection of those that cry to me of lovely and transformation, of what is real, what is full, what is peaceful, waves, swells. As for the whys and wherefores of choosing, I’m not sure I have much to say—it is my hope that these pieces will sing for themselves.
THE POEMS OF OUR CLIMATE
Clear water in a brilliant bowl,
Pink and white carnations. The light
In the room more like a snowy air,
Reflecting snow. A newly-fallen snow
At the end of winter when afternoons return.
Pink and white carnations–one desires
So much more than that. The day itself
Is simplified: a bowl of white,
Cold, a cold porcelain, low and round,
With nothing more than the carnations there.
Say even that this complete simplicity
Stripped one of all one’s torments, concealed
The evilly compounded, vital I
And made it fresh in a world of white,
A world of clear water, brilliant-edged,
Still one would want more, one would need more,
More than a world of white and snowy scents.
There would still remain the never-resting mind,
So that one would want to escape, come back
To what had been so long composed.
The imperfect is our paradise.
Note that, in this bitterness, delight,
Since the imperfect is so hot in us,
Lies in flawed words and stubborn sounds.
CHILDREN RUNNING THROUGH
— Rumi, Trans: Coleman Barks with John Moyne
I used to be shy.
You made me sing.
I used to refuse things at table.
Now I shout for more wine.
In somber dignity, I used to sit
on my mat and pray.
Now children run through
and make faces at me.
RAISE HIGH THE ROOF BEAM, CARPENTERS
When I’d checked into the bathroom with Seymour’s diary under my arm, and had carefully secured the door behind me, I spotted a message almost immediately. It was not, however, in Seymour’s handwriting but, unmistakably, in my sister Boo Boo’s. With or without soap, her handwriting was always almost indecipherably minute, and she had easily managed to post the following message up on the mirror; “Raise high the roof beam, carpenters. Like Ares comes the bridegroom, taller far than a tall man. Love, Irving Sappho, formerly under contract to Elysium Studios Ltd. Please be happy happy happy with your beautiful Muriel. This is an order. I outrank everybody on this block.” … I read and reread the quotation, and then I sat down on the edge of the bathtub and opened Seymour’s diary.
THE LITTLE PRINCE
— Antoine De Saint Exupery
“Are you looking for chickens?”
“No,” said the little prince. “I am looking for friends. What does that mean–‘tame’?”
“It is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. It means to establish ties.”
“‘To establish ties’?”
“Just that,” said the fox. “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world…”
“My life is very monotonous,” the fox said. “I hunt chickens; men hunt me. All the chickens are just alike, and all the men are just alike… But if you tame me, it will be as if the sun came to shine on my life. I shall know the sound of a step that will be different from all the others. Other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground. Yours will call me, like music, out of my burrow. And then look: you see the grain-fields down yonder? I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me. The wheat fields have nothing to say to me. And that is sad. But you have hair that is the color of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat.”
STILL LIFE WITH WOODPECKER
The bottom line is that (a) people are never perfect, but love can be, (b) that is the one and only way that the mediocre and the vile can be transformed, and (c) doing that makes it that. Loving makes love. Loving makes itself. We waste time looking for the perfect lover instead of creating the perfect love. Wouldn’t that be the way to make love stay?
Photos all by Cara, she of Peonies and Polaroids, but also she of Lillian and Leonard (and technically, that children running through image is Lillian and Leonard, not Cara herself at ‘tall) they are wedding photographers for all of Team Practical UK and Europe, and oh my god can you imagine? Yessss…. exactly.
* We also had readings and music from Psalms. I want to say ‘obviously’ here, because, well, I consider Psalms to be among the best collections of poetry ever written. It’s poetry that holds my heart when times are bad and makes my heart sing when times are good. So don’t ever let any one tell you that your wedding readings need to be unique. Time-honored is just as worthy.
**I am supposed to note to you, though it hardly seems worth noting, that the Rumi passage was my suggestion to Amanda. It’s a old love of mine.