Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Bread and the Knife, the Crystal Goblet and the Wine

This is a link to the video of Matt's and my wedding ceremony that Matt's stepmom was so good as to get: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DdyEsRWAHCI&feature=youtu.be

This is the text of the wedding ceremony. It's only a late draft though, as our wonderful officiant has the final one, so I apologize for any errors I may have overlooked.

Officiant: Welcome, family & friends. We have gathered here to celebrate Kristin and Matt as they make a formal commitment to each other through the act of marriage. By being here we take part in this commitment by offering our love and support, and we also give them the opportunity to begin their married life surrounded by the people most important to them.


Officiant: As someone who has been married quite some time, I can attest to the need for love in a marriage, but not only love—also dedication, patience, understanding, kindness, and laughter. Always laughter, even when times seem the hardest. It is also important to celebrate the things you have in common, but it is equally important to appreciate the differences between you. After all this ceremony is meant to witness and affirm the choice you have made to stand side by side as partners in life.

As Anne Lamott says in Some Assembly Required: “That two people fall in love and decide to see if their love might stand up over time; if there might be enough grace and forgiveness and the occasional memory lapse to hold their love together into the fullness of time. That we celebrate the commitment to this work, to the joy, to the inevitable struggles, to the energy that is both sweet and deep that the two people exude in their love for each other. That we celebrate our senses of humor and patience, and the greatness and cost of enduring family love.”

Officiant: And now Kristin and Matt have asked their parents each to do a reading.

Family readings:
-          Karen Johnson: An excerpt of what Khalil Gibran says in “On Marriage”:
o   Love one another but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls . . .
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts . . . .
-          Ken Johnson:
o   From The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula Le Guin, “Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; re-made all the time, made new.”
o   And from Louise Erdrich, “Some people meet the way the sky meets the earth, inevitably, and there is no stopping or holding back their love. It exists in a finished world, beyond the reach of common sense.”
-          Al Roberts: “53” by e e cummings:
o   may my heart always be open to little
birds who are the secret to living
whatever they sing is better to know
and if men should not hear them men are old

may my mind stroll about hungry
and fearless and thirsty and supple
and even if it’s sunday may I be wrong
for whenever men are right they are not young

and may myself do nothing usefully
and love yourself so more than truly
there’s never been quite such a fool who could fail
pulling all the sky over him with one smile.
-          Susie Roberts: An excerpt from “Dance Me to the End of Love” by Leonard Cohen
o   Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic ‘til I’m safely gathered in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love . . . .

Expression of Intent, Vows and Ring Exchange

Officiant: A marriage, as most of us understand it, is a voluntary and full commitment. It is made in the deepest sense to the exclusion of all others, and it is entered into with the desire and hope that it will last for life.

We come now to the place in the ceremony where Matt and Kristin declare their vows to each other

Billy Collins’s “Litany” as a duet
Kristin: You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.

Matt: You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.

Kristin: You are the white apron of the baker,
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.
However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.

Matt: And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.

Kristin: It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general's head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

Matt: And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

Kristin: It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

Matt: I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

Kristin: I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman's tea cup.
But don't worry, I'm not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and--somehow--the wine.

Officiant: Do you Kristin, accept Matt as your husband? Before these witnesses do you vow to love and care for him as long as you both shall live? Do you take him with all his fault and strengths as you offer your faults and strengths? And do you choose him as the person with whom you will spend your life?

If so, answer now, “I do” and place the ring on his finger.

Bride: I do.

Officiant: Do you Matt, accept Kristin as your wife? Before these witnesses do you vow to love and care for her as long as you both shall live? Do you take her with all her fault and strengths as you offer your faults and strengths? And do you choose her as the person with whom you will spend your life?

Groom: I do.

Officiant: The wedding ring is a symbol, in visible form, of the unbroken circle of your love, so that wherever you go, you may always return to your shared life together. May these rings always call to mind your love.


Officiant: Kristin and Matt, in the presence of your family and friends who have joined you to share this moment of joy, you have declared your deep love and affection for each other. You have stated your wish to live together, and your intent to be always open to a deeper, richer friendship and partnership. You have formed your own union, based on respect and honor. Therefore, it is my joyful responsibility to officially acknowledge your union as “Husband and wife.” You may now seal the marriage with a kiss.


Officiant: May you find joy together; may peace and happiness be yours.

Introduction of Bride and Groom

Officiant: Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my privilege to present to you for the very first time, Mr. and Mrs. Matt and Kristin Johnson.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Grace Note

Today, grace looks a lot like reading.

I finally finished Some Assembly Required, and I'm incredibly glad I did. If you've not read anything by Anne Lamott before, please do. I recommend Traveling Mercies, and if you're a writer, Bird by Bird.

I had some trouble getting through this one, for a number of reasons. One of which was dealing with the grief of losing my grandmother. Strange things bring grief back to a person. Little triggers can be anywhere and everywhere. But here, they were quite obvious. Some Assembly Required is the journal of the first year of Annie's son's first son. During that year, a much beloved and elderly relative is in the last stages of his life, and passes away. I'm not really spoiling anything for you. Grief in Anne Lamott books is nothing new to me, but this hit me a little hard, especially considering how small the section about the actual death was.

I love the encouragement, peace, and grace I can find in these books. Annie's anxieties and neuroses are akin to mine, and reading about how another imperfect person deals with these things is cathartic, and often very funny.

Instead of rambling on about my interpretations of her work, I'm going to leave this post with a few quotations from Some Assembly Required. These are passages which stuck out most to me, for one reason or another.

From an interview with [her son] Sam, September 25.

Sam: "It's so incredibly humbling when someone forgives you--I can't ever believe it when people forgive me, because you know how badly you've screwed up, and how you've hurt them, and how hard it is for them to be brave enough to find it in themselves to reexperience the pain you caused, and the humiliation that is in them because of you--and for someone to be willing to refeel that much like shit again, reexperience it out of not wanting to lose you, means how deeply precious you are to them. And that's pure gold."

I'm going to go ahead and transcribe an entire entry. This is Annie's from November 9.

"The only son of some people in town Sam and I know has died.

How on earth can the parents survive that? How can the grandparents?

Same old inadequate answer: They will survive with enormous sadness and devastation. I don't see how that is possible. But looking back over the years, I see that people do go on against absolutely all odds, and truly savage loss.

Some of us have a raggedy faith. You cry for a long time, and then after that are defeated and flattened for a long time. Then somehow life starts up again. Other people set up foundations so other kids don't die the way theirs did, and so their kids didn't die in vain, or they do political work for the common good. Your friends surround you like white blood cells. It's just fucking unbelievably sad, pretty much forever, when so much love and life have been packed into one person and then the person dies too soon. But you can shake your fist at the void with scorn and say, "You didn't get her, you bastard. We did." Some aching beauty comes with huge loss, although maybe not right away, when it would be helpful. Life is a very powerful force, despite the constant discouragement. So if you are a person with connections to life, a few tendrils eventually break through the sidewalk of loss, and you notice them, maybe space out studying them for a few moments, or maybe they tickle you into movement and response, if only because you have to scratch your nose."

I told myself I wouldn't do this, but I don't see any other way around. Here's another full entry.

November 27, Letter to Jax [Annie's grandson] on the Secret of Life

"Dear Jax: Yesterday was your first Thanksgiving, and it is the time of year to impart to you the secret of life. You will go through your life thinking there was as day in second grade that you must have missed, when the grown-ups came in and explained everything important to the other kids. They said: 'Look, you're human, you're going to feel isolated and afraid a lot of the time, and have bad self-esteem, and feel uniquely ruined, but here is the magic phrase that will take this feeling away. It will be like a feather that will lift you out of that fear and self-consciousness every single time, all throughout your life.' And then they told the children who were there that day the magic phrase that everyone else in the world knows about and uses when feeling blue, which you don't know, because you were home sick the day the grown-ups told the children the way the whole world works.

But there was not such a day in school. No one got the instructions. That is the secret of life. Everyone is flailing around, winging it most of the time, trying to find the way out, or through, or up, without a map. This lack of instruction manual is how most people develop compassion, and how they figure out to show up, care, help and serve, as the only way of filling up and being free. Otherwise, you grow up to be someone who needs to dominate and shame others so no one will know you weren't there the day the instructions were passed out . . . ."

From February 3

"Besides, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that if something was not my problem, I probably did not have the solution. There are no words for how much I hate, resent and resist this."

From April 20

" . . . my pastor Veronica says that peace is joy at rest, and joy is peace on its feet."

From June 7

"Sometimes--like at weddings or funerals--you have to eat vast quantities because you need to be weighted. You need ballast, or you might just float away in the pain or joy or anxiety. Other times, like today, you just want to shovel it in, for fun, and because you don't want to have to think too much. Eating is so familiar, and marvelously stupid."