wedding on an island
Friday, July 6 2012
location: southern Whidbey Island, Washington State
This morning after breakfast, Gretchen went off to some sort of "women's blessing of the bride" ritual involving rocks into which hopes for the future had somehow been sublimated. I don't know how this spiritual stuff works, so I'm trying to use the language I know. Gretchen had suffered from a handicap similar to my own and had interpreted the word "rock" broadly, so broadly in fact that it included the mostly oldie R&B she burned onto a mix CD. But all indications were that the ritual, or whatever it might be called, went well.
Later Gretchen and I went to one of the institute's vegetable gardens, which at the time was being professionally gardened by a couple of youngish women. The sheer size of the thing was inspirational, and though Gretchen liked the wide walkways between the raised beds, it didn't seem practical for the restricted real estate of our garden.
We continued our walk into the forest behind the Institute. The landscape there was steeply-rolling and covered with second-growth evergreens, though trails made walking through it easy if one was careful to avoid the many stinging nettles and huge Banana Slugs on the forest floor. I thought the first of these slugs that I saw was injured, as it seemed to have matchhead-sized lesion on one side of its body near its head. But later I saw that all banana slugs have identical lesions, which I would eventually learn is the pneumostome, an orifice found on all slugs and land snails.
Back at our cabin ("the Farmhouse"), Gretchen and I ate leftover Thai food and read in the grass. Eventually I wandered down to a flower garden and took closeup photos of blossoms. Meanwhile most of the other guests seemed to be helping out with the many fussy wedding details and I found myself feeling a little guilty about it.
The wedding began in the late afternoon. We were all gathered outside beneath a scorching Puget Sound sun (I mean that non-sarcastically) as we waited for the complicated, fully-rehearsed show to begin (it's important to note that this was a marriage of two people who'd met in the theatre scene).
Gretchen was part of the ceremony itself, and so I found myself sitting with strangers (actually, someone from my old Oberlin co-op was seated next to me, but I didn't recognize her at the time). The ceremony began with a slow parade of two different parties from two different locations, merging together at the scene of chuppah (or whatever non-Jews call it). Being the kind of person I am, I always come to weddings with a certain amount of cynicism, and at first I found myself thinking the slow parade resembled the staggering of zombies. But then something in the music (a woman was playing an original composition on a highly-amplified acoustic guitar) seemed to resonate with the sun-drenched scene and I suddenly felt myself moved to the point of droplets in the corners of my eyes. This was beautiful! It was particularly poignant to see Mary's father in the parade. This is a guy who, some five or six years ago, lost the lower parts of both legs to a freak bacterial infection contracted on an international flight, but here he was walking to the best of his ability with a cheerful look on his face, delighted to see his daughter off on her happy day. There was something almost heavenlike about that moment. ("Heavenlike" is a word I usually reserve for bike rides through Mission Beach while stoned on marijuana.)
After the wedding, Gretchen and I found some shade and wine and were soon joined by others. Four of us there had been Oberlin students and were conversant about coed showers and the early 1990s. There was also a guy there (married to one of the former-Obies) who would have held forth on dam and fisheries law had we encouraged him.
Eventually there was a vegetarian meal, my favorite part of which was the mildly-hot peppers stuffed with black beans. It was all very healthy but also gluten-free (a faddish dietary regime of the sort one now encounters when attending other people's weddings, there, I said it). The highlight of the meal was Mary singing "In My Life" by the Beatles, an event that happened without anything scheduled either before or after. It was the first time I'd ever really focused on the lyrics and I have to say, cynical old gluten-loving dog that I am, I was moved.
Inevitably there came that time in the evening when the tables were pushed to the walls of the exquisitely-trussed meeting hall and 80s dance music played through a suitably-beefy amplification system. I realized soon thereafter that I no longer know how to dance, not even in the manner of an idiot savant raised by housecats.
When the Institute shut down the party, it moved to the Farmhouse's ample living room, where it became more of a sit-down-and-chat-type affair. There were still people drinking wine and whiskey, but I realized I'd passed another maturity milestone when I knew enough not to drink any more after the one whiskey someone poured for me.
A stone labyrinth at the Whidbey Institute.
Mossy trees in the forest behind the Whidbey Institute.
Ferns behind the Whidbey Institute.
Gretchen in the forest.
Flowers in a Whidbey Institute flower garden near "the Farmhouse" (where we stayed).
The bride and groom, Keith and Mary, along with an exquisite truss and an onlooker or three.
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