Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Barefoot In The Roses

Matt and Ashley got married on a recent Saturday evening, on a vineyard in Malibu with horses running around. They swore vows that they wrote together (with a little bit of coaching from their officiant), exchanging rings in the shade of a giant willow tree. As I write these words they are honeymooning in Mexico.

They are a wonderful couple who have been together some time already, know some of the territory, and are off to a very good start. Their happiness is not a giddy thing; their joy does not contain air bubbles waiting to burst and poison their hopes. They know what they are doing. They have a lot of support and love around them. They even wrote a vow about how they will raise children. They understand they have embarked on a big job, they have discussed it, and they are up to it.

There has been so much talk in our public life lately about who should get married and who should not. Maybe this is a useful conversation for us. It won't be meaningful, if you ask me, unless we start with why we get married. It strikes me as very curious that those who speak of "protecting" marriage usually are not talking about the high divorce rate. They are concerned about preventing Bruce and Steve from getting married, yet they exhibit no curiosity as to why so many "proper" marriages fail.

If marriage is a vehicle, where does it lead? What is it for? Beyond the legal rights and obligations, what does marriage provide for a community? If we aren't clear about this, what are we doing getting married? Do we choose it freely or are we pressured to enter a bargain we do not understand or desire?

Maybe our country should have that conversation first. Then we can talk about who is suitable for the task.

At any rate, these two people are ready for it. After chanting an homage to the three jewels (Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha), I explained to the gathering that they were the officiants and I was there to assist them: they, the family and friends to whom the couple have turned throughout their lives, would be marrying this couple.

Being for the most part non-Buddhists, they weren't familiar with the three jewels. Buddha, I defined as complete attention; Dharma, the teachings and life experience that had brought each of them to this place; and Sangha, their family, community, colleagues, their neighborhood, their country. (And I snuck something in there about all sentient beings.) Now these young people, while they continue to mature, will become a resource for others. Their home and their family will provide fruit and shade for their ancestors and those who have not arrived yet.
Then, while I looked on, the gathering ordained these two people as Married Persons - a lifelong vocation in which they will immerse themselves completely. They each took turns making promises and receiving promises from another, letting each other know that they accept the other's promise.

At their request, the signing of the marriage certificate was part of the ceremony. So we witnessed the moment of their legal marriage, too. Two weeping moms witnessed the certificate. A few more words, a kiss, and jubilant applause.

As people moved along to photographs and the chicken dinners that would soon be served, the officiant in grey Zen robes looked around and indulged himself alone:
walking barefoot in the rose petals.

Aaah. This is how I feel in my heart and my mind when two people swear their love and I believe them.

Barefoot in rose petals-
Hot grass.

Leading me to the fence and a beautiful horsey that was grazing. Out loud, I asked the horse: "Can I be useful here?" The horse looked at me, gently butted my hand with his head, and stepped sideways so I could pat him on the side.

Thank you, friend.

1 comment:

BawBaw said...

This lovely, Alg. I enjoyed every word. As an old married person (37 years and counting), I know how lucky we have been in our long friendship. The commitment to marriage and to community--a community of two--is, I believe, what makes the rest of commitment to the larger community possible. So we start as one, become two, and create family--in whatever form works. Well, that's what I think anyway. BawBaw