Sunday, January 22, 2012

Hava, The Gila...


They chose this spot in the Gila national forest because her ancestors lived in the Mimbres Valley, and his ancestors came from the Black Range, whose runoff and snowpack nourished the Mimbres River.

By this stream, the groom would wash his bride's hands and the newly married couple would feed cornbread to their guests. To each person being served, the groom said, "Take as much as you like. This is our first meal together."

Their ceremony incorporated many elements of a traditional Apache wedding, and somehow the bride had found me -- she has been drawn to Buddhism in recent years -- and the couple asked me to officiate. Before giving my short dharma talk, I joked that we were "code switching" but the different voices were pointing in the same direction.

There were five guests, the married couple, and me. That's it. As part of the ceremony, we knelt before a rock on which a beautiful cloth had been laid out, and signed their marriage certificate there by the stream. Two fires burned, and we all smelled of sage from being smudged earlier. At the conclusion, we were smudged with sweetgrass.

I'm used to people bringing presents for the newlyweds. At this wedding, however, the bride and groom gave presents to their guests. Sharing this day with them was a gift in itself.

They met purely by accident several years ago. The groom and his sister had been stranded somewhere and were walking by the side of a road. The bride passed them in her pickup truck, and stopped to rescue them. He had resisted accepting the ride -- so the story was told over dinner that night in Silver City, over laughter and good food among old friends.

Much later, the bride was grieving a loss, and called on the groom's sister for comfort. The sister had an insight and said to her brother, "Bobby, you should go over there." And he did. And so it went. Here we all were. The sister nodded and said, "When you are sad and a man comforts you, he rescues your heart."

So they took turns rescuing each other; mutual rescue in a bewildering world. I know the feeling.

They invited me to pass the night celebrating with them, but the time came for me to go. I had to get back into my car and go back where we had come from, passing the very spot where the wedding had taken place. On Friday night, I was to travel that winding mountain road all the way from San Lorenzo to Kingston, through Emory Pass and the Black Range, climbing and traversing the mountain to find the interstate and head north for the long climb to Santa Fe.

My robes and blue ceremonial kasa, folded neatly on the back seat, smelled of sage and sweetgrass.

1 comment:

Kelly said...

What an interesting story!