“Poetry in emotion”

The party’s over.. and it went very well indeed. We’ll be working on uploading photos and poetry from the celebration to this website. In the meantime, I’ve put up a post on my literary blog, focusing on the most creative aspects of the celebration:

This past Saturday, Rachel and I celebrated our recent wedding with some 75 friends and family at the London Wetlands Centre, a green oasis beside the Thames. 1,148 more words

via Poetry in emotion: a wedding celebration in a swamp — Via Negativa

It’s official!

Pennsylvania self-uniting marriage certificate
Pennsylvania self-uniting marriage certificate

We had originally planned to tie the knot on the Isle of Eigg in late May — and we’re still going there for our honeymoon — but then we realized how much easier it would be to do it in Pennsylvania, using its nearly unique self-uniting marriage provision, in the course of Rachel’s already planned visit coinciding with a reunion of my mother’s family. We didn’t invite too many people to our simple ceremony in the woods because we couldn’t be sure that the local county clerk would accept all of Rachel’s documentation… and also because we wanted to do it on top of the ridge above my parents’ old farm, which isn’t terribly accessible to the elderly or out-of-shape. My cousin Heidi was thoughtful enough to provide a cake for us at the reunion the following afternoon. And of course we’re planning the main party for June in London. Getting married on a mountaintop, celebrating it in a swamp… yin and yang, y’all.

So here’s the video:

Rachel’s knitting prowess is much in evidence, not only with the anatomically correct heart in the box, but also the shawl and cardigan, the latter finished and blocked with mere hours to spare. I’m hoping she’ll have the time to add her own blog post about that. I blogged at my literary site Via Negativa about our use of poetry, and we’ve also open-sourced our wedding vows. As for the video, let me repeat what I wrote on Via Negativa: I used mobile phone video footage by Rachel (via tripod) and my cousin Heidi Suydam, with additional photographs by Heidi and her daughter Morgan. I couldn’t resist including some snippets from Aaron Copland’s ballet about a newly married couple in the wilds of western Pennsylvania, Appalachian Spring. Credit is also due to Joseph Brackett, composer of the Shaker song “Simple Gifts” that Copland drew upon in the most famous portion of the suite. Since many people unfortunately know this tune only in its bastardized form (as the faux-Celtic “Lord of the Dance”), I want to quote the original lyrics:

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.

Amen to that.

A porcupine did indeed follow us part-way up the ridge to the ceremony, as the video suggests (with footage of the same animal in the same place two days previous), and when we returned to the spot later, it was clear why: s/he was feeding on one of the trees in the grove where we tied the knot. I’ve always felt a special kinship with these prickly, buck-toothed, tree-hugging troglodytes, so I was pleased to have one put in an appearance at such a pivotal life event.

“And what is so rare as a day in June?”

Americans of my generation grew up hearing this line without necessarily knowing where it came from. Turns out it’s from an epic retelling of Arthurian legend by the 19th-century American poet James Russell Lowell. This is the passage I used to hear the old-timers recite:

And what is so rare as a day in June?
Then, if ever, come perfect days;
Then Heaven tries earth if it be in tune,
And over it softly her warm ear lays;
Whether we look, or whether we listen,
We hear life murmur, or see it glisten …

Here’s a short article in the Paris Review with pretty much all you need to know about it, “one of those improbable bits of poetry that’s somehow managed to survive in our cultural memory.”

How it all began

Yes, we met on the internet. But this was long before apps like Tinder — in fact, it was before any app! You had to use a computer to go online! There were blogs! I distinctly recall my first run-in exchange with Rachel in a comment thread on Language Hat, the venerable blog about languages and hats, although we’ve never been able to re-find that exchange, so maybe I just dreamed it — who knows? But by late 2004 I was leaving comments on Rachel’s blog and she on mine. Blogger meet-ups followed in Montreal (2005) and Brooklyn (2006) though at that time we were just friends. Things didn’t really take a turn for the romantic until after my first visit to London in 2011, when I stayed on the Rawlins family couch. Perhaps the key factor in my growing interest was Rachel’s similar pace and level of enthusiasm in going through museums and botanical gardens. Finally, someone I didn’t drive absolutely crazy! Then I went back home, and we began to Skype. The rest, as they say, is history. Also *ahem* poetry…

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The pdf of the book can be downloaded here: Twelve Simple Songs