Sunday, July 27, 2008

Lisa's wedding day was bright and glorious. She sparkled like the jewelled net of Indra, nothing left out, and Alan was radiant beside her. Two suns, you almost needed sunglasses to look at their smiles directly. So much love pouring out from eye to eye, from mouth to mouth.

Michael Mansfield and Carla co-officiated. I had been chupah holder for Michael and his husband Randy when they married three years ago, and I was chupah holder for Lisa and Alan. Their chupah was a brightly colored parachute; Michael and Randy's had been a quilt. Carla wore a cream-colored dress trimmed with gold and gold sandals. I told her she looked like a Roman gladiator.

"That's just the look I was going for," she dead-panned. She also said the secret to a happy till-death-do-you-part marriage was to marry later in life. It was a joke, but there's some truth to it. The phrase "till death do you part," has more meaning when you are over fifty. It's both more real and less scary than when you are twenty.

The whole day took on a flavor of Midsummer Night's Dream for me. Obviously, Lisa and Alan were the royal wedding couple, I forget their names, Hippolita and ...? The ones for whom the peasants prepare their play, the ones whose guests Helena and Lisander and the other two are. But there were also other lovers, like Oberon and Titania, courting, distancing, pursuing, embracing, quarreling, making up. A million little love story tributaries all feeding into the big river of love.

I'm beginning to see this as one good way to look at life; as if it is all a gigantic love story, replete with misunderstandings, vulnerabilities, separations, broken promises and renewed vows. As Michael said during the wedding ceremony, "When we contemplate Nature, we see what enormous love has been poured into every spot on the planet." That doesn't mean it's all sweet and easy. It just means, as Ginsberg says in my favorite poem, "the weight/the weight we all carry is love."

My own beloved, C, is not much for audience participation, and he kept trying to create a safe distance between himself and any threat of being called upon to share his innermost thoughts on marriage, or perhaps, nightmare of nightmares, do an interpretive dance under a Redwood tree. He kept fleeing down the rustic paths to the source of the stream, trying to get a moment alone to collect himself, poor man, and I kept pursuing him the way Helena pursues Demetrius in Midsummer. He was agile and elusive as a deer, and so on we went, a merry chase.

Meanwhile, other young lovers were making out in the dance area, while married couples contemplated their own vows, and other middle-aged couples compared notes on the logistical challenges of combining households and communities at an age when most of us become a little crusty and stubborn. And the sun shone, and there were many different kinds of cake, berry tarts, and coconut layer cakes, and chocolate, and amazing live music.

One of my most intimate moments of connection was helping Carla in the bathroom, which proves that Love really doesn't care where you call on it--it finds a toilet as good a meeting place as a sunset beach. It doesn't matter. And later that evening C and I got a chance to talk, honestly, about the differences between us. I value his deep introvert self, his ability to listen and hold, his quietness and steadfastness. And yes, the insecure teenage girl part of me wanted to make sure I had a partner on the dance floor--godammit, I was single for 14 years, now I don't have to be anymore, dance with me! I don't care who's watching.

And he did, a delicious slow dance, but I also have to accept that even now that I am coupled and not single anymore, it doesn't mean he will be automatically available to fill every social need or desire I have. I still have to be comfortable dancing by myself, or with whomever is there that wants to take a whirl. I have tor espect his right to be exactly who he is, both in the moments when it's conveneient for me, and especially in those times when it's not.


Rae Hallstrom said...

This is so beautiful, Alison. You have a wonderful perspective on love and marriage. Also, you give me hope! I want to love and be loved again, too.

Christy said...

"...Love really doesn't care where you call on it--it finds a toilet as good a meeting place as a sunset beach."

That's a classic!

Carol said...

Hi Alison,

I've been a fan since the instructor in a poetry workshop I took gave me The Largest Possible Life as a Gift. My favorite poems are "Impossible"--partly because I teach writing in prison, sometimes to juveniles, sometimes to adults, and "The Notary Public"--which I first read after experiencing a similarly wrenching relationship conclusion.

I've just been to your website trying to contact you, but encountered difficulties when asked to configure Outlook--which my computer would not permit, for reasons given to me in computer language I could not penetrate.

I'd like to discuss the possibility of you coming here to Klamath Falls (in southern Oregon, just over the California border, two hours east of Ashland) to do a one or two-day workshop/reading--whether you'd consider it, what your availability would be and what your fee would be. We'd fly you here or Amtrak stops in Klamath Falls or you could, of course, drive. This would be part of a workshop/reading series which my writing group (under the sponsorship of the library and/or The Oregon Poetry Association) is seeking a grant to bring about.

Hope to hear from you. I can be reached at

Carol Imani

Anonymous said...

alison - how can one best purchase your poetry book, "the Largest Life Possible"? i went to amazon and it is temporarily out of stock. is it available anywhere else?

i read an excerpt. WOW. i want this book - a few, actually!


Anonymous said...

addendum to prior - found another source for your book via amazon link and ordered it just now :)! can't wait to receive it!!

all best.

Alison said...

Wow, lots of wonderful comments! Thank you everyone! My book is available through . That's the folks who published it, Cleveland State unviersity Press.