Friday 21 August 2020
I had a wedding today. I didn’t know it was going to happen when I woke up this morning. I had at one point planned to get married today. He and I got engaged a little over a year ago, and then in February it fell apart.
But as my friend Addie reminded me, “Things fall apart so something else can fall into place.”
In February, with my life suddenly wide open and absolutely no plans, I enrolled in a program a friend recommended called the Rising Earth Immersion at The Eco-Institute at Pickards Mountain. First I spent a few weeks leading a backpacking trip in the Smokies, came out to covid, spent several months living with my parents during lockdown, and then on July 19, I arrived here at the Eco-Institute.
We’ve spent five weeks studying arts activism, learning to live in community, decolonizing the white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy, and developing deep relationships with the land and each other. We’ve developed a culture of care and consent in which we’ve found a deep sense of connection and belonging. We’re each able to be our unique and quirky selves and to be witnessed and held in our vulnerability.
Knowing today was the day I was originally going to get married, my friends suggested I do a little ceremony and marry myself. I had already gotten my would-be wedding ring resized to wear on my pinky finger, rededicating it as a symbol of my relationship with myself and my strength and resilience. I thought I might do a little something to mark the day, but didn’t think it would be much if anything and probably just by myself.
As I was eating breakfast, I looked back through the wedding ceremony I’d written, thinking I’d share some of it with my comrades. My friend Fian jumped in, suggesting a time and place and offering to write an invitation.
It didn’t seem like it would be much, but as the time drew near slowly everyone gathered around and began to add in their ideas and contributions.
We’ve been talking a lot about emergence—the idea that things emerge organically and spontaneously when unique individuals come together in time and space. And that’s exactly what this was. It became something greater than I could have ever imagined. It was so much better than the wedding I would have had and even more than I could have thought up in my wildest dreams.
Adreena offered to give me henna, which was a wedding dream come true. Addie offered to take photos. Topher offered to play my new favorite song, Wildflower, on guitar. Kasey dressed up as her alter-ego Zelda the clown, now Auntie Zelda. My best friend Jules asked if she could put my ring on my finger. Everyone gathered flowers to adorn me and each other and more joined in to put on their best wedding outfits. Fian went full goblin in frog green complete with their flute. Topher came out in colorful, eclectic pants with suspenders, no shirt, and a paisley tie. Addie joined in by changing into leather leggings with just a fur shawl on top. Adreena got her medicine woman mask from our puppet showcase, and Ellie changed into her phoenix outfit. It was such a beautiful expression of authenticity—no one trying to fit some “look” or standard proscribed by society. Everyone was quirky and eccentric, joyful, and uniquely themselves! They were so excited and so full of love.
I wore my nice dress, the one I probably would have worn had I not felt pressured to get a “wedding dress”. I wore the beautiful, wooden laser-cut earrings I had bought for my wedding. My friends adorned me in flowers and holy basil and amaranth. (I love amaranth!) I wore the amethyst bead from Fian’s necklace that each of us have, and I carried the now-dried bouquet my friends had made me for my birthday a few weeks prior.
We all processed together down to this spot that was calling to me in front of the sunflower mural. I began by sharing this video that has really touched me:
These things we talk about in romantic relationships or marriage are the same things that are important in community or any relationship. It’s the little moments that mean the most—waking up to Jules giggling, telling A-Ray how beautiful her curls look today, hugs from behind from Jack in the kitchen, holding Addie’s hand when she’s afraid. It’s about the small moments of love and attention. It’s the simple bliss of being curled up watching a movie together and the silly fun of dancing together in the kitchen. It’s choosing during Logistics Meetings to be kind rather than right. It’s about the stubborn loyalty, the stubborn resilience, being weirdos together, remembering even when we’re fighting that we’re on the same team. It’s about feeling deeply seen and valued.
I shared the story of the Baal Shem Tov, a story from the Jewish tradition that I know through the storyteller Clarissa Pinkola Estés. The story demonstrates that it’s not about having all the details of the traditions and rituals, but rather coming together with the pieces we have, being present with what is, and setting true and heartfelt intentions.
I then shared a few quotes that I’d had picked out, with two recent additions
All of these ideas are so fitting for the work we’ve been doing together around community and the relationships we’ve built with each other. The same themes keep coming up—the increased strength we have when we support each other, surrender to the process, autonomy, small iterative moments of attention…
I mentioned the Life/Death/Life cycle—that like capitalism (which we've been deconstructing), a model of exponential growth is not sustainable. The periods of growth must be followed by periods of death and rebirth—letting what is no longer useful die off and to give room for new life.
I invoked the support of community. I learned from Sobonfu Somé in The Spirit of Intimacy that a marriage cannot survive outside of the context of the greater community. The role of the community is to support the couple, holding both of them in love through all their struggles and keeping each individual accountable and honest.
My friends prompted me to reflect and share some sort of vows. Unprepared, I quieted, closed my eyes, and took a long moment. Then I shared: “I will come back to myself again and again. I will lose my way many times, forget my true self, and get off track. And again and again, each time, I will come back to myself.”
Jules placed my ring on my finger, and I invited everyone to kiss me (not on the lips!). I evoked the image of a tree in my ring, symbolizing my rootedness and resilience. Adreena and her ancestors shared with me a very special blessing, sharing, and teaching in a language I did not understand but nonetheless appreciated deeply. Kasey and Alegra-Ray also shared blessings and love. We sang Wildflower together while Topher played guitar and then we sang “We Shall Be Known” as we processed out. I walked into the kitchen to find that Addie had gotten two cakes, chocolate, and sunflowers!! Everyone fed me cake (some from their mouths, Lady & the Tramp style), and Dan even licked frosting off my nose (ew, wet and slobbery!).
It was all so surreal and magical and couldn’t possibly have come together without each individual and the gifts and ideas they brought to the group. All these ideas of commitment, turning towards each other again and again, and being seen and valued in marriage are the exact same ideas we talk about in community. As adrienne maree brown writes in Emergent Strategy, “Love is an emergent process.” It is iterative, resilient, intentionally adapting, interdependent, and decentralized.
I came here to find my people and myself, and that exactly what I’ve found. This has truly been a homecoming.
And now, after performing our place-based space-laced thematic arts activism puppet cabaret showcase this evening, which ended with us dancing and singing in the pouring rain, we’re sitting here in the living room together in pjs with blankets and tea playing guitar and singing “Halo”. And this is what I love about living in community. I feel so incredibly blessed.
Journal entry from that night:
“I got married today—to myself, my community, community as an ideal, and to truth. It is a surrender to truth, to forces bigger than myself, and a commitment to keep coming back to myself and my truth time and time again. I’m worried people back home won’t understand the significance of it and will think it was just silly, childish fun. I suppose it was. AND, it was very significant, intentional, and Real. I feel different. I feel transformed. I feel a part of something bigger.
I feel so blessed to be part of a community that came out for me in such a big way and witnessed me through something so beautiful and transformative.
I’ve entered something entirely new.”
Waking up the next morning I felt distinctly different—transformed. In the coming days, as we were all playing with the henna, I chose the words SOVEREIGNTY & SURRENDER to write on my feet. And on my hands, I asked Jules to write ROOTED & RESILIENT.