I am pretty sure that these, right now, are The Good Old Days.
Our wedding was one of those giant labors of love that every so often makes you question your own desires and devotion to an amorphous aesthetic ideal. We had decided on a simple, laid-back garden party, but no matter how determined we were to take things easy, throwing a party for 100 dear friends and family while tying the knot is not a simple feat, particularly if, when it comes down to it, you are two people who both get a little crazy about realizing a vision. Apparently, even if your vision is "chill, fun, backyard barbeque with lots of pretty colors" but you are not remotely interested in even slightly compromising that vision, it is still a lot of work to pull off.
However, we are blessed to have wonderful friends and family--my sister, the organizational genius; May and Surfrunner, who reassured me countless times via email about my wedding attitudes and accoutrements, and who danced a hula with me that our lovely sister-in-spirit Mahina choreographed; Emily, who found my dress and my shoes, who hovered around us the week of the wedding and readily helped us with anything we needed, who acted as my hands and my sister's hands the day before the wedding when our own hands were covered in sticky black henna. A wonderful couple that knows Adam from Pennsylvania and now lives here in Santa Rosa came over on a sweltering Saturday a couple weeks before the wedding and repaired our gate, and then returned a week later with a beautiful, handmade redwood well cover to replace the ill-fitting steel plate we'd been using. Jam Guy's parents and many of our friends set up chairs, charmed my not-easy-to-charm father, kept our pets for the day for us, built a bridge for our guests to more safely cross from the creek trail to our back gate when they arrived by rickshaw. Another friend lent his beautiful artwork to decorate the garden. Yet another played her accordion for arriving guests and another gifted us with a spectacular bellydance. We had friends who made us a keg of beer; we've made friends with the lovely folks who catered the wedding and made our rings and took our pictures. We had friends pulling weeds and staining picture frames and setting up tables and folding origami favors. My father, who I had feared would hate the lack of tradition in our wedding and make a point of telling me so, only reiterated over and over that he wanted me to be happy and enjoy the day. It was exactly the wedding we both wanted, and it became this beautiful celebration of love--not just romantic love between new husband and new wife, but the deep, sustaining love of a funny, diverse, wonderful community that grants context and meaning to our marriage.
And this is not to say Jam Guy and I didn't work hard ourselves putting the wedding together. We did; in fact, I kept joking that it was boot camp for marriage. I hadn't doubted before that we make a good team, but I am more sure than ever that we make one of the best teams I've ever been part of. I was not one of those brides that plan the entire wedding myself and just get the groom to okay everything--I was matched and even exceeded in my efforts by my amazing guy. We had the vision in common: a fun, poppy-filled, lovey-but-not-barfy day, and we pulled each other toward it with a weirdly unwavering sureness of it being exactly the right wedding for us. And, thanks to each other, to our just incredible community, to our families and friends and the amazing Santa Rosa weather and the dirt in our backyard that gets things to grow like magic beanstalks, it really was just exactly right.
Now we are married and totally stoked about it.
We went on a honeymoon that was just a big pile of bliss, the bliss of not having to do anything at all but exercise options like living on mimosas or petting wandering neighbor dogs or lying on the couch and watching Quantum Leap or cooking ourselves in the hot tub underneath tall redwoods and rain clouds.
The first night of our honeymoon, we slept soundly for the first time in weeks, probably because we didn't have to-do lists running through our heads for the first time in weeks. But I dreamed a dream that frequently recurs: in the dream, I am back with my crazy, controlling ex-boyfriend, somehow talked into or passively fallen back into that poisonous relationship. Whenever I am in this dream I am agonizingly aware of how much happiness I am giving up to be with the scary ex, but the thought of mustering up all the strength it took to leave him the first time exhausts me. I keep trying to muster it, and I can't, and I am furious that I have trapped myself yet again even though I ought to know better.
In this dream that night, though, my sister and my mother were both living near me, and I kept lying and lying to them about how great my relationship with the scary ex was, because I was too ashamed to admit how enormously mistaken I'd been in returning to him. But in the way that the important women in your life know when you're with someone who's not good enough for you, I knew they knew, and they were just pretending to believe my lame deception. In the dream I was having lunch with my mom after a particularly difficult morning with the scary ex--one of those mornings we had so often, where he said and did a million brutally hurtful things but they were all so little, like papercuts, that I couldn't pick one out to use as a reason to leave--and, exhausted, I blurted out to my mom, "I have to leave him."
"Thank God," she responded, putting down her fork. "Yes, you do."
"But, Mom," I said, finally laying all my cards on the table, bursting into tears, putting my broken heart in her hands the way I wished I could do when I was leaving the scary ex in real life, "What do I do? I just don't know what to do, I don't know where to start, I don't know how to begin to leave."
And she said, with her eyes fixed very seriously and confidently on mine: "You just do."
It was like a huge, heavy cowl had been lifted off my shoulders and away from my eyes, like I hadn't been able to feel or see sunlight before she uttered those three words. There was so much relief in being told I could just walk away, that maybe my past could really just, simply, be left in my past.
When I woke up I felt happy and light. I stretched, I read comics in bed till Jam Guy woke, and then I took the delicious coffee he made me and sat out on the deck of our borrowed cabin.
It had rained a little the night before, and as I tried to count the different birds I was hearing in the riot of morning bird song, a monarch butterfly drifted across the driveway in front of me and then settled inches away from me, dead center in my field of vision, onto the sun-warmed asphalt drive. It settled there and slowly moved its wings, up and down, drying them from the rain.
I called Jam Guy to see. The butterfly stayed there for minutes, carefully warming its damp wings, before taking off and fluttering around us for a while and then disappearing into the redwoods.
Jam Guy and I have been gifted with animal totems in the significant moments of our lives intertwining: moments before he asked me to marry him, we saw a stag with a full rack of antlers pause just yards from us before leaping away in glorious, sunlit arcs; when we took a quiet, reflective walk along the creek path immediately after our wedding ceremony, we spotted a gleaming mallard duck paddling complacently down the creek with his brown-speckled mate right beside him, in what could have been a water-dwelling, feathered reflection of us. Now this butterfly perched before us shedding the rain that made its wings too heavy for easy flight, coming to us so quickly after a dream in which I was shown my own power to shed old, weighty grief. It was, is, a symbol of new life in all sorts of ways. Grateful and humbled, I am newly determined to see myself stepping into a new and beautiful phase of my life, one where I have both the power and the support to really and truly walk away from old, limiting patterns.
Last night I sat reading The Peaceable Kingdom by Jan de Hartog, a hefty historical novel about the roots of Quakerism. Jam Guy was in the kitchen making up a huge pot of Mahogany Beef Stew in order to not waste the opened jugs of red wine left over from the wedding; Toby was sleeping at my feet; Meimei was sleeping under the china cabinet--in short, we were all doing our favorite things, and our little house felt happy (and smelled amazing).
Today I went for a jog around the creek--my first jog since getting married, since our honeymoon was largely spent being gloriously and uncompromisingly lazy. I am thinking of my jogs now as blackberry-monitoring runs, because the wild blackberries growing by the creek are in that stage where half the bushes are still flowering but the other half are covered with little hard green bumpy berries that any day now will start ripening and tempting the hundreds of people that use the creek trail every day, and while I know I have all those other joggers and walkers and bikers, and birds and bugs and the occasional bramble-braving berry-loving dog, to share them with, it would be so lovely to eat a bursting pieful of them in our first full summer living along this creek in this home where I hope we grow old. When I was almost at the end of my run, I spotted one of our neighbors and stopped to chat with her. I stopped maybe a little too suddenly, though, felt woozy, and sat down, and somehow managed to drop my phone, which went all to pieces.
When I got home I handed the pieces of phone to Jam Guy, who promptly fixed it. I handed it to him not because I didn't know how to fix it--I do, and have (I drop my phone a lot) although Jam Guy did it about five times faster than I would have. I give him my broken gadgets to fix, and ask him questions that I know will be answered with "yes," like: will you clasp this necklace for me? will you help me drain the pasta? because hearing "yes" and being taken care of the way he takes care of me makes me feel drunk with luxury. Because I worked really hard, for reasons the grown-up me is not clear about, from an inappropriately early age to make myself look like someone who didn't need to be taken care of, to the point that everyone believed me at least to an extent and I managed to hurt myself by letting them. By the time I met Jam Guy, the part of me that is in everyone, the part that needs taking care of, was that kind of hungry where you're so hungry that you don't even know you're hungry, until someone like Jam Guy feeds you a little kindness and shows you he has just a whole huge kitchen full that he wants to share with you, and you realize you're starving. And so when I ask him to change a lightbulb when I used to make a point of changing them myself, or to talk me out of another bad dream, or to help me find the fennel seeds in the spice drawer, I am doing it with the decadent sense of incredulous privilege that a pauper might do when she suddenly finds herself mistaken for a princess.