Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Hitting the Heights

Look at ‘em. Emily and Ned, in the canyon of rocks and marriage. I just don’t think brides come any more beautiful or grooms more groovy, or for that matter, weddings more wow. Or alliterative.

But first. We had a big party at the home of Ned's parents (Steve & Judi) the night before.
That's my darling, my momling, and one of my niecelings.
Many toasts were offered, including sublime humor and heartwarming sentiment from the Grinnell College crowd and an incoherent, point-A-to-point-12 ramble from yours truly. Wish I’d thought that one out a little…

We stayed at a nice b&b (Los Altos, in Grand Junction) on a mesa with views of the western half of Colorado in every direction. Weather in the 90s, desert-dry, enormous blue skies. The b&b room was great, the food OK, the company lively. My sis and the rest of the Boston ladies were there, as were my big bro, sis-in-law, and son Babe. And my folks scurried about, busy as could be, delighting in a rare confluence of family. It had been several years since this many of us had gathered in one spot.

Wedding day, I had to shlep beer and wine to the reception hall, which task required the help of Steve and his Chevy Suburban. So I come over and happen to catch Emily just back from getting her bridal hair done, standing among vases of flowers for the reception, going over a list of last-minute to-do’s. One look at her and my whole head exploded in tears. Steve said, “Well, this is going to take a while,” and left the two of us crying and hugging there. I was a mess.
Ah, Emily. I was struck throughout the weekend by her amazing calm, a steady grace and in-the-moment-ness unlike any bride I've ever seen. She is a wonder.

The ceremony was at the Colorado National Monument, elevation 7200 feet, give or take. What with my crying jags and shlepping, we were running late to get up there, yet the bro/sis caravan arrived before almost anyone else. Longest day of the year. All the time in the world.

Emily and Ned had decided to do the ceremony under the small ampitheater roof that’s up there, rather than right out on the monument cliff-edge.
Good call, for the shade. A blazingly hot day. Somehow, a hundred or so people managed to fit in under there, though only about 75 folding chairs did.
#1 son played conch shell and didgeridoo for the processional, so the rocks themselves were humming the whole ceremony into us from under our feet and all around the cliffs. He made that didge himself, by the way. Harvested the agave stalk, hollowed it and honed it--and man, can he play it.
#2 son was billed as “Ring Guy” and kept the rings in a little bag in his vest pocket. I encouraged him to say something like “Circles mean forever,” but come the moment, he just stepped up, handed off the rings, and sat back down, solemn as a sawed-off pope.

My parents ran the show, using the sun and summer solstice for a kind of metaphorical gravitational pull. We dads did our readings. Steve wanted 1st Corinthians, so I had to come up with something to balance that out. I decided on a personal story about Ned & Emily and tied it to a quote from Rumi. Pretty much everyone had teared up by the end of it, so I think I was like a warm-up act for the vows, which had the assembly gushing like hydrants.

For a final touch, the moms did blessings at the center of a big group grope, with each person touching at least one other person, so everybody was connected to the couple. Definitely an electric buzz, with a lot of people still sniffling and wiping their eyes.

Bouquet by my darling Penny Lorraine. The florist was a little prickly, but they did a great job keeping the hydrangeas and sweetpeas from giving up the ghost in that desert climate, and they put the thing together almost exactly as Penny had designed it.
Reception was mostly outdoors in the cool shade. The paintings there were a project of the party the night before--everyone contributed a color, a symbol, a vignette, or at least a blotch to the diptych. Dancing, cake, and a champagne toast inside the hall. Glorious.
#1 son gave a magnificent bride-specific toast, and Ned’s sister rejoined with one for the groom. A contingent of friends showed up in sailor hats, pursuant to several previous night toasts about how Ned used to surprise people by showing up in a sailor suit at odd moments. Somehow, Oliver wound up wearing one of the sailor hats--as unlikely a get-up as I can imagine for him.

The food was lovely (no pix yet). The caterer had used several of Emily’s and Ned’s favorite recipes, including Penny’s justly famed black bean/mango salsa. I’d do a 2-to-1 white-to-red ratio on the wine instead of a 3-to-1, but all the white sure looked good in the big tubs, along with six fat magnums (magna?) of champagne on ice.
The wedding quilt, a pet project of Emily’s mom (she got a a lot of people, including us, to contribute sections), features scraps from Emily’s and Ned’s old childhood clothes.
Oh, the friends. The reception (and the following night’s campfire) culminated in all the guitars coming out, voices raised, a gigantic singalong, mostly old stuff that all us baby boomers know and that twenty-somethings apparently still dig. (Wedding singalong tip: Bill Withers’s “Lean On Me” is hard to beat.) That's Em with Vivek, who with another friend kept the dinner and singalong going from start to finish ("we move people; that's what we do"). I led “When I’m 64” on the piano, with a didge solo by Oliver, laughing our way through at the half-assedness of it. At Jonah’s request, Ned did his famous ukulele number, “Princess Papuli got plenty papaya/She likes to give it away…” And Emily melted everybody down with a tribute to the happy couple’s next destination, “California Stars,” a Wilco/Billy Bragg tune. Everybody was still belting ‘em out when we left to get Jonah and his cousins to bed. Man, I love those Grinellians. Such smart, big-hearted, funny, soulful people. All that tuition was more than worth it, baby.
They rode off through a crowd of cheering, sparkler-waving loved ones.

Now it’s westward ho to northern Cal for the kidses. But oh, what a wedding we didses.

From the Colorado National Monument, you can see the beginning of a whole new world.