At Plymouth Church in Minneapolis, where I spent five glorious years as an associate pastor, a large, talented group of volunteers have carried on a long tradition of embroidering huge wall hangings designed by Pauline Baynes. The first of these hangings depicts the history of Congregationalism and includes a depiction of Dartmouth College, one of the schools founded by Congregationalists. If you would like to see a little more about the embroideries, go to: http://www.plymouth.org/about/arts.php They are truly remarkable.
Occasionally, it was my happy duty to read to the needlers as they worked (having failed to pass Mary Carson’s strict stitching standards). I loved reading to them – short stories, poetry, essays – whatever caught my eye. One such time, I read an essay about a marriage – I no longer remember what it was – but the words launched us into a wonderful conversation about marriage. That day, the needlers were mostly older women. I asked them how long some of them had been married. Fifty-three years, forty-seven years, sixty-two years… I was in awe! One woman in particular, I happened to know, was married to a persnickety old curmudgeon, a genuinely difficult man. How did you manage that? I asked her. Oh, she said, there were some hard years. Since, at the time, I had been married for a grand total of five years, I was incredulous. Years?!? Some bad YEARS? Oh my dear, she said, they go by so quickly.
I’m writing this on my 31st wedding anniversary. Now, of course, I understand what she meant. Every long marriage has some difficult years in it, but oh my, the years go by so quickly. Warren and I were married on a Memorial Day weekend. That year, there was a terrible plane crash at O’Hare Airport, closing down the interstate around Chicago. Several of my friends were stuck on the highway beside O’Hare for the better part of the day. Our dear, dear friend Jim Savides performed the ceremony in the seminary chapel where I was still a student. (Warren can attest to the fact that for a good proportion of our married years, I have been a student.) Looking back, I wonder how I could have made such a significant decision at such a young age. Today, Warren is spiriting us away to a romantic 24 hour retreat at some secret place, and I think, thank God I made that decision. Our sassy kids are enjoying the occasion as well. Matrika sent us a card that said – “Happy Anniversary to a married couple that doesn’t make me physically ill.” And Joe told us to leave town, not to worry, he’ll take care of everything at home. Right.
My Property Professor, Stephen Dycus, recently introduced me to the poet Wendell Berry, whose remarkable words I can’t believe I’ve been missing all these years. Here is the third stanza of his poem “The Country of Marriage”.
Sometimes our life reminds me
of a forest in which there is a graceful clearing
and in that opening a house,
an orchard and garden,
comfortable shades, and flowers
red and yellow in the sun, a pattern
made in the light for the light to return to.
The forest is mostly dark, its ways
to be made anew day after day, the dark
richer than the light and more blessed,
provided we stay brave
enough to keep on going in.
The forest is mostly dark, but I am so grateful to have the light of my life at my side. I just thought I’d tell you.
Love to us all, Carla