Thursday, 7 July 2016

A Poem: Wedding

I have never been much enamoured with the idea of traditional marriage and its attendant white weddings—though each to their own, of course.

This poem describes what marriage is, or should be, from my point of view. No outside authority is required to officiate, for it is the two people themselves, and them alone, who have the power to speak their vows truly, to make them real. They are responsible for creating and upholding their marriage, which I think of in terms of the secondary definition of the word ‘marry’: join together; combine harmoniously (or similarly, ‘wed’: combine). Further, it is the natural world, rather than human beings, that witnesses the vows. 

Quite simply, it is a wild wedding.


We are on a hill, 
beneath a tree,
under white light
bursting into every colour.
There is no white here,
only the purity 
of green leaf,
brown earth,
blue sky,
red love.

We are wedded wildly
away from eyes that pry, 
singing our own song,  
walking our own way.
A bird witnesses our vows,
and without ceremony
we exchange hearts,
not rings,
for the Earth is round 
and is all we need
to bind us together— 
two vines 
growing entwined
and blossoming
in time.

Wedding, 2016
I’ve been trying to remember where the inspiration for this poem came from, and I think a small part of it may have stemmed from Alan Garner’s novel, Thursbitch, in which Jack Turner and Nan Sarah (who is ‘teeming’, that is, pregnant), wed themselves in an elaborate pagan ritual. It takes place at certain significant stones in the valley where they live, and involves offerings of honeycomb, a button from Jack’s shirt, and strips cut from the edge of his britches and her petticoat. Jack speaks aloud to the hills, and the landscape, it would seem, speaks back, blessing their union, for in the sky above them a shooting star falls. (Having recently reread this book, I can recommend it as a particularly haunting story, as is the case with most of Garner’s books.) 

In Ireland in pre-Christian times, weddings were indeed held under the most sacred of trees: oaks (and I suspect that similar, nature-based customs were held elsewhere too). I did not know this before I wrote ‘Wedding’, so I was very pleased to discover it—though perhaps I did know it intuitively, for it feels right, at heart. To have written of this truth, without realising, is magical, and lends even more meaning to the poem.

In the theme of ‘Wedding’ there is something of a correspondence (which I only recently became aware of—yes, sometimes I am very slow) with the other poem that I have shared here, ‘Tree Woman’in which I spoke of another kind of marriage: ‘A euphoric union / in the sun and shade, / wind and rain.’ This is the marriage, or more simply, the (re)connection, between human and the more-than-human, between human and Nature (in all its—or her—diverse and wondrous forms, both breathing and non-breathing). This is what we sorely need to bring meaning and enchantment back to our lives.

Further, the notion of a wild wedding, or wild love, and the importance of the natural world in the witnessing (and blessing) of the relationship calls to mind a D. H. Lawrence quote I found in Sharon Blackie’s powerful book, If Women Rose Rooted: The Power of the Celtic Woman:  

Oh what a catastrophe, what a maiming of love when it was made a personal, merely personal feeling, taken away from the rising and setting of the sun, and cut off from the magic connection of the solstice and equinox. This is what is the matter with us. We are bleeding at the roots, because we are cut off from the earth and sun and stars, and love is a grinning mockery, because, poor blossom, we plucked it from its stem on the tree of Life, and expected it to keep on blooming in our civilised vase on the table. (2)

Yes, indeed.

This is also the first time that I have intentionally created an artwork to illustrate a piece of my own writing. As I am very out of practice, art-wise, I decided to keep the image simple, very small (only 12 x 12 cm), and to try my best to embrace imperfections as they came. So in my humble painting above is that poetic tree-topped hill, and the watching bird, ringed in gold and twining vines. 

The soundtrack as I painted on this occasion was Vashti Bunyan’s Heartleap (2014). Perhaps some of her lovely whimsy rubbed off on me as I worked.

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