~guardian of my solitude~

October 24th, 2008


It was simply my best day, ever.

In truth I hadn’t expected it to be–grand yes, but so many aspects of the celebration sounded much more grand in planning, and the ceremony itself was not the most thought-out part of what we now call our Nine Day Wedding (& Four Hour Honeymoon).

I was rewriting the text the day of (finding the perfect piece of Goethe’s Faust–in German–at Alfonso’s last-minute request), we asked our friend Christian to read Goethe in the ceremony on the spot and he did a brilliant job, along with my folks, who read pieces of Whitman’s Song of the Open Road and Neruda’s Soneto XLVI. It was suggested on the spot that I make “an entrance” which I hadn’t planned on and was in theory against (the pomp of it), and in those shoes! but it turned out to be kinda fun.



I intentionally never practiced my vows (I allowed myself to edit only once, while on the subway), nor did Alfonso. It was all a little off the cuff, but in what turned out to be a gorgeous, spontaneous way. Our officiant (and librarian and hurdy-gurdy fan) Mary Beaty orchestrated beautifully and it went like a song.

There was champagne and accordion and a promenade and row boating on the last crisp, mild day of autumn (we got a gorgeous thunder storm over the Hudson for the reception the following night). Time was suspended and utterly splendid.



A kind of sublime magic was conferred on the spot and upon everyone who came to share love. We had been shy about what we worried would feel like performing, subjecting our feelings to some kind of (to us) empty ritual for the sake of ritual, and felt initially that (in lieu of eloping) we would prefer a ceremony as lowkey as possible—my folks, Alfonso and I, and the parson, as it were.

I am so very glad we bent to the desires of those who wanted to be a part of our day and instead invited all. I had no idea how we would be lifted up by the energy of people we love being gathered around us, bearing witness. It turns out there is something to that idea in ceremony, the witnessing of loved ones. The feeling is something I will never forget.



I did know that I would cry, and cry I did. What I didn’t really know was why. That insight came in the moment, in a wave, in a way that I can only try to describe. All at once:

I cried because it is so unbelievably hard and good to let people love you. I cried because the people gathered around me love me, some from life times ago, and were there to beam that light, righteously. I cried because I can’t always let people do that gracefully and because I love them too.


I cried for for all the people in our lives who for their reasons chose not to be there, and for the people who couldn’t: Iline, Jim, Xie. I cried for Alfonso’s mom, Gudren, who I will never meet.

I cried for the times Alfonso and I nearly parted, for the hard times we’ve lived through, and those yet to come. I cried for our bravery in promising to love each other every way we can, and for the gift of our adventure, most especially the new gift of this knowledge: risk, and providence will follow.

I cried for the profound courage of my man, smiling with nervousness and utter joy into my eyes. His nervousness made me cry. His big heart made me cry. His jokes made me laugh, and laughing made me cry.



Alfonso and I believe that a promise of “forever” in love is neither possible nor honest, and that it–like a literal notion of “heaven”–over-simplifies the very thing that deserves the deepest honesty you can muster. When I began to draft a ceremony for us, I was glad to find this quote from Rainer Maria Rilke, not only for the nod to my honey’s mother tongue, but the sentiment, or lack thereof.


The point of marriage is not to create a quick commonality by tearing down all boundaries; on the contrary, a good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of his solitude, and thus they show each other the greatest possible trust.


A merging of two people is an impossibility, and where it seems to exist, it is a hemming-in,
a mutual consent that robs one party or both parties of their fullest freedom and development.



But once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist,
a marvelous living side-by-side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them,
which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole
and before an immense sky.


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