There is a wonderful richness to be cultivated in the ‘ordinariness’ and stability of marriage.  I love our rooftop home and seeing pairs of jackdaws every morning, day and evening from the front and back windows of our penthouse apartment.

Far from being boring, the stability of marriage can offer a blessing in the form of fertile ground from which each person can grow to great heights.  It is such a joy to be at home, in the place that Steve and I have created together which is all at once comfortable and dynamic, vibrant and secure, familiar and fluid.  All the while, knowing that the ground of our marriage is firm beneath our feet.

“One has to be in the same place everyday,
watch the dawn from the same house,
hear the same birds wake each morning
to realise how inexpressibly rich
and different is ‘sameness’.

This is the blessing of stability”.
~ Thomas Merton

Something old, something new

Weddings, our wedding and weddings in general, are very much on my mind these past few weeks.  It’s the time of year that Steve and I were at our busiest, getting all of the final details in order for our wedding last May.  We chose to get married in late May, when the world is coming to life.

We haven’t yet reached the fullness of summer, but all around us the trees and hedgerows are bursting into full glorious leafiness.  Energy is on the increase and we are in the season of Beltane, a fire festival that celebrates of the coming of summer and the fertility of the coming year.  We chose to have our wedding at this fecund time of the year and really feel that our first year of marriage has been imbued with positive, blossoming energy.  In fact, we haven’t been writing much on this blog because we’ve been pretty busy with some wonderful shifts and openings with my artwork and with some opportunities for Steve to hone his craft of writing.

On Friday, Great Britain had a Royal Wedding.  Steve and I  got dressed up in our civil ceremony wedding clothes and went down to the White Horse Inn (where we had our Soul Wedding last year) to watch it on telly.  I’ve heard that William and Catherine would have preferred to have a small, intimate wedding with close family and friends.  But, I suppose that they had to perform on such a massive worldwide stage, since it is a Royal Wedding, after all.

On the day of the Royal Wedding, 29th April 2011

I found myself wondering who was with Kate Middleton when she got dressed on the morning of her wedding (besides Sarah Burton!)  I truly hope that there were no photographs taken to be released for publication.  Quite a few brides do invite their photographer to take photos while she is dressing and the photos are really lovely.  I chose not to because for me this was a private time, a sacred time as I paused on the threshold of being a single woman, about to join my journey with Steve’s.

My beloved cousin Susan and my dear friend Jayne were my attendants.  We had coffee and pastries with Steve, and after he went off to get dressed, the three of us got ready, put on our makeup together, talked about other weddings.  It was lovely to be with two women whom I feel so close to.  They have each known me from the very beginning of my relationship with Steve and watched us blossom.

Me and Susan

I nipped out to pin Steve’s boutonnière onto his lapel, before putting my dress on.  Even though we live together, Steve hadn’t seen my Soul Wedding dress and we both wanted him to wait until I arrived at the venue in full regalia.

Boutonnière for my groom

Jayne brought me some wonderful gifts – something old (beads from her Gran’s necklace), something new, something borrowed, something blue  .  .  .  .  .  .  and a sixpence for my shoe.  Traditionally a sixpence was given to the Bride on her wedding day by her father to give her luck and happiness. (Jayne is a bit naughty, so I won’t tell what the other gifts were!)  I was also given some marital advice including a philosophical view on marriage as ‘a work of art in progress’ and a reminder to shag a lot.

Jayne and I

When we walked out into the public eye and down the street to the inn, Susan and Jayne were right with me.

Susan, Melinda and Jayne

Solid ground

For both Steve and I, marriage represents the confluence of two streams and also a rock:  solid ground from which to step out – lovingly – into the unknown of the ever flowing future.  Not only do we step forward together on shared ventures, but each of us envisions our marriage as a stable base from which we can individually grow into our unique Selves.

I had an immense day on Saturday in which our home and my studio were on the Moretonhampstead Secret Studios Trail.  I felt Steve’s emotional and physical support in every way in the weeks that I prepared for this event:  my début as an artist.  Although I have been completely comfortable identifying myself as an artist for a number of years, until now, I haven’t had a solid place to base myself as an artist.

Besides welcoming guests into my newly re-Vamped studio, a very special part of the day was taking small groups of people to see our wedding quilt Cleaved.  I showed them the slate which I’d photographed together with the red rose petals sent to me from Steve and told the story of our meeting and long distance courtship.  Then I showed our wedding invitation with the photograph on it.

And then the quilt itself.  The front with the appliquéd grey slate and red rose petals, and water ripples, river washed stones and two feathers quilted onto the white silk.  I also revealed the back of the quilt made from fabric I’d painted, stamped and then screenprinted with words from our written and emailed love letters.

I finished by reading out loud the quote from Rainer Maria Rilke that is screenprinted onto the front of our quilt:

“Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky”. – Rainer Maria Rilke

It was a very special part of a wonderful day to share and reflect on one of the hopes and intentions for our marriage, and to realise that it is indeed manifesting itself as a very solid place to stand and to venture forth from.

Spiral in the heart of love

Steve gave me this beautiful red rose for St. Valentine’s Day.  I love the spiral in the centre which radiates outwards.  This reminds me of some words by John O’Donohue in his book Anam Cara.

“A person should always offer a prayer of graciousness for the love that has awakened in them.  When you feel love for your beloved and his or her for you, now and again you should offer the warmth of your love as a blessing for those who are damaged and unloved.  Send that love out into the world to people who are desperate; to those who are starving; to those who are trapped in prison; in hospitals and all the terrrains of bleak and tormented lives.  When you send that love out from the bountifulness of your own love, it reaches other people.  This love is the deepest power of prayer.”

Since Steve and I met, along with the family and friends who belong in our circle and who delight in our togetherness, we are each aware of jealous friends or bitter  former partners who cannot share in our happiness together.

I’ve been troubled by the loss of a dear friend that I have had for over 20 years, who just isn’t able to have me in his life now that I am married and deeply committed to Steve.  I can understand his feelings and I also feel the loss of our friendship.  I can recall times in my life when my jealousy has kept me from truly embracing a friend’s new found love and this has caused me to withdraw my friendship and good feelings.   Underneath is all, there can be unpleasant feelings of hurt, rejection and envy.   It’s so much easier to become angry at the other person, or cut them from my life than to face these feelings.

So I offer each of these people whom I know a blessing and a hope that they will find their way to the warmth of love.

The supreme moment

One of the most important elements of a marriage (or any intimate relationship) is to spend time with one’s partner and to talk about what that time together feels like.  Identifying, investing in and spending high quality time together is paramount to a healthy relationship.  Investing and high quality don’t necessarily mean expensive, either.  I love sitting at opposite ends of our sofa, me reading and Steve solving the Guardian cryptic crossword; or driving through the beautifully breathtaking Devon countryside surrounding our home and exclaiming over the same clouds on the horizon, or pointing something out to each other.  Those times when we’re sharing the same space, aware of our individual selves and the Self that lives with us.  The Soul of our marriage.

One of the things I love about my husband is his sense of time.  I don’t mean his sense of Chronos, or  ‘clock time’; he can be completely dizzy about what time of day (or even what day of the week) it is.  But his sense of Kairos, or ‘supreme time’.  Kairos (καιρός) is an ancient Greek word meaning the right or opportune moment (the supreme moment). The ancient Greeks had two words for time, Chronos and Kairos. While the former refers to chronological or sequential time, the latter signifies a time in between, a moment of undetermined period of time in which something special happens.

Setting our clock

I tend to fret about what time things are supposed to happen, anxious about being (God forbid!) late and worried about what I haven’t accomplished (according to my list of Things to DO and my often unrealistic expectations of Self-fulfilment).  It can be so reassuring to say ‘I only finished one of these’ or ‘There’s still all this stuff to do’ and hear back, ‘It’s fine, the rest will happen later’.

Just this night, Steve and I went out to dinner at our amazing local restaurant (and where we had our wedding and reception last May), The White Horse Inn.  We had a great dinner of Pan-fried Fillet of Sea Bass and Scallops (me) and Pasta Malfadine with Mushroom Veloute and Beef Fillet (Steve), talked about our respective days and thoughts, reminisced about when we discovered our new hometown of Moretonhampstead (nearly two years ago), planned the week ahead and enjoyed each other’s company.  When we got back home, Steve said that he still had some work to do and went up to his office.  I was so thankful, not only for sharing a lovely meal, but that Steve had taken time from his currently very busy workload to spend time with me.  And that he always lets me know just how valuable that time is to him.

Time flies,
Suns rise,
Flowers bloom and die.

Let time go by
and shadows fall,
Love is forever,
over all.

– quote from a sundial

Married Christmas

Our first married Christmas is a snow-blessed one: crystal white tinged with dawn pinks and afternoon golds that have added their magic to our celebrations.

Still life with wedding bouquet

Last year was our first Christmas in our new home. Then, we had lots of decisions to make; where to site the tree, display the Christmas cards and place the decorations.

Christmas Lovebirds

This year, by contrast, all those decisions were already made and our home was dressed in its seasonal garb in the twinkling of an eye.

There were other new ‘traditions’ that took their place in our preparations. The choosing of an advent calendar and trips to see Steve’s family in Stoke and old friends at the annual Freelance Festive Feast in Birmingham.

Mr and Mrs Schwakhofer-Coxon setting the fashion standard at
the 2010 Freelance Festive Feast in Brum

And, of course, there were menus to be planned. Christmas Eve: pan-seared scallops and pasta with Alfredo sauce. Christmas Day: a breakfast of mimosa cocktails with North Staffordshire oatcakes, bacon and cheese. As for Christmas dinner: slow-roasted pork loin with dauphinoise potatoes and Brussel sprouts braised in cider. Steve also made a pork pie and a ham & chicken pie for Boxing Day.

All complemented by the contents of a Fortnum & Mason ‘Epicure’ hamper – our Christmas present to each other.

The F&M 'Epicure Hamper'

So how does our first married Christmas compare to our previous two festive seasons together? More settled, certainly. More predictable, in a good way, in some ways. But just as lovely and as loving as ever.

Let’s Get Lost

On Sunday September 5th, Steve and I had a little party at The Spotted Dog in Digbeth.  It was actually a double celebration.  First, we wanted to celebrate our wedding with some Midlands-based friends.   We each wore the wedding clothes that we wore for our civil wedding ceremony at the Exeter Register Office.

21st May, 2010

Landlord John Tighe set aside an area in the garden for us which has a big screen TV.  Steve put together a DVD of our fabulous wedding photos which we projected.  The music was what we listened to at our wedding reception.  We both love popular and jazz music from the 1930’s and 1940’s and put together a great playlist on Steve’s iPod.   We also took Devon-based food.  Venison pasties from the butcher over the road from us, Clive’s vegetarian pies and two vegan chocolate cakes from the Plant Cafe in Exeter.  Oh, and of course clotted cream.  We took some Prosecco for a toast in honour of our honeymoon on the Amalfi Coast.  We gave everyone organza bags with sugared almonds and gummi bears.  It was a fun evening.  As we were on our way to Amsterdam for our anniversary trip, we sent everyone home with delicious leftover food.

Nicky Getgood, a wonderful Digbeth-based blogger and cyber-networker was in attendance, which was great.  I met her online after my first trip to Digbeth in August 2008.  I had written about my trip here, her blog found my blog and the rest, as they say, is history.  The night that I went to The Spotted Dog on my return trip (September 5th, 2008) I met my husband Steve.  So this was our other reason to celebrate – the night we met.  Here are some photos that Nicky took with her iPhone at our Spotted Dog party.

I’m also writing about our trip to Amsterdam on my blog Inspiraculum.  Here’s a photo of us taken at the Prins Hendrik Hotel in Amsterdam.  One of the musicians we love, Chet Baker, died there in 1988 and we went to pay homage and drink a toast to him.  Here’s one of “our” songs:  ‘Let’s Get Lost’, perhaps the definitive Chet Baker tune.   Recorded in 1956, it’s a perfect example of the cool and breezy West Coast sound.  A romantic tune that highlights both Chet’s horn and his singing.

Steve & Melinda - lost and found