The love that endures a lifetime

potrait

A part of every woman and every man resists knowing that in all love relationships Death must have her share.
We pretend we can love without our illusions about love dying,
pretend we can go on without our superficial expectations dying,
pretend we can progress and that out favorite flushes and rushes will never die. . .

If lovers cannot stand these Life/Death/Life processes,
they cannot love one another over and beyond hormonal aspirations. . .
As woman is keeper of the cycles, the Life/Death/Life cycles are at the center of her concern.
Since there can be little life without a decline in that which has gone previously,
lovers who insist on attempting to keep everything at a psyche-scintillating peak will spend their days in a increasingly ossified relationship. . .

When lovers are able to tolerate the Life/Death/Life nature,
when they are able to understand it as a continuum
—as a night between two days—and as the force that creates a love that endures a lifetime. . .
Then together they are strengthened, and both are called to deeper understanding of the two worlds they live in,
one the mundane world, the other the one of spirit.

– Women Who Run With the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Stability

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

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.

A nuptial melody

While we were on honeymoon, one of the guests from both our civil and soul weddings sent us a poem that she had written in response to our marriage.

She wants to remain anonymous, but said: “Friday and Saturday was like being in the middle of a romantic fairy tale – with the two main characters outstandingly elegant and beautiful.  All your friends were supportive and funny and obviously loved you both. Every minute of each day was so carefully thought through, it literally flowed… I’ve told everyone here how John [Mostyn]’s wonderful voice made the first reading come alive, and Susan [Neuville] made the spoken words of the second reading almost musical – I was aware of the ringing sound of “iron on stone”.”

And here is the poem that our guest sent us:

A NUPTIAL MELODY

The spirit of our love is here

No one can match what we have known today

And as the years roll on you know, my dear,

We can but hope that this is how we’ll stay.

This is no dream – no myth – no lets pretend.

This is for life, this is for life my friend.

As each day dawns,

What a melody.

My heart is light,

My soul is free.

The spirit of our love is here:

It will stretch on into eternity.

This everlasting love you know, my dear,

Enables us to know we have the key.

This is the key, the key to love that conquers all.

As each day dawns,

What a melody.

My heart is light, my soul is free.

My heart is light, my soul is free.

The stability of the earth

One of my hopes for our marriage (and one that is already being fulfilled) is for it to be a solid place of stabiity for both Steve and I.  When we first met and were living 200 miles apart, neither of us was sure where we would end up, but we knew that it would be together.  We were each lightly perched, Steve in Birmingham and I in Devon.  Steve said something very early on about holding on to one another and letting our world take shape around us, that home is here in the space where our hearts meet.  One of my visions for our marriage is it being a place from which we can each go out to meet the world from and return to for replenishment and grounding.

Centering is about making a place for ourselves in the world where we can both feel safe and supported. More than the simple task of “homemaking,” it involves seeing our environment with new eyes, letting it calm the mind and soothe the soul. In this peaceful context it is only natural to see past the surfaces – past the fatigue and trials of the day  to the deep and caring person we’ve married. It becomes easier to maintain our equilibrium and to be caring even in the middle of crisis. In the process we will also learn how best to soothe one another – in fact, to become sanctuaries for each other, no matter where we are. (Excerpted from Marriage from the Heart)

While I was working on my Earth table runner for our wedding feast, I came across this lovely blessing:  ‘Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.’  Details of the making can be found here.

‘How surely gravity’s law, strong as an ocean’s current,
takes hold of even the strongest thing
and pulls it towards the heart of the world.’
– Rainer Maria Rilke

A red, red rose

Red roses are the traditional symbol for romance and a time-honored way to say “I love you.” The most obvious and well known meaning of the red rose is deep love and affection.  The color red itself evolved from an early primal symbol for life into a metaphor for deep emotion. In Greek and Roman mythology the red rose was closely tied to the goddess of love. Many early cultures used red roses to decorate marriage ceremonies and they were often a part of traditional wedding attire. Through this practice, the red rose became known as a symbol for love and fidelity.

In the 18th century, a special rose language evolved as a means of communication between lovers who were forced by society to keep their feelings a secret. And the red rose came to symbolize true love that would stand the test of time. Staunch promising affection that is forever riding high is what the red rose means. The red rose denotes a true love that is stronger than thorns and can outlive all obstacles.

Desire is another facet of the red rose. The red rose expresses the throbbing heat of new love, a passionate expression of attraction. Red is the color of consummation, of raging desires and craving passion. The meaning of the red rose then is quite apparent from its color itself. The red rose speaks of love that awaits a passionate expression.

As the tradition of exchanging roses and other flowers as gifts of affection came into prevalence, the red rose naturally became the flower of choice for sending the strongest message of love. This is a tradition that has endured to the present day.

The first gift that Steve sent to me was a  perfect red rose that he picked.  I’m using the images of the petals on our wedding quilt which I have written about here.

“What was said to the rose that made it open was said to me here in my heart”
– Rumi

“The rose speaks of love silently, in a language known only to the heart.”
– Anonymous

“How did it happen that their lips came together?
How does it happen that birds sing,
that snow melts,
that the rose unfolds,
that the dawn whitens behind the stark shapes of trees
on the quivering summit of the hill?
A kiss, and all was said.”
– Victor Hugo

Image source

Our wedding quilt

One wedding tradition is for a bride to be to make a quilt for her marriage.  I’ve been working on a wall quilt which will hang at the altar during our wedding ceremony and then at the head of our marriage bed.  I’ve been writing about the work in progress here on my blog Inspiraculum.

This is the pattern for Cleaved, our wedding quilt.

Our Invitation

This weekend, Steve and I designed our wedding invitaitons using my photograph of ‘Cleaved’, some of our engagement photos taken by  Emma Solley and a favourite quote by Rainer Maria Rilke.  In addition to choosing the structure and layout of the invitations, we also made decisions about the reception menu, the post wedding party and a labyrinth walking experience that we will incorporate into our wedding celebration.  There were some loose ends to tie up!

Steve and I are both Creatives and each have strong ideas about how our visions will manifest.   I think the only times that we have ever felt irritated with one another is when we are working on a DIY project, eg installing shelving or designing wedding invites.  We each know the best way to go about it and can’t quite understand how the other can have a different idea!  We can recognise this and laugh about it.  Take a break from the process if we need to.  Set aside our egos and listen to one another and find out that maybe their is a good alternative way to do something.

We both feel that we came up with a great invitation.  They will be tri-fold with photos and the quote on front and back.  We’ll have inserts for the wedding and party details, our wedding list, a response card and information on the labyrinth.  We printed out a sample to make sure of the size and feel of it.  When all of the final details are settled, we’ll have them professionally printed and plan to post them in the very beginning of March.

front

quote and us

fully open

back

Inner compass

When I wrote to Steve and asked for his favourite quote, I really didn’t know what to expect.  I already knew he was a smart guy, so I imagined it would be interesting, but I didn’t have anywhere near the full measure of him at that point.  Yet I thought it was really cool that he had offered and it indicated that he wanted to go deeper than non-Newtonian fluids and Brasilian graffiti artists.

We had just exchanged a few discursive emails about fate, destiny, choice, pre-determination which were frankly a bit dry.  Actually, what I really wanted to know was whether or not Steve (and not only the doughnuts) had met a destiny called Melinda.  But I couldn’t ask that!  Though a week earlier when he had texted me about the doughnuts meeting their destiny, I replied –  : D  (indicating joy).  But I digress.

So I was expecting Steve’s favourite quote to be interesting, thought provoking, possibly a bit obscure, glib perhaps.  To be honest, a lot was riding on it because to me a favourite quote says much about a person’s values and worldview and focus of attention.  Mine does anyhow, although like one’s favourite colour it can change over the months and years.

Steve sent me his quote and prefaced it with whence it came –  a book called “The Way of the Sufi”, a collection of sayings and quotes from the writings of Sufi scholars that was given to him by his first boss and great friend.   He went on to say that his friend, who is no longer alive, was always searching for jewels of truth about his and our place in the universe.  I liked hearing about Steve’s friend and that he values his search for meaning and, coincidentally, I had recently been reading some stories by Indries Shah, author of said book.

The quote that stood out for Steve was by a 12th Century Sufi called El-Ghazali:

“You only truly possess that which would not be lost in a shipwreck.”

And here is what he said about it:  “I love it because it makes you think about who you are and what true riches exist inside. The search to know oneself, it suggests, is more important than the pursuit of any material possessions. At the same time, it doesn’t say that the ownership of things is wrong, just that the most valuable possession you have is your self-knowledge and your own values.”

I like this quote a lot and even more, what it reflects of Steve’s values and that he shared them with me.   So many people, and especially men, measure (or are made to feel they have to measure) their worth by external yardsticks and acquisitions – eg, what they do for a living, how much money they earn, where they live, what kind of car they drive.  Yet, at the same time, some people go too far in the opposite direction and eschew material belongings.  I like having beautiful things around me, good quality cookware, nice clothes, etc., but I’m not ruled by my possessions.  Still, I’ve never been solely interested in the external trappings and always look deeper to find out a person’s values and interests, what their inner compass is set towards.

When I read Steve’s reply, I realised that there is some fascinating uncharted territory to explore and that this may just be the man with whom I would like to set sail on a voyage.

Unspoken feelings

Over the weekend that we met, Melinda and I talked a lot. We spent as much time as possible in each other’s company and talked about everything from the properties of non-Newtonian fluid to the merits and demerits of Melinda’s first Birmingham balti curry. On the morning of Melinda’s return to Devon, we carried on talking – about canals, about a building in Digbeth – next to UB40’s old studios – that is covered in some remarkable graffiti.

But we did more than simply chat. We found ourselves opening up to each other and – as we later discovered – talking more freely than either of us had done in a very long time about ourselves, our beliefs and our thoughts.

So where to go from here? As we parted that September Monday morning – me to return to my office in the Custard Factory, Melinda to catch her train back to Devon – neither of us knew what would happen next. I knew I had met someone wonderful and extraordinary. I knew that I wanted to see Melinda again. And I knew that we had seen into each other’s souls; each of us opening a door and shedding light on places that had been hidden from view.

So, I texted Melinda to say that I hoped that she had caught her train on time and that she had managed to find the doughnuts she wanted for the journey. She had, but the train was full – and I texted my worries for the safety of the doughnuts. From Exeter, Melinda texted back to say that she’d arrived safely – and so had the doughnuts, only for them to meet a “dire fate”. I replied that their fate was not dire, they had simply met their destiny: a destiny called Melinda.

And, naturally, I wasn’t really talking about the destiny of a box full of Krispy Kremes. I was talking about the destiny of a box full of excitement and nerves known as Steve Coxon.

Doughnuts of Destiny

From there on, we were in touch every day in some way. When we weren’t sending text messages, we e-mailed. And when we didn’t e-mail, we wrote letters – the old-fashioned way – choosing paper and ink and words carefully. We exchanged gifts by mail too. Books, feathers, petals.

At first we talked about our weekend in Birmingham. I tracked down the graffiti artists responsible for the house next to UB40’s studios and discovered they were from a Brazilian group of artists who were about to decorate the Tate Modern in London. And we e-mailed each other a lot about them until – one day – Melinda asked what we would talk to each other once we got tired of Brazilian graffiti artists. I replied that there was no end of topics – she could ask me my favourite colour, my recipe for North Staffordshire oatcakes or my favourite quote. In other words, I said, there were enough things to talk about to last a lifetime.

Getting to know each other in these early days through the written word was wonderful. Both of us are thoughtful people and I, certainly, find it far easier to express myself in writing than through the spoken word. I have time to put my thoughts into some semblance of order and meaning before they appear on the page, rather than let them come tumbling out of my mouth.

Getting to know each other through writing enabled us to explore deep feelings and thoughts that – otherwise – may have been awkward to express face to face. So much of the spoken word relies on intonation that meaning can evaporate into the air. A written exchange, by contrast, is fixed and can be re-read, re-examined and questioned.

But, you may ask, what about spontaneity? I don’t think either of us had any trouble whatsoever in communicating with real spontaneity. While some of our written messages were carefully drafted and considered, others were dashed off in seconds – simply because the thoughts and the emotions contained within those words were already fully formed and bursting to be read.

Now, of course, we can simply reach out or turn our heads to say “I love you” – and do so every day. Yet we still write to each other – using Instant Messenger to send little notes to each other, even when we’re only at different ends of the flat. And we still text. But putting it in writing as we got to know each other – giving unspoken feelings a voice – is something that we both feel brought us much closer together, much more quickly, than if we had relied on the spoken word alone.