Sunlight and shadow

Pompei, Italy

Mosaic floor, Pompeii, Italy

One of the most important truths of my marriage that I hold in my heart and mind is the realisation that Steve and I are two separate people.  No duh!  But in an ongoing, day to day relationship, it can be easy to forget this.

When Steve and I were on our honeymoon in Italy, I nearly started our first fight.  We had spent the morning at Pompeii and were on our way to another ancient Roman ruin called Herculaneum.  I was driving and Steve was navigating.   It was a hot day, on unfamiliar roads, in a foreign country.  We missed the turn off from the motorway to Herculaneum and I found myself driving into Naples on a two lane road which, somehow, had three lanes of traffic.  I started to get really pissed off.  At Steve.  But I caught myself and remembered that I probably wouldn’t be doing any better if I were in the chart room.  I also realised that I was not feeling confident behind the wheel in a big Italian city and was scared about ending up in Rome, driving in crazy Italian traffic.

It would have been really easy to explode with anger and blame Steve, but I was able to step back and get some perspective.  Instead of blowing up, I asked Steve to find a place where I could turn around.  We decided to go back to Atrani and venture out to Herculaneum another day.

Yes, we are two people and have infinite space between us, but can use understanding and communication to build bridges to one another.  Whether times feel good or bad, it is so important to step back and be mindful of the space between.  Then we can truly come together in a balanced way, in sunlight and in shadow.

This Marriage

I’m in our kitchen and realise, have realised for some time now, that neither Steve nor I have been writing on this blog.  But that’s OK.  Other things are happening.

I came across this song tonight.  It is a setting of ‘This Marriage’ a poem by written by Rumi (13th century) to music composed by Eric Whitacre (21st century).  This poem was in a book of poetry by Rumi given to us by a friend and well wisher on our Soul Wedding day.  It felt good to become re-acquainted with it in song tonight and to be looking forward to celebrating our second wedding anniversary in a couple of weeks.

This Marriage

May these vows and this marriage be blessed.
May it be sweet milk, this marriage, like wine and halvah.
May this marriage offer fruit and shade like the date palm.
May this marriage be full of laughter, our every day a day in paradise.
May this marriage be a sign of compassion,
a seal of happiness here and hereafter.
May this marriage have a fair face and a good name,
an omen as welcomes the moon in a clear blue sky.
I am out of words to describe how spirit mingles in this marriage.



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

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.

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

Slow Wedding

Love is about giving each other the space to find what each finds beautiful in the other.

In other words, sometimes it takes time – sometimes – to find the right words, the right pictures, the right tone of voice, to get across exactly how we feel about something.

And when that something is the marriage of Melinda and Steve that feeling is enormous.  For us, the soul wedding especially was an enchanted day in which we were at the heart of a kaleidoscope of images, sounds and emotions.

So, it might take a few weeks or so for us to absorb the enormity of what we have begun. And it might take some time to share the photos and our thoughts…but we will share those images and thoughts with you.  We’ve also invited the family and friends who were at our wedding celebrations to share their feelings, impressions, reactions…anything, in fact, about the days so that we can have our wedding mirrored back to us

We have the most beautiful marriage in the world. We want you to share it with us.

While you think about that, here’s some music about longing and loneliness. It’s wonderful music, but not a lesson in life. Enjoy…and then do something different.

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