I should probably change the name here to “The Dormant Blog.” It has a certain ring, doesn’t it? Like “The French Gourmet” or “The Flying Dutchman.”
I’ve been busy with my degree and wedding planning, but I have had a wealth of material to write about since May, including living in Seattle for six weeks and trying to cope with the noise of sleeping between a major thoroughfare and the Virginia Mason ER; Z’s getting a tenure track job; taking a trip to Portland where Z & I saw a parade of naked bike riders; a trip to Ireland for my degree and then ten day tour with my American cousins and a visit with my Irish ones, during which I was fairly certain I was having a heart attack; a visit to a nurse practitioner once I was back home only to be assured that you don’t have heart attacks for three weeks solid and here, why don’t you try these nerve-calming pills because your bridal nerves are all jangled; Z’s joyful return from Zimbabwe with a “more better” visa; meeting the 14 year old pastor who will both counsel and marry us, despite his looking like Opie Taylor and my certainty that at some point he’s going to call for his Aunt Bea and Pa to come assist with the counseling; the beginning of my blissful semester-long sabbatical; three weeks back in Seattle where Z and I picked up the rings we’ll wear for the rest of our lives (a commitment to Z I can fathom, but a commitment to a single piece of jewelry is a bit more difficult for me to wrap my mind around); a chat on the phone with one of my favorite authors, Jeanne Marie Laskas, who graciously agreed to help me figure out my thesis; a reuniting with my Scottie god dog who is practicing being a groomsman; various wedding tasks.
Today I am writing because last night my mother and I slapped stamps (very expensive stamps) onto the invitations she block-printed and slaved over while I was off on my various summer adventures. I love them. Love the verses on them. Love that they do not say anywhere “Today I will marry my friend” (even if that is the truth), love that they do not have hearts, doves, wedding rings, or a cursive font. Love that they are on brown paper instead of fine Italian linen stationery. But oh, what a struggle they have been.
Several years ago I fell in love with a wedding invitation of a family friend. He and his wife-to-be were artists and had artist friends make the invitations, and it was the first time I’d seen anything so unique. It was a block print with some verse from rural antiquity that started, “Marry me why don’t you?” and was, essentially, a list of reasons from a farmer to his darling explaining why she should give up her single life and come live with him and his cows. It was so sweet.
For months I poked around looking for “the thing” that would be unique and clever enough, because surely the quality of our love would be judged by everyone if I ordered a box of invitations that looked like every other set. One day I glanced at a plaque on my wall that I’d bought in Ireland in 2001, two months before I met Z, and I realized it was the thing. It is a representation of an old Irish carving of a man and a woman meeting under a tree with various bits of scrollwork around the happy pair. When I bought it, I was attracted to the plaque because of the verses that were attached to the back about the mystical way some people are destined to meet. I had been single for too long and was feeling ready for love, and then, voila, there was Z in front of me and the certain knowledge that he was my guy.
Because one of the verses was attributed to Emerson and because I’m supposed to be a good scholar, I spent days trying to find the quote—I wrote to my old college professors, asked colleagues, googled Emerson—and what I came up with was nothing much. Maybe it was Emerson; maybe it was someone who worked for Hallmark Ireland who had penned the sentiment. Then I googled the image itself to make sure we wouldn’t be flagrantly breaking copyright laws, and sure enough, it was fair game—a carving on a rock from an ancient site in Ireland, and it was called the Marigold stone. The “tree” the happy couple stand under was really some sort of giant flower. How quirky and fun, I thought.
My mother and I tried to ink up the plaque and use it as a sort of block print, but it didn’t work. She decided she could probably carve a version of it. While she carved, I searched Seattle for stationery to put it on. Z and I made what felt like two hundred trips to the Bellevue Paper Source in an attempt to find the quality of paper needed for the prints and complimentary envelopes. On the first trip he pointed out brightly colored envelopes that were marked down and I turned my nose up at them. On something like the tenth trip, I “discovered” the clearance envelopes and declared them perfect. (Poor Z, never getting credit where it is due.)
Mom sent different versions of the block print for us to choose from. “I tried to make the one look more like a girl,” she said, because the two figures did look suspiciously similar and suspiciously androgynous. “Also,” she added. “I had to give her a nose job. She looked kind of Egyptian instead of Irish.” I showed the samples to Z and he said, “They both look kind of Egyptian to me.” I assured him they were 100% Irish, and googled the Marigold stone to show him how very ancient and Irishy-y they were.
I don’t know why I hadn’t bothered to read about the Marigold stone earlier. First, I should say, no one really knows for sure what it represents, but what the historians speculate is that it is not a man and a woman under a tree so much as it is St. Peter and St. Paul, meeting under a flabellum to discuss, I don’t know, how in another few centuries God will plant St. Patick in Ireland to drive out snakes and make Irish people feel guilty. Apparently, flabellums were sort of fans attached to long poles that were used in ancient Egypt, but also in early Christian times, to keep flies from landing on the Host. What Mom had spent days carving--instead of a perfect visual depiction of Z and my magical journey of love—was actually a couple of Egyptian-inspired apostles of Christ waving flies off of some communion wafers.
Z and I couldn’t quit laughing. Tears rolled down our cheeks. We called Mom and told her, and though at first bewildered by our howls, she too cracked up. And then we found we were kind of in love with the thing because it was so ridiculous. Plus, we’d gotten engaged at the Luxor in Las Vegas, and what better testament to our beginnings as an official couple than something with roots in Egypt? So Mom printed them up, and then she pasted down the invitation bits, and then she stamped verses on them that may or may not be by Emerson, and then she addressed them in her beautiful calligraphy to people who are scattered across the U.S and in ten different countries, of different faiths and political ideologies and understandings of flabellums and Emerson.
And now it’s time to drop them in the mail. Farewell, my single life. Hello destiny.