There has been so much difficulty in the greater world this past week, not to mention what’s happening to our own little boats bobbing around on turbulent seas. So many of us have had a tough time between fresh losses or reliving old traumas or coping with current difficulties. So it was a bit of a relief to drive north on I-5 two afternoons in a row, out to the wilds of Yolo County where two friends of mine were getting married.
I was invited to read a poem at the wedding of Marci Selva and Matt Quinton. When Marci asked me to do this many months ago, I asked, “Is there a particular poem you’d like me to read?”
“No,” she said. “You can choose one you like. Or,” she paused, “you could write one.” She grinned at me.
Marci, who writes with me when she can in the writing group I host on weekends, knows that dangling a prompt in front of me like that is one I can’t resist. And, I have to admit, I enjoy an assignment for an “occasional” poem—that is, one written for a specific occasion.
But I’d never been asked to write a wedding poem before—an epithalamium, if you want the poetic term. And, it turns out, it was my second epithalamium of the summer, since I wrote another wedding poem for my niece Lauren Just’s wedding to Gerald Giel. Both had fruit in them, which was a surprise to me—cherries for Lauren and Gerald’s June wedding, and wine grapes for Marci and Matt’s end-of-September wedding. (Much appreciation to my wine consultants/buddies, a fine married couple themselves, Deborah Meltvedt and Rick Kushman, who know from grapes.)
Driving out to Zamora in Yolo County—specifically to the Matchbook Wine Compay, the site of the wedding—for both the rehearsal and the wedding turned out to be just what my tired soul needed. As the signs of civilization receded, once off the highway, and the sight of vast, rolling golden hills came into view, I felt my shoulders relax. The muscles in my face seemed less tense, too. The greater troubles and sorrows of the world I’d been carrying evaporated around two people who’d found each other a bit later in life and were coming together to make a family—Marci, Matt and his two children.
This sweet respite—such a blesséd moment of kindness and love and care—seeped into me and, it seemed, everyone I spoke with at the wedding. It was my great honor and privilege to write and deliver this poem to the bride and groom and their loved ones:
(an epithalamium—wedding poem—for Marci and Matt)
The fruit on the vines is ripening fast;
we find it hard to resist.
We meander into the cornucopia of rows
strung with fragrant pearls of wine to come,
as something in the sweet section
of our brains lights up,
and with no conscious thought,
hand meets grape, grape meets mouth,
bringing all that anticipated pleasure
into our lives.
On these Indian summer days we have
been known to follow open-topped trucks
down the highway, smiling at clusters,
still worshipping the sun, piled high
in the hoppers. We case wineries
to revel in the smell of the crush,
swoon at deepest reds marbling in vats.
We sip and dream of what’s to come.
This is fall ripening, harvest time.
Sugars concentrate; cabernet
and merlot linger longer on the vines,
take their time, become sweeter
And when the harvest comes,
we are awash in richness.
Look at that, all this plenitude reminds us.
Life really does go on, the reliable cycle
of living things poking through dirt,
winding their way into vines that sprout
fruit that we now savor and drink.
This is us making a life together,
the occasion of love harvested,
solidified in ceremony, another
sweet reminder of blessings
we’d almost forgotten.