This Morning and Every Morning I Choose You

I simply love a good wedding and over the years I have been privileged to attend many special and beautiful ceremonies. Two of these wonderful celebrations were my own. Four years ago today, I married Christian-Sinclair Anthony Amott for the second time. It was a beautiful June day in Vancouver and a few of my favorite memories of that wedding weekend include:

  • The bridal shower tea where 18 very special women in my life shared their wisdom on love and marriage and gave me an instant collection of antique tea cups
  • Christian's stag party which ended up with skinny dipping in English Bay and a rather gruesome toe wound for the groom who limped through the weekend
  • My Uncle Steve's surprise appearance
  • Family BBQ the night before the ceremony in Christian's aunt and uncle's backyard
  • Nieces and nephews climbing in the moss-covered trees
  • Christian being, um, defecated upon by a passing seagull - thankfully a sign of good luck in many cultures!
  • Oysters and Rose Champagne on the lawn of the Teahouse Conservatory
  • Kids climbing the moss-covered trees
  • The many thoughtful, loving and funny toasts - some rehearsed and some spontaneous - that went on all throughout our wedding lunch
  • Party at the Sylvia Hotel that evening and a Dim Sum brunch the following day.
  • Honeymoon on Gabriola Island where my two brothers and their families joined us for a few days.
Each year on our anniversary, I like to take out our wedding photos and reread our vows because really, how often do we do that? Not often enough. But even if we only do it once a year, restating and refreshing the solemn promises we made to each other is a good reminder to live them. Below is our wedding ceremony and a few favorite photos from that special day.

Wedding Celebration
June 26, 2010

Welcome family and friends, to this beautiful natural setting in Stanley Park where we have come together to witness and celebrate the joining of two lives and two families.  Sarah and Christian legally bound their lives together this past New Year’s Eve, but they wanted to celebrate again with you, the important people in their lives.  Many of you have traveled a long way to be here, but whether you have come from across town or across the continent, all of you have come to offer your love, support and blessing for this union.  This moment in time is both poignant and precious to Sarah and Christian and they are honored by your presence.  This park has been Christian’s backyard and now it is Sarah’s too.  It has been the setting for many romantic walks along the seawall during their relationship and is a special place in their hearts. Thank you for being here with us today!

A special thank you goes out to Sarah and Christian’s parents, Bob and Susan Burns, Jane Amott and Allan and Grace Amott.  It was Jane who chose this spot for the wedding and made it possible for us all to be here today.  Family is very important to both Sarah and Christian.  The love, guidance and example you have given them as parents has helped to make them kind and loving adults.  They thank all of you for giving them each a wonderful upbringing and also for giving the other a loving new spouse.

I’d now like to invite Patrick up to share the first reading, an excerpt from Rainer Maria Rilke.

To love is good; love being difficult.  For one human being to love another; that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation. It is a high inducement to the individual to ripen, to become something in himself, to become world, to become world for himself for another’s sake, it is a great exacting claim upon him, something that chooses him out and calls him to vast things….The point of marriage is not to create a quick commonality by tearing down all boundaries.  A merging of two people is an impossibility, and where it seems to exist, it is a hemming-in, a mutual consent that robs one party or both parties of their fullest freedom and development. But once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a marvelous living side-by-side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Christian and Sarah each bring unique traits to this union and a marriage is a place to honor those individual and sometimes quirky bits about each other.  That is why they fell in love. They met with the magical aid of modern technology.  Imagine the odds!  And yet it was quickly apparent that they might make a good match. Christian wanted to find “someone who was equally enthused about life and embracing it to the fullest.”  Sarah hoped to meet a man who was “curious and wanted to join her in experiencing life in all its fascinating details.”  The words “New Yorker”, “a good bottle of wine” “A keen sense of intellect” and “travel” were the clincher.  Of course, there were early warning signs that Christian was physically attached to his iPhone and overzealous about the Dave Matthews Band and he didn’t realize the extent of Sarah’s obsession with the library, but still, here we find ourselves today.  For the past three years, they have certainly been experiencing life to the fullest with each other.  They have traveled back and forth across the US-Canadian border and all over the world together, from Portugal to Japan to Antarctica with many local adventures in-between.  The great thing about Sarah and Christian as a couple is that they also consider discovering a new Korean joint down the street or trying a different recipe at home together an adventure.  They are have been really good at making each other happy and that happiness spreads and grows exponentially.

Natasha is now going to give our second reading, a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye called “So Much Happiness.”

It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.

With sadness there is something to rub against, 

a wound to tend with lotion and cloth.

When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up,

something to hold in your hands, like ticket stubs or change.

But happiness floats.

It doesn't need you to hold it down.

It doesn't need anything.

Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing,

and disappears when it wants to.

You are happy either way.

Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree house

and now live over a quarry of noise and dust
cannot make you unhappy.

Everything has a life of its own,

it too could wake up filled with possibilities

of coffee cake and ripe peaches,

and love even the floor which needs to be swept,

the soiled linens and scratched records…..

Since there is no place large enough

to contain so much happiness,

you shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you

into everything you touch. You are not responsible.

You take no credit, as the night sky takes no credit

for the moon, but continues to hold it, and share it,

and in that way, be known.

Well Christian and Sarah, you wanted adventure and now you’ve got it.  You have decided together, to begin this new, wonderful life adventure called marriage. This past November, Christian gave Sarah a beautiful engagement ring that belonged to his maternal grandmother and since that day, I know it has been a whirlwind of excitement.  Love is a gift and a shot of adrenaline, but it is also a conscious decision.  In the dining room of Sarah’s childhood home, there was a wooden plaque that said, “Love is a Decision.”  That idea made a powerful impression on her.  Love is not something that happens to you as a passive recipient.  It doesn’t tap you on the shoulder with a magic wand and say, “ta-da!  And now you are in love”.  Of course, love has a power that can catch you unawares, sweep you up, take your breath away and make you run for champagne and strawberries.  It has even, I’ve been told, inspired Christian to write poetry for Sarah early on in their relationship.  However, love is something to be created by each of you, refreshed every day and creatively expanded upon.  In this way it can grow deeper, stronger and more complex – and thus more amazing and more fun.  As partners, you each are responsible for renewing and stoking your love for each other.  This will guarantee a marriage that will never be boring.  Given both of your lives and your relationship thus far, boring doesn’t seem to be an issue, but there may be some dull moments.  It happens.  Therefore, it is important as part of this commitment to make certain there are many more shining moments to far outnumber the commonplace ones.  It seems so simple a recipe, but as Seneca said, “If you wish to be loved, love.”

Today is a celebration for Christian and Sarah, but it is also a celebration for the rest of us, for it is a pleasure to see love in bloom, to participate in the wedding of two people so happy together.  Weddings are all about hope and optimism.  There is risk involved, but it is a delicious challenge and one that we all cheer on.  And what poet is more jubilant than Walt Whitman?

Matthew, will you please come up to give the last reading?

Allons! whoever you are come travel with me!
Traveling with me you find what never tires.
The earth never tires,
The earth is rude, silent, incomprehensible at first, Nature is rude and incomprehensible at first,
Be not discouraged, keep on, there are divine things well envelop'd,
I swear to you there are divine things more beautiful than words can tell.
Allons! we must not stop here,
However sweet these laid-up stores, however convenient this dwelling we cannot remain here,
However shelter'd this port and however calm these waters we must not anchor here,
However welcome the hospitality that surrounds us we are permitted to receive it but a little while.

Allons! the inducements shall be greater,
We will sail pathless and wild seas,
We will go where winds blow, waves dash, and the Yankee clipper speeds by under full sail.

Allons! with power, liberty, the earth, the elements,
 Health, defiance, gayety, self-esteem, curiosity; 
Allons! from all formulas!

Camerado, I give you my hand!
I give you my love more precious than money,
I give you myself before preaching or law;
 Will you give me yourself? Will you come travel with me?
 Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?

~Walt Whitman, from Song of the Open Road

Christian and Sarah, in your hearts and in front of a judge, you have already committed to love each other and stick by each other as long as you live.  Today, you would like to declare that commitment again in the presence of your family and friends.  May we have the rings, please?

Christian, you’re up first.

Sarah, this morning and every morning, I choose you. May this ring be a symbol of my love for you and my decision to walk through life by your side.  I promise to love you, laugh with you, struggle and strive next to you.  I promise to uplift you and delight in you.  I promise to bring out the best in you and to be my best self for you.  I love you.

Christian, this morning and every morning, I choose you.  May this ring be a symbol of my love for you and my decision to walk through life by your side.  I promise to love you, laugh with you, struggle and strive next to you.  I promise to uplift you and delight in you.  I promise to bring out the best in you and to be my best self for you.  I love you.

Christian and Sarah, it is my great pleasure to pronounce you, again, husband and wife.  Christian, you may kiss your bride!

May you live long , healthy and happy lives together.  May your hearts be full.  May your lips stay sweet.  May your love grow strong.  Go forth now and be happy.  Let’s go drink some champagne!


Sitting in Circle for Mary Ellen

Driving east from Seattle for the weekend of the summer solstice, I felt excited and liberated - excited to see my sister Mary Ellen and liberated at leaving Xavier with his father for the weekend. It was a last minute plan, the kind that sparked on a Wednesday and simply fell together as easily as if pre-ordained. So here I was, 48 hours later taking myself on a road trip, Gillian Welch cranked on the car stereo, my baby girl dancing along in my belly.
This is a special moment in time for Mary Ellen and I as sisters. We are the two girls in our family of four kids and we are both pregnant and expecting little girls. Mary Ellen is 35 weeks pregnant and I am at 24 weeks. While she is my younger sister, Mary Ellen got married first, had her first child first and in so many ways, I look up to her.

My sister's mother-in-law, who goes by the nickname “Rowdy” (how wonderful is that?) was hosting a Mother Blessing for Mary Ellen. Rowdy is involved with an organization called Gather the Womenwhose rally cry is "Gather the Women, Change the World." To give you an idea of her bright personality and dedication to changing the world, Rowdy is heavily involved in Americans for Democratic Action and the UN Commission on the Status of Women. She has been "sitting in circle" for over twenty years, marking special occasions and life passages for women from bridal showers, home blessings, memorials and mother blessings.

After all the guests had arrived and sparkling wine and/or water with huckleberries had been passed around, we settled into a circle of chairs outside on the deck. Rowdy had just found a beautiful-looking and lovely-sounding gong at the art walk, so we sounded the gong to officially begin the ceremony. Rowdy gave a brief introduction to sitting circle and then everyone introduced themselves and explained how they knew Mary Ellen. We lit candles to the four directions and invited special women far away to join us in spirit in the circle. Mary Ellen and Rowdy wore shawls to symbolize grandmothers and ancestors also present with us.
Every guest gave one blessing and one wish to Mary Ellen to help guide her through the rest of her pregnancy and the birth of her daughter. All the heartfelt sentiments were especially poignant as Mary Ellen's first pregnancy had gone a little sideways. She developed preeclampsia and had to be helicoptered to nearby Spokane where her daughter Mabel was delivered at 28 weeks. Thankfully all ended well, but the following weeks that Mabel spent in the NICU were emotional and scary. Now almost four and sweetly precocious, Mabel is excited for her new baby sister. This second pregnancy has been smooth sailing thus far and Mary Ellen is feeling - and looking - great.

The lovely "Oh Baby" banner was made by our cousin Jessica Shaool of Fat Vegan Baby

When Mary Ellen married her husband Andrew, I made them a broadside of the e.e. cummings poem "since feeling is first." Now 9 years later, they have one lovely daughter and are getting ready to welcome another sweet baby girl into their family.  As her older sister, it has been such a joy to watch Mary Ellen's life grow in so many beautiful ways.  For this occasion, I chose another  e.e. cummings poem, “i carry your heart” as a good reminder of the magical and miraculous fact that she is physically and emotionally nourishing this little person.  It is also a reminder of the special bond she will always share with both of her daughters.  I read somewhere that cells from the fetus migrate into the mother's organs and I love this, the idea that a mother will always carry little tiny pieces of her children inside her body.

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                               i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you 
here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

~ e.e. cummings

And my blessing for Mary Ellen...
May you enjoy the magic of being pregnant and always remember what your body and heart are capable of creating.
May you and Andrew always savor your love, the love that grew a family.
May the birth of your daughter be quick, uncomplicated and full of awe.
May she be healthy, sweet-natured and beautiful like her older sister, in her very own way.
May you delight each day in being a mother.
And may your children bring you endless joy all the days of your life.


The Evolution of a Father

My father-in-law is visiting from Victoria this weekend and we are celebrating Father's Day Weekend by watching the World Cup, riding more trains in Snoqualmie, grilling in the backyard and throwing rocks at the beach. Looking at Allan, Christian and Xavier all sitting together on the porch swing, I am visually reminded of the genetic threads that pass magically through grandfather to father to son by their identical handsome cleft chins.

Christian's parents divorced when he was seven years old, but he spent every other weekend growing up with his involved and loving father. He talks about the traits he respects in his dad: dedication, strong work ethic, dignity, humbleness, honesty, commitment and humor. I see all of these qualities in Christian too and I hope he inspires them in our son.

Watching Christian's evolution as a father has been a beautiful thing to witness. I will never forget falling in love with the dad he was about to become the day he methodically test-drove strollers. He came to every prenatal appointment with our midwives where he charmed them with his scientific, informed and engaged questions. At our son's birth he was a steady and unwavering support and that joyful day added so much depth to our relationship. Christian wasn't sure he wanted more than one child but when Xavier was just five days old, he came back from a run and announced that his son "probably needed a little sister." He has hiked mountains, cross-country skied, snowshoed, grocery-shopped, and jet setted with Xavier strapped to his chest or to his back. He loves to kick the soccer ball around with his son in the park and he gets down on the floor to "talk trains" for endless hours. They cook together, wrestle together, garden together, read books together and build things together. I love to watch Xavier draw out Christian's silly and playful side.

For the past year and a half, Christian has worked from home and he often takes a mid-morning break to walk with Xavier over to the coffee shop. They stop by the playground on the way home. On most days he eats breakfast, lunch and dinner with his son where they discuss current events, Thomas the Tank Engine and new vocabulary words. Christian works hard at his job so that I've been able to choose the most rewarding job I've ever had: taking care of our child.

The evolution continues...I can't wait to see Christian holding our tiny daughter in his arms when she arrives in October. He's already been chatting casually with Xavier about sharing his toys with his little sister and looking out for her on the playground. And in addition to being a fun and engaged father, Christian does something else so important for the family: he loves Xavier's mummy really well.

Happy Father's Day!


To Be Filled With Light

When I Am Among The Trees

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness,
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, "Stay awhile."
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, "It's simple," they say,
"and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine."

~ Mary Oliver, from Thirst


England: A Personal History & Travelogue (Part II)

There are many ways to document and remember a trip:  photographs, postcards, emails, matchbooks, journals, and lists of all kinds.  Instead of a traditional travelogue, I thought I'd share a sensory list I wrote during our trip to transport you to England.  And a few photos for visuals at the end... 

Colors of England
Suffolk’s pink cottages with thatched roofs
Bright yellow fields of rape seed
Honey-colored stone houses in the Cotswolds
Lavender and dark purple lilacs
Purple wisteria
White horse in a green, green field
Red-brown pointer dogs and spaniels
Ivory-colored sheep and the occasional black lamb
Painted pub signs
Green room in Chatsworth House with the hand-painted Chinese wall-paper of birds and vines
Plentiful and vibrantly-colored pheasants in the fields
Warm glow of lights from Dunsley Hall as we walked back in the dusk from Sandsend Beach
Red sky and full moon rising walking back to Easterside Farm from the Hawnby Inn Pub

Sounds of England
Tolling church bells
Boys choir at Evensong at King’s College in Cambridge
Lambs bleating in the pastures
Streams rushing through the countryside
Birdsong – so much more than at home
Horses neighing
The absence of traffic noise
Steam train whistle and train wheels on the track
Seagulls in Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Yorkshire coast

Smells of England
Wet lamb
Dung in the pastures
Sea air on the coast
Fish and Chips in Whitby
Bacon and eggs and full English Breakfast
Earl Grey or Yorkshire Tea steeping

Textures of England
Wind the Willows
Xavier blowing dandelions and tickling his face
Laying in the grass in the meadow by the River Cam after a Sunday lunch at the pub
Walking through the steam from the engine on the train station platform
Sunlight through the ruins of Rieveleaux Abbey
Fine misty rain interspersed with slants of late afternoon sunlight, mud, dripping grand old trees,
Lambs among the sculptures at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park
Running through a hedge maze at Chatsworth House
Dogs lying at their masters’ feet next to the fire in the pubs
Tweed-clad men of all ages walking with walking sticks and hunting dogs

Flavors of England
Cucumber Sandwiches
Welsh Rarebit (glorified cheese on toast)
Scottish Smoked Salmon with scrambled eggs
Chelsea Buns
Wensleydale Cheese
Oatcakes and shortbread cookies
Stinking Bishop cheese
Scones with clotted cream and raspberry jam
Local crisp asparagus
Aspel Cider
Hooky Ale (A “real” ale)
Black Pudding
Wild garlic soup and Lamb shops at the Hawnby Inn
Kippers for breakfast
Toast soldiers with Dippy eggs
Black Sheep Yorkshire Cask Ale
Sautéed samphire (known in America as sea beans)
Brown crab salad and England’s “best fish and chips” at the Magpie in Whitby
Steak and Ale Pie
Sticky Toffee Pudding
Steak and Yorkshire Pudding


Visiting our friend Mac in Maldon

Rapeseed Fields (from which we get Canola Oil)

Xavier on an antique rocking horse in the nursery of Audley End

Punting on the River Cam

Lounging in the meadow on the way from Sunday Lunch in Grantchester

Lots of time to frolic in the grass

Cotswold sheep known as the "Cotswold Lion"

New friends in the pastures

Stopping to let Xavier stretch his legs during a hike to Winchecombe to catch the steam train

Every trip we take I find a house I want - this one looks just right.

Riding the rails

Not sure who was more excited, Xavier or Christian.

Posing like garden statuary

Feeding "our" lambs at Easterside Farm in Hawnby

And snuggling our kittens

Hiking to the ruins of Riveleaux Abbey

We had tea while it rained and then the sun came out.

Walkers have the "Right to Roam" throughout the entire country.

More steam trains on the North Yorkshire Rail - we are feeding Xavier's obsession.

Ruins of Whitby Abbey on the North Yorkshire coast.

Robin Hood's Bay

Beach time - and then we went to get pints of ale and ice cream.

Yorkshire Sculpture Garden

...where sheep and art coexist in harmony in the loveliest pastoral setting.

We had the medieval Hadden House all to ourselves.

The Broadway Folly, which William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones used as a studio retreat.

Hooky Ale at the pub in Chipping Campden

Helmsley Castle