Better Than Planned

Xavier is suddenly 14 months old and I have been wanting to have a baby blessing ceremony for him.  Sadly he has long since outgrown the beautiful cream baptismal gown with yellow lace trim my mother passed down to us, which all my siblings and I wore for our own baptisms.  I grew up Catholic and am now the happy godmother to my two nieces, Fiona and Mabel.  But as Christian and I do not participate in any organized church, I wanted a more non-denominational blessing for Xavier outside in a beautiful natural setting. We asked Matthew and Rebecca to be godparents which seemed fitting as Rebecca had flown out to be our doula for his birth. Our extended family is dispersed across North America and our trip to South Dakota was the first time my side of the family has gathered together since he was born. I did not want to intrude on the wedding festivities but it is such a rare treat for us all to be in the same place.  I was imagining something simple:  a small circle of family down by the lake in the early morning sun, drinking coffee and saying sweet things about my son.  Then we would all kiss him and go for a swim.  I even memorized a poem by Gary Snyder for the occasion.  I love to read poetry but this is only the second poem I can remember learning by heart.

However as sometimes happens, events didn't quite turn out as planned.  During the week leading up to the wedding family members were staying in different cabins, wonderful parties were on-going and we simply didn't have a chance to gather especially for the blessing.  The Monday morning after the ceremony, we met briefly to say goodbye as everyone prepared to travel home.  Christian, Xavier and I were planning to head east to the Badlands before turning west again for the drive home to Seattle.  Matt and Rebecca suggested we stay with them that night when we passed back through Hot Springs.  So that is how we ended up having a bonus evening with the newly-married couple and enjoying an intimate and wholly unexpected baby blessing underneath a sky bright with stars.

After a spectacular day exploring the Badlands National Park, we arrived at the cabin around 10pm.  Matt's friend Chelsea prepared a midnight feast of the choicest bison filets, grilled asparagus and a salad.  Then Matt and Rebecca pulled their wedding bison hide blanket outside next the the campfire.  Xavier had slept more than usual in the car and during our hike, so he was happily rolling around on "Freedom" the bison who had fed the wedding party of 140 people for a week and then some.  The four adults clinked wineglasses and toasted to Xavier.  Matt is a Taurus, just like my husband and my son, and he assured me he'll give me all the insights into raising a little bull-- like the importance of using reverse psychology for instance.  Matt and Rebecca then kissed Xavier, solemnly promised to love him and vowed to teach him their magical views on life. The coyotes began to howl in the distance and we joined in.  Then we all laughed and talked into the wee hours.  And I got to recite my poem:


The rising hills, the slopes,
of statistics
lie before us.
the steep climb
of everything, going up,
up, as we all
go down.

In the next century
or the one beyond that,
they say,
are valleys, pastures,
we can meet there in peace
if we make it.

To climb these coming crests
one word to you, to
you and your children:

stay together
learn the flowers
go light

Gary Snyder

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