Both these beautiful white hydrangeas and the lovely blushing bride were photographed while standing in the parking lot outside my daughter's dorm last weekend; I've been itching to put the two shots together all week.
I think it's because I'm still thinking about that Rumi poem we heard in class on Tuesday --
The minute I heard my first love story
I started looking for you, not knowing
how blind that was.
It really resonated with me, because I can barely remember a time when I didn't dream of loving someone and being loved. At least as early as third grade I remember demanding that my mother buy me BLACK and white saddleshoes instead of BROWN and white, because that was the color Jeff Isaacs wore, and I thought if we wore the same shoes he might like me. And though I didn't get my first doll until I was in fourth or fifth grade, I remember her perfectly: her name was Connie, she had black hair and blue eyes with beautifully lashed lids that opened and closed, and she wore a lovely white satin wedding gown.
I remember also the beautiful blue dress Cinderella wore in the Walt Disney movie, and the thrill I felt when her prince finally tracked her down. And I remember the first time I discovered Jane Austen, and Georgette Heyer, and the thrill I felt when each of their heroines finally connected with their heroes.
But of course all of that -- the shoes, the wedding dress, the ball gown, the romance novels -- all of it centers around that ecstatic moment of connection, and has very little to do with the day-to-day business of living with a loved one which Jack Kornfield's wonderful title describes so well: After the Ecstasy, the Laundry.
We have such a longing -- throughout our lives -- for that moment of connection. It's a wonderful, heady longing, and fuels our determination to return, day after day, to meditation and prayer -- even if, as one friend said recently, you're stuck in the laundry and still waiting for the ecstasy.
In its darker guise, of course, the longing also propels us into -- and sometimes keeps us in -- relationships that bear little resemblance to the stuff of dreams; relationships with difficult people, with destructive substances, with dysfunctional workplaces, with addictive behaviors... all of which do little to fill that hunger for connection and yet can often be very hard to break or leave.
All of which may be why we all feel a little teary at the sight of a bride: there's so much hope and potential there, and yet we know that all those lovely whites will get dingier with time, and probability is high that there'll be a lot of laundry in her future. There's a hope that she'll find that lovely balance we all crave, but it's mixed with an understanding that sometimes the laundry -- the day to day minutiae and challenges of sharing a life -- will get stacked so high she'll just want to leave and let someone else take care of it.
It is at those moments -- the tipping points in a marriage, a job, a friendship, a life -- that that old familiar serenity prayer seems to say it best:
Lord, give us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change,
the courage to change the things we can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.