Our wedding ceremony was very short and very secular. We were in a walled garden, and we had a little acoustic guitar music and two readings. My sister insisted that a marriage could not commence without a reading of first Corinthians; when I said that I wished I could have a Quaker wedding, in which the bride and groom stand alone before the assembled to make their pact, and anyone who wishes to speak may do so, Becca said that if I did that, she would stand and read first Corinthians. But I had something else in mind.
One reading was a poem by Donald Hall called “Summer Kitchen.” I had found it through the Writer’s Almanac (the only email newsletter I never unsubscribe from, no matter how thorough my e-purge) and thought it captured everything beautiful about life and love. I later read an interview with Donald Hall in which he explained (and I hope I am not mangling his meaning too dreadfully here as I paraphrase from memory) that sound is the thing in poetry. That the “meaning” or story of the poem is quite secondary. I am happily mired in story and image, though; I don’t know if it’s too late for me to become attuned to the music of poetry, or if I have a better chance now that I’m older and better read.
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me prov’d,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
My boss, who attended the wedding (very sweet), mocked this choice (less sweet, but unsurprising) as entirely inappropriate for nuptials. Critical opinion on this matter seems to be divided, and I must admit that I did not put the poem through rigorous analysis myself before choosing it. For me it calls to mind a high school English teacher of mine who told us that he read this poem to his wife every year on their anniversary. That stuck with me.
What struck me this morning is “It is the star to every wandering bark.” In the past year I’ve been thinking often about what Buddhism might mean for Western literary traditions, depicting and celebrating (and creating?) the persistent self as they do. A poem that straightforwardly insisted on the permanence of any state should seem misguided to a Buddhist. (Which I am not, I should make clear; my interest is strong but neither deep nor formal.) But I like an idea which Shakespeare definitely did not intend, and that is Love as “the star to every wandering bark”—not a specific love, but Love as an ideal and a daily practice that helps us constantly reorient ourselves.
The pictures above are some recent gifts of love not directly linked to Valentine’s Day. I knitted Bee a Zimmerman Tomten which she has no interest in wearing. Since its main purpose was to occupy my hands on the long flight to India last year (remember that?), and since it might fit into next year, that’s fine. This sweater was begun in 2010 and finished in 2012; but my favorite thing about it is that the yarn came from Houston (green), San Francisco (bright blue), and Cambridge (navy). I kept running out of yarn. Oh, and I had to order the zipper from Purl; although it was shipped from California, I am counting it as New York so that this sweater has it all. Although I am a faithful knitter of swatches, I somehow always end up in the wrong gauge and needing much more yarn than called for.
The tray of shiny things is my estate sale plunder from last weekend. (My gift to myself, if that isn't obvious.) I also drove home with a dresser strapped to the top of the station wagon—a first time for everything! The hobnail glass pitcher is for a handwashing station for Bee. The candlesticks are because we had none. The silver tray has a spot of corrosive tarnish that may be unmendable, but at $2, who’s complaining? And the sweet little cup is inscribed “Margaret.” I was thinking of sending it to one of my two friends with babies named Margaret, but I may not be able to give it up. It reminds me, actually, of the wedding band I wanted. We bought our wedding bands online at the last minute from a dealer of new and vintage jewelry. I wanted a specific Civil-War-era silver band with etching similar to the cup’s, but it was a size too small. “No problem,” the proprietor said via email. But when I called to arrange the sale, the proprietor’s husband said, “No way. I’m the one who has to take these things to the jeweler to be resized, and he won’t be able to do it.” I ended up with another vintage band that suits my engagement ring much better, although Andrew says it looks like something out of a Cracker Jack box—flimsy. I prefer “delicate.”
In early January I finally started another batch of Tartine starter, hoping to be able to bake bread for Andrew on Valentine’s Day. The starter grew mold, which never happened in San Francisco, a forest of tiny spores. The next batch grew flat little dark spots of mold. The next batch stayed clean and took, and yesterday I baked. It was wonderful to get my hands into a big mass of dough again, and now I have plans to try at least three recipes from the book with the almost four (!) pounds of bread I produced. I know I am pushing it here, but I really want to say that baking is another star to this wandering bark.
NOTES ON TARTINE BREAD, schedule altered to suit the preschool-centric schedule
Day 1: Made leaven in morning. By 8pm, it floated. At 11pm, I mixed up the dough with room temperature water and used half regular bread flour and half regular whole wheat flour (book recommends higher percentage of whole wheat flour—90%, I think). Also used 15 grams salt instead of 20. At midnight, I gave the dough four folds and then covered it up for the night, leaving it on the counter.
Day 2: At 7 a.m., started folding the dough about once every 30 minutes. The dough seemed perhaps too stiff, maybe the result of the overnight rise. At about 11 a.m., divided and shaped the loaves. By noon they were in their floured-cloth-lined bowls. Prepared to bake at 3 p.m. The dough seemed oddly wet; it wet the cloths, which I don’t recall happening before.
Results: These loaves were not as high as I would have liked, and their sides seemed more sloped than rounded. I think this is a nice balance of whole wheat and white flour but know everyone else would prefer pure white. The crumb is oddly moist (as all of my bread seems to be now?), and I don’t think it has the pearlescent sheen it ought to; it definitely doesn’t have ideal bubble structure. Actually, it reminds me a lot of no-knead bread, which would have been easier (but less fun!) to make.