Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Old Friends in Unexpected Places, and Lessons from Complete Strangers

*                   To know oneself is to study oneself in action with another person.

         Bruce Lee (1940 - 1973)

There is nothing more enjoyable than running into an old friend in an unexpected place, or learning a valuable lesson from a complete stranger. I got to experience both at a family Wedding in Vermont. Family and friends were gathering from far and wide to celebrate the wedding of my Husband's cousin, and we were eagerly a part, arriving just before the rehearsal dinner festivities to be enjoyed at their farm in Middlebury, Vermont, one of my favorite places to be.

 It was sadly a little rainy, and as we followed the trail from the house to the fields where the guests were about to enjoy a crawfish bake, I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, an out of context, but familiar face from my past. It was a friend whom I hadn't seen since my sophomore year in college; a friend who had done me an indispensable service once, who I may not have thanked quite fervently enough. Oh, I'm sure that I thanked him at the time, but with twenty more years of mistakes and introspection under my belt, this time, I made it abundantly clear, how much I appreciated his thoughtful care when I was in need. I believe it was not only therapeutic for me, but for him as well, to know that he had been appreciated so long ago, and how even to this day, his efforts were still recognized.

If that wasn't a blessing enough, the wedding that followed was as idyllic as any Vermont wedding could be. It was held  on the shores of Lake Champlain at Shelburne Farms, a beautiful expansive working farm and historic Inn, not to mention spectacularly serene views. 

The ceremony took place amidst the sprawling acreage, the bride arriving by Clydesdale horse driven carriage, and accompanied by her dog who served both as ring bearer, and escort to the Mother of the bride. All the while, a violinist added another lyrical layer to the already serene backdrop. When the bride began to make her entrance, and the groom stood awaiting her arrival, a trumpeter, who was also the brother of the groom,  began to provide a musical red carpet of sorts.  But, The closer the bride got to her beaming groom, the more strained the trumpet became, and then, ultimately, the violinist effortlessly took over, intuitively noting the trumpeter's inability to continue at his best; too filled with emotion to continue. 

It was an important moment for me to witness, since I was soon to sing for my own brother's wedding--the last of my siblings to marry, and the last family wedding for which I'd sing.
It was a song that moved me so much that I couldn't sing it while listening to the c.d. without crying. It was a Hawaiian Wedding Song about family and friends, and the ability of the two to support and uplift the wedding couple in their journey as one:

"...Love is a circle that surrounds you.
You can find it on the faces of your family and friends.
Love, Let it wrap its arms around you, 
and guide you on your journey down the road that never ends..."

I didn't stand a chance. I had been worrying about what would happen if I became too overcome. I had planned to perform this particular song as a surprise, with all of my nieces and nephews, and it was bound to be a tear- jerker. When I had the chance, I commended him for his bravery and asked told him what I'd be up against. I marveled at his ability to try to compose himself and continue, and asked him, "What do you do if you get too overcome?"

He gave me a simple reply. "Just let it happen"
The answer was as plain as the Italian nose on my face, which is quite plain.

Something about the straightforwardness of his reply eased my concern, and I put it on the back burner until the wedding came around. As much as I like to sing for family weddings, (which is about the only time I ever sing  with an  audience,) I never get by with out a healthy dose of stagefright. This time was no different. As usual, I armed myself with hot honey and lemon. When the moment came, and the children began their procession to the altar, I was ready to express the song's heart-felt message, but when the final chorus came, my voice wavered, and I made no effort to correct it. I did indeed, allow, and in the allowing, I realized that it was alright.

 After all, it was my baby brother's wedding ceremony,
 and
 After all, there were emotions that needed to be expressed.
 And
 After all, I am Human, and as such, we have the ability to emote,
 which is
After all, an indisputable component of our being.

There is nothing more enjoyable than running into an old friend in an unexpected place, or learning a valuable lesson from a complete stranger. I got to experience both at a family Wedding in Vermont.

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