This is the outside of Oakland's amazing Cathedral of Christ the Light. When I wandered inside and meditated for a little while, I remembered how my own spiritual pilgrimage began.
My early childhood Sunday mornings were spent reading the funnies while the grown-ups padded around in robes, drinking coffee, perhaps cleaning the aquarium or getting sun in the garden. The only intimations of religion I remember were from television: Sidney Poitier visiting some stubborn nuns and building their church, and Sally Field as the disarming Flying Nun.
Then, around age ten, I detoured one day from walking home from school (my house key on a string around my neck) and headed instead to old grey St. Bridget's a block away. They didn't lock their doors then. I slipped inside and sat down in a pew, awed and excited. My solitary experience that day was of sweet silence, light through colored windows, the faint smell of sweat and incense. I asked my father that night if I could be a Catholic.
Dad, embracing Unitarian and Humanist fellowships after a Jewish and Christian Scientist childhood, managed to hide his surprise. "You can be baptized anything you want," he said firmly. "Once you are eighteen."
Suddenly, becoming baptized seemed tremendously important to me. Dad showed me a book called "The Church Down the Street." "Look at all these religions you can choose from," he said, leafing through the chapters. Baptist. Jew. Muslim. Buddhist. "I recommend you study them before you make up your mind." My work was cut out for me.
Over the next seven years, I attended a session of Catholic summer camp and two years of Jewish summer camp; six months of Wednesday night youth group at my Mormon friend's church; yoga and meditation classes at the stuffy top-floor studio of the Iyengar Yoga Institute; zen meditation at Green Gulch; informal but thorough lessons in Wicca and Tarot reading from friends; services and summer family camp with Unitarians, and some quiet time sitting with Friends. Oh, and a ten week course in Episcopalian history.
As I turned eighteen, I had the usual mix of blustery bravado and intense shyness, idealism and cynicism. I was living with a boyfriend by then, waitressing, writing poetry. Dad mentioned that he was worried about me-- so many young people were flocking to the Hare Krishnas, to Jim Jones, to Reverend Sun Moon. "No way, Dad," I said. I had already proven to myself that, with my freethinking ideas, I did not fit in anywhere.
The previous summer, I had baptized myself by a splashing snow-melt stream in the high Tuolomne Meadows. The bright sun was nearly swallowed in vast blue sky, and the banks of the stream were a riot of Indian paintbrush and purple lupine.
Earlier this year, I had the honor of officiating at the wedding between a dear friend and colleague, Alison Hotchkiss, and her fiance, Markus Rinderknecht. Everything about that wedding was heartfelt, intimate, and completely romantic.
I met Alison years ago while tagging along to my father's weddings. We have worked together on several occasions. She creates breathtaking events. She is a generous and very brightly shining soul who has managed an incredibly busy business as a destination wedding and events planner. In addition to that, and a good deal of travel, Alison wrote two books that have been extremely helpful to wedding couples: Destination Wedding Planner: The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Wedding from Afar; and All the Essentials Wedding Planner: The Ultimate Tool for Organizing Your Big Day (shown here).
Alison is also one of my fairy godmothers. In early 2012, I met her for a latte at the Caffe Trieste in San Francisco's North Beach. I hesitantly outlined an idea for a book, and not only did she encourage me, but she also insisted I write up the idea which she would share with her editor at Chronicle Books. That conversation changed the course of my life.
A couple of weeks ago, Alison Events production manager Shira Savada, who also knows a whole lot about weddings, kindly interviewed me. Here is my interview on the Alison Events web site, as well as some tips about making your wedding uniquely yours.
Thank you, Ms. Rinderknecht and Ms. Savada!
Gee, it's good to be back. I've missed you!
Over the past sixty days I've laid the groundwork for the new book (more on that in upcoming posts), and now it's time to lift my head and look around. Who brought all these blooming flowers to Campbell?
Tonight I'm heading for downtown San Jose to a launch party for Reed Magazine, the oldest literary journal west of the Mississippi. Aside from the joy of hanging out at the hip, laid-back Blackbird Tavern for a few hours, I'm really looking forward to meeting some old schoolmates and beloved professors from San Jose State University. I might get to see one friend whose flash fiction is gracing a huge number of journals online and in print. And I hope to see another friend who knows how authors should approach book tours.
I'm officiating at a whole new crop of weddings, too, which I love. That's given me a chance to think about more wedding-related ideas to share with you. See you next week.
Here are some thoughts about weddings, writing, and the world. Enjoy.