A Wedding by the Sea

Welcome to this happy celebration.

I’m a Mainer, former hiker and canoer — and a dear friend of the couple whose marriage we witness and celebrate this afternoon.  I profess philosophy as a vocation. When I confess religion, it’s a religious naturalism pretty much Thoreau-style.

Lyman and I first met some ten years ago over a beer to share our common passion for Thoreau.  Lyman’s a philosopher. And it may surprise you that Noel is too. She has an abiding interest not just in Math but in Moose.

If you’re from “away” Moose are strange ancient creatures, both alluring and mysterious.  To be fascinated with the alluring and mysterious makes one a philosopher, even if one prefers math or chemistry.

Moose are mysterious and alluring, and so are Geese. Noel reports a flock that descended in terrifying numbers to occupy the wetlands outside her front door in Michigan.

Lyman reminds me of other alluring and strange things: Thoreau shooting rapids on the Merrimack or climbing Ktaadn straight up, without switch backs.

We’re celebrating a special couple. They’re philosophers, avid hikers, and love lobster. Whether or not they yodel, they “love to go a-wandering” — in the Presidentials of northern New Hampshire, up Mt Washington — and back down.

Have you seen the Mower-Chang web site?

It’s amazing!  I’ve never seen such a wonderful wedding welcome.  They beam all over, even as tots — thoroughly cute, romantic, and funny!!   If I had a screen behind me, I’d show you.

Lyman studied Religion and Henry David at Syracuse. Noel did Math and Chemistry in Illinois. I’d take Lyman to the train station for his commute to Champaign-Urbana, where he’d watch Patriot’s football and chase Geese.

I hear Henry Thoreau is a familiar figure at the Mower Estate – along with the late family cat who survived a hawk attack and protects Noel from ghosts.

There are only two figures that threaten to upstage Noel and Lyman at the Mower Homestead: the notorious Boston tag-team, Brady and Belichick.

Brady-Belichick, White Mountains, Thoreau, Noel and Lyman, Moose – all of these give us Goose-bumps.

I get Goose-bumps being here.  A certificate in my pocket empowers me to make this wedding official. I shudder to think of it.

Let’s send out some good vibes: if you like what’s about to happen, clap or shout a good “Yah-who

**  **  **

I’ll give a hint of religion here by citing some Biblical passages.  In Isaiah we glimpse the life Noel and Lyman can hope for:

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

The Book of Ruth offers pledges of loyalty and devotion:

 Where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried.

Ecclesiastes underlines the great good of togetherness:

Two are better than one, for if one falls, the other will lift up his fellow. And if two lie together, they keep warm – how can one keep warm alone?

Our common ancestor from Concord preaches a New Gospel, a religion of meadow and stream – and he promises a new dawn for each of us.

Thoreau preaches a Church of waters and woods, of wonder and awe. Whether a lily or a sunset, there are moments when something takes over. Moments like this — just a stone’s throw from the Piscataqua, where sea and river meet.

**  **

Thoreau layeth down by still waters.  His cup runneth over.

He peers into waters and has an epiphany.

Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.

I drink at it: but while I drink I see the sandy bottom.

I would drink deeper:

fish in the sky, whose bottom is pebbly with stars.

We fish for happiness and joy. Henry’s eyes soak up fish — and then soak up stars reflected in the stream. He could drink deeper, for there’s endless joy and wonder to absorb.  If you don’t have a stream, just peer into the eyes of someone next to you.

At the pebbly bottom fish and stars mingle in a wedding of earth, sky, and water.  We’re all invited:

“Come! Let’s cast our lines down into the stream and up toward heaven!”

Joy is contagious. It embraces the couple before us and all here on this hillock.

Thoreau adds a wish,

I always regret that I am not as wise as the day I was born. 

It’s wistful hope for the innocent wonder and wisdom of childhood. We wish for a marriage with innocent wonder and wisdom hovering over it. Jesus asks us to become as little children. Thoreau longs for earlier days of wisdom, wonder, joy, and trust.

Love abides where there is passion and where there is poetry in vision and song;

it abides in marriages of heaven and earth beside still waters;

it abides in this lovely marriage in Portsmouth where salt and sweet waters mingle.

**   **

Here’s a second Walden moment. Thoreau finds himself prayer-like at the edge of the pond:

Why, here is Walden, the same woodland lake that I discovered so many years ago;

it is the same liquid joy and happiness to itself and its Maker, ay, and it may be [joy and happiness] to me.

He rounded this water with his hand, deepened and clarified it in his thought, and in his will bequeathed it to Concord.

 I can almost say, Walden, is it you?

Can we be that romantic – that crazy-romantic – to whisper beside waters, “Is it you??

Joy spills from a Creator to the Pond and spills further to cover Henry, kneeling at her edge.  Let joy cover Lyman and Noel. Let joy cover all on this hillock – the salty-sweet joy that floats love.

We find life through everyday smiles of joyful affirmation, through smiles between friends, between mother and father and child –in the joyful smiles between Noel and Lyman that hover over us all.

Henry tells us Joy is the condition of life. We want Marriage to be a pinnacle of joy, love, and companionship.  She rounded this couple, — family and friends — with her hand, deepened and clarified them in her thought, and bequeathed them to all in this happy place.

We take in the Wonder of it all in joy, trust, and innocence.  Noel and Lyman, you are clearly meant for each other.

Go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

Your hearts will say to each other,

Where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried.

And you’ll remember

Two are better than one, for if one falls, the other will lift up his fellow. And if two lie together, they keep warm — how can one keep warm alone?

 

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