drops of water or weddings, funerals and birthdays

Magically formed water droplets, isolated and of varying size, gather on the hidden underside of the plastic lid of my brewed cup of Komodo Dragon coffee – “part bright, biting acidity and part earthy, loamy smoothness” – now mingled with cream, only to be exposed by the morning sunlight streaming through the window after I’ve removed the lid and turned it upside down on the table, allowing the steam to escape freely, and without a trace.

Condensation is the big word that has something to do with the magic, but even if I understood it, I’m skeptical it would adequately explain the way they shimmer there, reflecting tiny, obscure, curving images and keeping their distance one from another like little villages or the  families on my block.

What goes on in those tiny translucent worlds?  From whence came they, and hence shall they go?

Like raindrops on a window pane, if the universe of the lid is turned upon its side, allowing gravity to have its ever-imposing way, the droplets may gather together, joining forces under the weight of the law, until they are more united than their collective strength may bear.  The bigger they are, the harder they fall.

They slide and run and fall and drop, either to be unified more completely with a greater whole, or once again to divide and be left in lucid yet chaotic isolation.

Eventually, absorbed into the darkness of earth, invisible yet effectual in some other organic way, or evaporated with new magic, back from whence they came into the mystery of air or clouds, different yet the same, or continuing their ride into greater and greater masses, collecting and blending and uniting along the way.

Finally to the stream, the river, the creek, the gutter, the ocean, the gulf, the lake – the body of water through we which we wade, or by which we are carried, or which becomes our provision, or which we cross and view passively, in passing, from a bridge on our way to some other destination.

Marriage, death, birth – not necessarily in that order.

At a wedding reception in California years ago, in a room filled with wage-earners, movie stars, career successes, and maudlin failures, Renee and I had the fortune of sharing a table with an elderly couple, bright and ebullient, the distant, great-aunt and uncle, through complex relationships, of the bride, who had traveled over long days and abundant miles to arrive at the occasion.

Blessed with enough curiosity to overcome appropriate social boundaries, we inquired as to their motivation to put themselves out with such great effort to join a few hours of revelry in old Pasadena.  They laughed, indicating a hope fulfilled – they had anticipated such a question and were glad to have earned again the chance to tell their tale.

This elderly couple, caught up in the zeitgeist of the event and the freedom of their earthly experiences and stature, extolled heartily their discovery:

There are merely three events in any life which could be the greatest of the great:  birth, marriage, death.

Birth can come suddenly and presents an intimate event which may be inappropriate for the audience of distant relatives, including much travail and mixed consequence.

Death can also come suddenly, but is nearly always accompanied by dire consequence, and though often sprinkled with nostalgic joy, and persistent hope, can hardly afford zealous and celebratory laud.

Leaving marriage, the solitary of the greatest events, firmly built upon celebration and hope, typically planned far in advance, and intended for revelry, carrying a bit of the goodness of intimacy and the travail of things worth being done well – just enough to enhance the flavor and aroma of the beauty.

They had determined, therefore, to join as many wedding celebrations as their years would allow, never avoiding completely the other of the great events, but pointedly pursuing the marriage feast at expense of effort worthy of its return.

Here’s to weddings, funerals, and birthdays . . . and droplets of water . . . not necessarily in that order.

And here’s to my friend Megan for willingly, yet accidentally, bringing such things to the surface.

7 thoughts on “drops of water or weddings, funerals and birthdays”

  1. Funny I don’t remember this conversation. Seems to be something that I wouldn’t forget. I don’t remember you ever bringing this up ever, either, in all these years. Seems strange to me. And, I thought I knew you after 19 years and 50 weeks of marriage. I like it though. It rings true with me. Do you think of it at every wedding that we attend? Just curious. And are you talking about Dana and Kelley’s wedding? I wonder whatever happened to them….

    1. I don’t remember their names, but that sounds right, and I’m sure we’ve talked about this at least a dozen times since. After all these years, though, I can’t expect your memory to be reliable. I can still see the faces of the couple, though . . . well, at least the outline of the man’s face, and I remember the wedding clearly. Remember Eva Marie Saint, or whatever? That’s the one.

      And yes, I think of it at every wedding and most funerals and some births and frequently upon other random occasions.

  2. Just to be clear, I wasn’t trying to accuse you of making this up. I just thought it was strange that something as profound, true and beautiful as the point of what this couple said would slip by in my memory. I do really like it, really do. I don’t think I will be able to forget it now. Thank you for sharing. I love your writing and I love you the most. Do you want to hang out with me tonight?

    1. Thanks, Renee. It is odd, and rare, that I remember things you don’t. I didn’t remember their names, but you do. That’s typical. Different views, I suppose, and maybe we’ve never talked about this. Scary – we still have new things to talk about. Yay! Yes, let’s hang out tonight, and “talk”. We should plan to attend more weddings, too.

  3. Resounding praise and love for you! i can’t even express correctly how this post worked on me. Thank You! originally i was gonna post a link to a painter Marylin Minter and one of her paintings but couldn’t find the right one… anyway the beginning with the droplets made me think of her paintings. Anyway, i love the story and your conversation with Renee is sweet as well, you are both an inspiration and example to us lowly children! Keep up the good work. Love you!

  4. I have to applaud your use of “whence”, “hence”, and “zeitgeist”. Those are not words you get to use everyday. Makes me feel like I need to brush up on my vocabulary. I thought the water droplet imagery was very poetic and beautiful.

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