It was dark last night when the aircraft descended towards Maui, and suddenly I could see the lights twinkling below me like jewels on black velvet as we circled over the broad valley of the island and came in for a landing.
I was away at a remarkable wedding in Utah, on an arid island in the middle of Great Salt Lake that is home to a great herd of bison, wild antelope, coyotes and many more wild denizens of Earth. There, beneath a wide blue canopy of sky, I was privileged to join a colorful gathering of beautiful souls that had traveled from near and far to celebrate a joyous and very special matrimony between two Soul Artists, both in the final third of life.
Most of us were camping, forty-odd tents scattered across a wide space populated only with dry grasses… and buffalo. The mighty beasts roamed here and there, grazing their way through the camp, completely unperturbed by our presence. Really, who’s going to mess with a 2,000 lb bison? We gave them a wide berth and they left our tents and proceedings alone. Twenty yards from the large camp kitchen, a giant bull spent most of his day rolling in a dust wallow, curiously observing the bustling proceedings of this group of two-leggeds. Occasionally a pronghorn antelope would trot through the camp, and at one point an entire chorus of coyotes in the near distance burst into their yip yipping serenade.
Yet it wasn’t simply that we were camping amid bison and antelope that made this wedding unique. It was an unsurpassed event of soulful beauty, an extravaganza of love offerings and audience participation, fostered by two rare beings who are creative artists and soulful visionaries. It was a celebration of conscious relationship. The couple had asked for no gifts; instead, guests were invited to bring a unique offering to lay upon the Altar of the Beloved, be it a song, a poem, a reading, or any other expression of beauty. The actual ceremony would be fairly short, but the offerings to the couple would go on through the afternoon and into the evening, and a few more even the day after.
In our culture, we are not generally accustomed to ecstatic, celebratory events that go on for a day or longer (other than music festivals). Certainly not ones that revolve around heart-centered sharing and celebration of shared beauty. As if we had arrived at some long sought oasis in the desert, the ceremony that unfolded in the great white wedding tent played out like an ongoing song through our time gathered together. Guests were encouraged to get up and stretch and move, to wander off for a bit, drink some water to stay hydrated… no one was expected to sit in rapt attention for hours and hours. This Theatre of the Heart wasn’t about performance, but rather honoring and celebration, and it all unfurled with easy grace. A few of the offerings moved me to tears.
In a nod to honoring the ancestors, we were also invited to bring an personal heritage dish to share, and thus to assist in building a massive wedding feast of rare delight. There was a young cook who prepared a few key dishes for everyone, but the rest of us gathered in the open air camp kitchen to assemble our offerings, which were then laid out upon tables as the feast tent was readied with tables and chairs, flowers and place settings. Packets of wildflower seeds marked one’s place at a particular table, and each person found a small sachet of heirloom anasazi beans from the couples’ garden to take away and plant or share with another garden.
Nearly a hundred souls arrived to form this wild Caravan of Love, and there were many people that I knew, mostly from my days with Animas Valley Institute (an organization that leads wilderness-based programs for self-discovery and transformation). It has been a long time since I found myself surrounded by so many of my soulful tribe… visionaries and Soul Artists, all. I came away not only with a heart brimming with gratitude, joy and awe, but also with new friends, as well. What a priceless gift.
So rare and precious was this gathering, it’s hard to imagine that I will ever experience another such event in my lifetime. And that so many people would travel – and camp! – to celebrate the union of these two souls is a testament to the beauty and inspiration that they have woven into the world with their songs and wisdom. When I am sixty, if I can summon half as many people to a celebration of my life, I’ll consider that I have lived well and been a success on this journey round the sun.
The wedding of Annie and Niles will not soon be forgotten by anyone who was there. Despite their supreme ability to live in the present moment and the timeless, I fancy that even the buffalo, antelope, coyotes and ravens are still telling stories about it.