Enlightened America

“…how amiable the gorgeous advantage of the newly born.”

-Marvin Bell, “The Book of the Dead Man (#42)”

I am somewhere over the Midwest as I type this, returning to the West Coast from a weekend in Boston. Val and I made the trip to attend a very special wedding. Seeing two dear friends–both kind, courageous men–exchange vows with each other, and blessings with all in attendance, renewed my understanding of what marriage is all about.

We stayed in the Omni Parker House Hotel, home to Emerson and Longfellow’s Saturday Club, and spent what little time we had on this trip getting acquainted with American history up close. We visited beautiful old churches, and made the trip up to Harvard–a school founded by Puritans to unite scholarship with spiritual pursuit.

Though most of us made the trip from California, Massachusetts turned out to be the perfect place for this kind of wedding. It was the first state to abolish slavery, a haven for religious diversity, salvation to the starving Irish, a haunt of Franklin, and later, the Transcendentalists–peopled with the inheritors of great wisdom and fierce compassion; steeped, on every Boston street corner, in our nation’s founding ideals.

We also made this journey to meet a very special wedding guest–the two grooms’ newly-adopted daughter. At lunch today, I got to hold her. She is the first baby I have held in my arms since our son, James, died four years ago. And yet the experience was pure joy. When she opened her eyes, and looked in my face, she started smiling, and laughing, and delight seemed to bounce between us, gathering up our faces in grins and giggles.

I picked up a hard-to-find book of poems by Marvin Bell at Grolier’s just outside Harvard, and have been reading it on the plane. A poem that begins, “The dead man encounters horrific conditions infused with beauty,” also contains the phrase: “…how amiable the gorgeous advantage of the newly born.” I read it, and thought of this lucky little girl, who will come to embrace love’s many facets as naturally as she forms her radiant smile.  And arcing now across a small, dark section of globe, fresh hope lights up inside of me–for myself, for my country, and this beautiful, incomprehensible world.