By Peggy Rowe Ward and Larry Ward
The Vows I made to Peggy:
I promise you Peggy that I will: Practice peace, I will honor you, listen to you and communicate wholeheartedly with you. Nurture and celebrate the treasured memories of John, Kathy, Steve and Viola as special ancestors of our new family. Look at you every day and smile with eyes of love and a heart full of trust. Express with my own voice my dreams, emotions, difficulties and wonders. Support and encourage you to live your spiritual and professional dreams. Give you the space and time that you need to come home to your deepest self. Water your flower every day, so it may grow in our marriage, the flower of your intellect, the flower of your real compassion, the flower of your beauty, the flower of your generosity, and the flower of your originality. Become more and more at ease and at home with myself in our relationship, to grow beyond my habits of distance and seriousness and become more full of light and laughter. Water my own flower through taking care of myself physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually so that I can bring vitality and charm to the wonderful mystery of our marriage. Sing, dance and make merry and take great joy in the simple things that make us whole.
The Vows I made to Larry:
I promise to say "I love you" every day. I promise to not go to bed angry, that we will kiss each other in peace each evening. I promise to love and accept you, even though I don't always understand you. I promise through kind communication to increase in understanding you, knowing that compassionate dialogue is a key to growing in love. I promise that our journey together will be juicy, to sow seeds of laughter, adventure and joy and be your bride of amazement. I promise to honor the fool in you and in myself, so that we can begin anew and maintain freshness and wonder. I suggest an annual ceremony to throw out that which is stale in ourselves and in our relationship. I promise to take good care of myself—body, soul, spirit, and emotions. I know one thing that I do that I would like to change. I know that when I feel distant and disconnected from you, I have internal formations that arise where I'll feel hurt, fear, sadness and anger. Then I have the habit energy where I will bug you with sharp communication or criticism. I ask your help in helping me to transform this habit energy and this internal formation. This reminds me of the blind witch in Hansel and Gretel who poked at the children with her bony finger. My preference would be to be like the crafty boy and girl child who figured their way out of the kettle in the kitchen.
The moon lit up the early morning sky. Wearing all white in the moon light, I felt more like a fairy or a small girl in a church play than a bride. I was the first to arrive in the zendo. So earl y, so nervous, I hadn't slept well. The Lower Hamlet guests and residents slowly assembled. It was 6 a.m. and there was a thick, rich fog that added density to the stillness. Half sleepy, half mesmerized by beauty, we waited as people gathered. It was time. We walked mindful steps on the stone paths leading to the country road. I was glad for the presence of Susan and John, my friend Elizabeth, my West Hamlet family. I held a small bouquet of orange and white wild flowers lovingly presented to me by Helga.
The thick fog turned the rising sun into a second moon. The sun joined the moon that still hung in the western sky. This morning, there were two moons. Magic was afoot! We moved as one body on the road, walking in mindfulness, the bride and her family, step by step. No cars, a moving body, two moons, step by step, moving toward my beloved.
We rounded a bend in the road and figures and a splash of color appeared through the fog. Larry was in front of a group of people, carrying a tray with brightly wrapped packages in red paper. He was wearing an African tunic and ceremonial hat in black and gold. He looked like an African king, so solid, so regal. Next to him were two young Vietnamese men wearing long lapis blue silk tunics, so lovely. Caught by such beauty, my mind jumped for a second. Where am l? Who am I? What year is this? In this magical space, it could have been any time in history, I could have been any bride, but it was August 1994 on the road outside the Lower Hamlet. The groom followed by the groom's family. My beloveds.
Step by step, the two families continued to walk toward each other under the two moons. Two bodies, step by step, until we met, and like two streams, we became one river. In one fluid motion we turned and walked together to the Lower Hamlet zendo. Flowing like a river, one body, one family, my family.
Peggy, True Original Vow, and Larry, True Great Voice, live at the Clear View Residential Lay Practice Center in Santa Barbara, California.