The Za

My poor website is growing cobwebs! I haven't been here in nearly two months, which is probably why I've been sick for the past few weeks. The stories are in a traffic jam; things aren't flowing very well.

Is everyone's life like this, or is it just me? On Saturday I had the sublime experience of joining in marriage two of the finest humans I know: Paul Martin and Ben Niese. Yes, two men. Yes, there were other gay couples at the wedding, which was intimate and precious and meaningful in precisely the way that weddings should be. Yes, my ten-year-old-daughter was with me, and, yes, she is growing up in a life where every human's choice in love is private and beautiful. And perfect. We laughed and we cried and we ate good food and swam in a warm pool and when we had enough laughing and dancing and loving, we reluctantly said good-night and headed into the dark and the rain and went home to Vermont.

Never before; never again: the one and only Zaza.

Never before; never again: the one and only Zaza.

On Sunday our beloved Zaza died. Barbara Kaufman, as she is known to most of the world, was 96 and lived a life that really kind of defies description. You had to see it to believe it. Technically speaking, she is my brother's wife's grandmother, but to us she was Zaza, in every imaginable way. She was beautiful and elegant and funny and honest. She was an artist who once ran an apple orchard with her husband and three children. She loved her Irish Setter, Calamity Jayne, and Cherry Garcia ice cream. She made all kinds of things from other things before it was trendy: she took apart items of clothing she bought and made them into something more interesting. She was, with her wrists full of silver bracelets, silver polish on her toenails and most often a flower tucked into the back of her wrapped-around and pinned-up grey hair, a walking, breathing work of art. In her later years, she used a vintage ski pole to steady herself when she walked. Her pieces of sculpture grace public spaces and surprise you everywhere you turn on her land. To know Zaza was to have been inspired. She lived fully and authentically, to the very end. 

As is so often the case, Za's death was like her life: done on her terms, surrounded by flowers and music and people who loved her. In the quiet of her light, book and plant-filled Woodstock library, she left us last night, with a gaping hole in this world. Moving on, no doubt, to larger projects and new landscapes. 

Had Richard and I stayed married, yesterday would have been our wedding anniversary. 

Where do the days, the years, the people we love go?  And how do we move into tomorrow when the chair in the corner where Zaza always sat, is empty? When the party is over and everyone has to go back to their lives, far away? When the ink has long dried on the divorce papers, leaving the ghosts of old promises to haunt the hallways?

Well. It's like this, I think: Nate turns 18 tomorrow. Eighteen years ago, in the middle of the night, Scott and I drove to Bennington, listening to the Grateful Dead Hour on the radio and wondering who this new person would be. Nate came peacefully, aided by the loving hands of a supremely gifted midwife. And he has walked this earth exactly like that for almost two decades now: with kindness and sincerity and a quiet, patient demeanor. If Nate is the future, it's worth waking up tomorrow and entering into it.

Last Wednesday the Church and Ministry Committee of the Southwest Association of the Vermont Conference UCC voted unanimously to license me as a pastor -- a formality of sorts, but also a necessary piece of the pastor puzzle. I hadn't realized how much it would mean to me until it happened; that all of those folks sitting around the table at the Dorset Congregational Church that morning believe in me and the work I'm doing...that's pretty fantastic. And it's a call to continue, to keep learning and stretching and saying Yes. Even when a nap or a 4-month silent retreat seems that much more enticing.

Zaza's gone; the wedding is over. So much ends, but then again, so much begins. My classes started today. I'm in my second year now, of seminary. There's a lot of mystery, a lot to know. A lot to look forward to. Nate's birthday dinner tomorrow night, for starters. There's a lot of love. And with any luck, there will be a lot of tomorrows. And they will be filled with the dream, always, of the memories of the days and nights with the people we have loved. 

Amen.