What day is it
And in what month
This clock never seemed so alive
I spent the last week in Toronto with my dear friend Mike and his fiancé, now wife, Suzi. The two of them graciously allowed us to sleep in while they were burning the midnight and the morning oil with their wedding coming up in mere days. I came out to shoot their wedding and spend time with them, and both things were just wonderful.
With our spare time, Paul and I did not spend a lot of time exploring Toronto - instead we caught up on some much needed rest. I read most of a thousand page book on my phone, and if you can believe it, I spent some time watching reality TV on the internet courtesy of the internet's newest celebrity and meme-creating man, Gordon Ramsay. I tried a couple of episodes of Hotel Hell and Hell's Kitchen. It was amusing and utterly bereft of intellectual benefit, reminders of work, or any such productivity. Pure entertainment. I enjoyed it immensely. I am starting to learn to relax between workdays. The benefits are many!
I took a stroll through their neighbourhood and enjoyed a couple of stuff stores and a lovely, well-loved flower and plant shop operating out of the ground floor of a house. It smelled of moist dirt and green things and other wonderful things as well, and it was a pleasure to find it.
It's hard to see this trip as a physical one in some ways. I mean, the plane rides have become a little routine to me after all the travel I've done and
When it's all been said and done
There is just one thing that matters
Did I live my life for love's reward
Will it stand the test of time
Mike and Suzi didn't have any official "attendants" for their wedding, as their Orthodox wedding has sponsors (sort of like Godparents for marriage) rather than the usual attendants. In keeping with their humility, this was the simplicity around them. We commented to each other several times that in living with them for that week, we took on some of the duties that a wedding attendant might have - I helped Suzi pick the flowers for her bouquet and with Mike's sister (and my old roommate) Diane we worked on the bouquets and boutonnieres - they turned out to be stunning. We went with them on errand runs, visited with their family and friends, and made some amazing new friends. I made their name place cards for the reception as well as a lot of other small tasks to help. They really made us feel at home. I kept Suzi company as she finished some homework late at night, and talked with her in her downtime about marriage and love.
I got a chance to talk to Michael a little too, but mainly we just hugged each other every once and awhile and said, "I love you." Love is so vast, you know. It's interesting, as I grow in friendship as an adult with half a dozen of the people who are closest to me, those words which most of the world reserves for romance seem to come easily to us both. We bless, we love, we grow together, brothers and sisters in a family without borders, without limits, a family that stretches to the heavens and lights the earth with love. I am so proud to be a part of that family, and the brothers and sisters that I am closest to, the people I call my friends, are some of the best parts of being alive - and the hope of belonging with them in the afterlife to a grand and glorious communion of saints is overwhelming in its intensity as I think about it - forever a part of the grand plan of God. I really, honestly do love Michael. His warm sincerity, deep spiritual life, humility and reason together make an incredible person whom I am greatly blessed to know, and his chosen wife, too, shows each of those qualities along with her own uniqueness. I have commented often that there is nothing quite so lovely as for a friend to be in a relationship with someone and to gain that new person as an amazing friend in their own right. I am grateful to be blessed with so many incredible people facing the challenges of life together.
And I will always sing your praise
Here on Earth and ever after
For you've shown me heaven's my true home
Making sinners into saints
My favourite part of the trip by far was Suzi's bachelorette party - a gathering of her church community ladies who were just wonderful people. We had homemade face masks of the spa variety, and we all talked for hours and hours. I met a number of wonderful ladies whom I really enjoyed speaking with, and I shared a little about my eating disorder journey with some of them late in the evening when topics turned to health. I was humbled and filled with joy by the care and conversation that night, and will remember it fondly for many years to come as the most wonderful bachelorette party I could ever have imagined! There were two activities that were a lot of fun there as well that I should mention - one lady, a teacher, brought magazines and a folder with scrapbook pages for us to decorate with a mix of some photos of Mike and Suzi and their families and a whole bunch of photos from magazines to create a fake "future" scrapbook! It was hilarious fun to pick out images for their Wedding page (the one I worked on with two of the girls), 25th Anniversary page, Children, and more - the pages turned out great and we laughed until our sides hurt at how it turned out, with their faces pasted on to the bodies of kids, a bride riding a bicycle, and all sorts of fun things.
I'm not sure how often if ever I have mentioned how much I love the subway - the blowing wind, the clacking track, the trains whizzing by, the chasm of danger with no railings. It's been lovely to spend so much time lately in subways in Toronto and Vancouver. I took the Subway to another part of Toronto from Mike and Suzi's on Friday evening and despite a torrential downpour - since I had a raincoat and a borrowed umbrella - I spent a lovely evening in the company of Jasser planning and discussing the Canada Photo Convention as well as our own business practices and talking about how this year hasn't been a particularly great year for wedding photographers we know. We ate some incredible South American/Mexican food - tacos and nachos and guacamole and pineapple pop. It was a messy meal, especially since we were talking the whole time. Then we headed for Starbucks and talked more. It was a great brainstorm and I really loved doing it.
After a whirlwind of activity preparing for the day, it finally came.
Before the wedding I really enjoyed talking with Michael about some of the amazing symbolisms that are built into Orthodox weddings, and then the best part was experiencing it firsthand in a privileged way on the wedding day - you see, the bride and groom face the altar the whole service - and I was allowed on the platform - I had about fifteen square feet of space to move around in, mostly hidden by the speaking pedestal (called an Ambo.) It being a religious service, discretion is the most important part of the photography. So I, and Michael's Dad who is a priest and co-led the service with the local Priest were some of the only people to see their faces during most of the service - though my photographs will allow others into my place. The bride and groom are crowned to symbolize their unity with the heavenly glory of the Marriage of the Lamb, their hands are tied together to show that everything they do will affect the other person, they are led around the altar as though being led to martyrdom - and in fact the theology of marriage in the Eastern tradition is that marriage is a kind of martyrdom - dying to yourself for the other person. They are blessed by the community, who sings, "God grant you many years" in beautiful harmony. I was touched and humbled by all of these ideas and continue to ponder them in my heart. Michael's faith has always challenged me and brought me closer to God, and his wedding was no exception. I am also proud to say that Suzi is also truly my friend, someone who I have been blessed to spend time with and converse about the joys and challenges of life. They were glowing with happiness on their wedding day, a lovely example of love.
Cause it's you and me
And all other people
And I don't know why
I can't keep my eyes off of you
The next day at the gift opening we had fun talking with new friends. Our cab ride to the airport with one of the friends we'd made at the gift opening was with a middle-aged Pakistani Muslim man who had travelled all over the world and says Canada is the very best place to live and that is why he chose to live here. He spoke about how God has blessed Canada with rich resources, that Canadians could produce food and drink water when other countries would starve if there were some world emergency. He said that in Canada, people from countries who normally would be at war live at peace with each other and accept each other's faith and culture - and he was also very outspoken against those immigrants to Canada who choose not to learn English to the best of their ability by being insular in their community - he said that they should speak with native English speakers and ask for the meaning of a word if they don't know it yet, that they shouldn't be afraid to make mistakes. It was a really interesting conversation that made me much more patriotic than usual. I am grateful to live in a good country, where wars are something that happen elsewhere and refugees from lesser places are somewhat welcome. I've always been in favour of higher numbers for immigration - Canada can support a great many more people, and it is a good place to live.
After my long workday at the wedding (and a good deal of partying I might add) I was a bit irritable and bored on the plane rides home, and since my phone was dead I found respite in my MP3 player's Easter worship playlist, since in the Orthodox church, the season of Easter is just starting and in the Catholic church the season (not just the week, but some weeks after) is about to end. I reflected in worship on how great God is, and thought deeply about who I wanted to be.
Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling over death by death
Come awake, come awake,
Come and rise up from the grave
Christ is risen from the dead
We are one with him again
This was partly because Paul and I started a conversation of the "Where do I go from here" variety on the plane, and kept it up on and off all the way through the next couple of days. So many things to think about. I don't have any weddings booked for 2014 yet, and I'm not sure how many I want, either. It might be time to start growing a bigger family. I have an idea for business that I think will ultimately be successful. I want to shape it and find the right way to present it.
Yesterday was a beautiful day, so after the lawyer-time to sign papers for the sale of our condo was over very quickly, we went to sit on the riverbank and talked about the direction life is going. We talked about our different ideas of standard of living, and about the idea of making a theoretical list of how much money we would need if we held nothing back. I've spent my entire adult life spending as little as possible, and as a result, it's a bit difficult for me to understand my financial priorities. I don't want to know the extravagant amount of money so I can make it, I want to know what can be cut and what shouldn't be cut to allow for the least stressful and most fulfilling life I can have where I'm at. It's not fully possible, but I want to be able to dream - about commissioning artwork from others, never lacking for clothing or high quality and nutritious food, using leisure centres and buying books on tape, having all the electronics I could desire and enjoying high quality clothing, going to plays and concerts, having proper medical care including massage therapy and other luxuries. All these are priorities I have that have been a little trampled by life as it is. I want to see what I could change to have a share in some of those things. I think it's possible to do that, and I think I've already started, but I need to see what else can be done. What directions I value the most.
Yesterday evening Paul made his first application for another job. It was a landmark, a milestone. This has been a week of marking milestones for me. A week of many thoughts and ideas being spun in my head and heart, but not a lot of fear considering the magnitude of the things I am considering. I am facing the future, standing firm. The fear that stands in my way is getting weaker with the green of summer and the hope of robin song.
I have a ton to do this week before heading off to Edmonton for the long weekend with Paul and Murphy both in tow to shoot a wedding - I'm giving myself a treat and staying at the same hotel where the wedding will be held, which will make going to sleep afterwards extremely easy in comparison to the usual!
Where do I go
Where do I stand
Where can I find myself again
Where do I go, if not disappear
Where do I go from here