I’m on a United Airlines small jet, flying from Denver to Medford, coming home from a trip to Minnesota for my niece, Krista’s wedding. Outside the window the clouds are puffs of white between the plane and the mountains. I don’t really know where we are, except that we must be not quite half way from Denver to the little Medford airport. It was hard to leave Liz who, even just as I was arriving, told me that the visit was too short. There wouldn’t be enough time. There’s never enough time--have you noticed? This morning she looked at me and reminded me of that again, that she was right, sure enough--there wasn’t enough time. But she was tired today, not just from the wedding (which was a glorious, beautiful, loving, playful experience) but also from her chemotherapy treatment on Thursday. She’s into her fifth month of weekly infusions. No wonder she is tired.
And, oh my goodness, we did so much in these ten days! First there were the preparations with all those last minute wonderings about what was forgotten or maybe not clear to participants. And would all the bridesmaids show up??? And how would we transport the wedding arch we’d wound with multicolored autumn leaves and flowers? I can’t possibly describe the entire thing--and you’ve all planned or been part of or been guests at weddings, so let your imagination range to its most creative.
The wedding was at Lake Itasca, in northern Minnesota, at the headwaters of the Mississippi River. The groom’s father works for the DNR at the state park there. It’s pretty difficult to imagine a place more beautiful. Pure Minnesota--the way the lake reflects the trees and sky, the way water lilies line the shore, the way cattails grow along the roads, the way the water tumbles over rocks to begin its over 2000 mile journey to New Orleans.
We thought it might rain--which would have been ok, we admitted even while we wished it wouldn’t, because the theme of the wedding was a combination of autumn color and of life-giving water--the river, of course, as a symbol of marriage--but also of all kind of water: rain, tears of joy and sorrow, birthing water, the water that quenches thirst, ocean water…
Liz, Steve, David, Erika, little Varrah, and I all stayed right in the park (and Krista and Jeffry Karels had a honeymoon cabin there after the wedding). I had a little cabin to myself. Liz and the others were in rooms at Douglas Lodge. On the day of the wedding out came the sun!
Do you remember how John loved yellow roses? (and you must remember how much Krista loved her Uncle John). Well, I was performing the ceremony. Behind me was the wedding arch with brilliant yellow flowers at the very top. Krista and Jeffry were smiling as we went through the wedding words, and then all at once they were looking up above me and sort of poking at each other. I thought they were about to break out in laughter. “What’s up there?” I inquired just above a whisper. “A BEE, on one of the yellow flowers!” Krista grinned. It stayed there during the entire ceremony--and later, Krista told me that she figured it was her Uncle John. Well, maybe it was. Maybe he had his one word to say to them: “Be!” That sums up his philosophy of life.
When the ceremony was over, and pictures had been taken of Krista and her bridesmaids and flower girl up to their knees in the Mississippi, Krista took a yellow rose from her wedding bouquet and set it afloat down the river -- “for Uncle John,” she said. There’s a picture taken by her photographer. I’ll try to upload it once I’m home.
After the wedding Liz and Steve and I drove to their ranch in McLeod, ND. It’s on the very edge of the national grasslands. They have maybe 13 acres and a very old farmhouse. It’s a get-away for them: big sky, breathtaking land, a tiny town that has known Kensinger’s for longer than anybody I asked can remember. Steve’s father, Ken, is leading a project to create a museum so that the history of that place will not disappear. He spent an entire afternoon with me, taking me around to the various buildings and even out into the country where the beginning of the sand dunes of grassland can be seen…the sand HILLS, I should say. We all rode on his “People Mover,” a sort of large wagon (like on a hayride) to which he has attached seats from an old school bus to make it comfortable. He pulls it with a tractor. The wind blows through your hair. The prairie is all around you. I was entranced.
And later: guess what I did! Steve said to me, “Now YOU have to drive the tractor.” My first thought was, “Oh, I don’t think so. No, I can’t do that,” because it was BIG. And then the flash of my own little tractor lawn mower came to mind, and I heard myself saying, “Oh, why not?” AND I DID! So it just goes to show -- something. Something like we can do things we never imagined we could?
Afterwards, back in Burnsville, Liz and I did nothing for a whole day. We both were completely exhausted. I would have liked to see so many of my friends from Minnesota, but just couldn’t--not with my deep desire to be spending as much time with my sister as is possible. Last night David and Erika had all of us, including the newlyweds, over to their beautiful home in Richfield. Liz’s birthday came during all the festivities, and so we had a feast of love and food and family and little Varrah Claire who captured the center of attention.
My Jeff will be picking me up at the Medford Airport. He’s spent a week on Sunshine Hill--I hope it’s been a good experience for him. It turns out he can do his work from there--so he could also keep Rita, Laila and Louie company so they wouldn’t get too lonesome. I was gone a long time.
We are still flying over mountains. What a beautiful world.
September 14th -- morning:
I’m at home now in my writing room. It’s a brilliant day, and Jeff has already driven down the hill towards home in California. Me??--I’m planning to rest all day long. Thanks to Liz and Steve and the whole Kensinger and Karels clan for a wonderful time.