There is a photo of us from just before the wedding, my beard buried in the far side of her neck and her eyes closed smiling in delight, dressed up as happily as we are likely to, ever.
From the vows:
Her: Two words: “Olneya tesota.”
Him: The scientific name of the desert ironwood. The tree with the second-densest wood on earth. Wood so resistant to decay that it lives for centuries, then stands for centuries after that.
Her: A dance of water and earth and wind, the desert sun’s fire, the Orion Nebula seen through shaking binoculars and coyote song as we drowse together. To celebrate our birthdays, I brought you to the newly free-running Elwha River, salmon returning to long-lost homes among the firs.
Him: A kiss among the bighorn rocks, and another surrounded by salal.
Her: Sea otters conjoin as we watch, our kayaks slow turning like compass needles in the breeze. Tears and joy and anger and resolution and elation.
Him: Dried flowers and herbs pressed into my palm, mortar to your thumb’s pestle, on a nameless ridge as we resolve a lifetime together.
Do you promise to deepen your commitment to hearing each other?
Do you commit to treating each other’s well being as important as you do your own, remembering always that there is another person in the room, and that you need neither shoulder your burdens nor experience your joys alone?
Do you promise to continue your commitment to honesty and compassion with each other?
Do you commit to any other things to be agreed to later as you add to and broaden these vows?
And then, in a room in Joshua Tree with family, and friends of decades’ standing, and friends one or the other of us had met just two hours before, we were espoused. During dinner, a gasp from someone there. It had begun to snow.
The snow persisted falling on and off for a few days. It melted a few days after that. And then the bloom, legendary in abundance, with poppies and verbena and three species of primroses, desert lettuce and desert marigold and desert this and desert that. After the bloom came the caterpillars, hundreds of thousands of larvae of the white-lined sphinx moth to eat the ubiquitous primroses. We could not walk with our eyes lifted from the ground for fear of carnage. She moved each caterpillar she saw on the road to the nearest likely plant.
The bloom shifted upwards into the arms of shrubs, globemallow and senna and cholla. A person new to all this might well have decided the sphinx moth larvae had all molted into an abundance of cottontail rabbits, which run about one in every ten square meters at the moment. Jackrabbits are only a little less frequent. A family of antelope squirrels moved into our woodpile, or more properly the soil beneath the woodpile, and their excavations clogged the graywater standpipe for our washing machine. A few days ago I saw one of them carefully gathering dried grass — the exotic Schismus barbatus now carpeting the neighborhood in tan — and running bipedally back to the woodpile with arms full.
Our washing machine. Plural possessive pronoun. I lived alone for about five years, the first time in my life I had done so, and I enjoyed it mostly very much though I admit there were a few times I enjoyed only in retrospect, and though I spent much of my life before that propelled by fear of permanent loneliness I cannot say that is still the case. Living alone was wonderful. This is even better.
Now desert willow blooms around the southern Mojave Desert, white tubular flowers in the wild and deep pink in those plants descended from garden specimens, and the desert iguanas grow fat and sleek and long. Some years you can bring them to you by tossing desert willow blossoms. There is no point this year. They are in abundance mode rather than scarcity mode. When blossoms carpet the desert floor there is no need to risk approaching a human.
Out back there is a glass and metal wind chime left by the previous occupants of the house. A hummingbird, species as yet undetermined, has built a tiny cup nest atop it. It sways a bit precariously, woven of sage and dried flowers and spider silk.