Gift from the Sea
Ann Morrow Lindbergh
Here the bonds of marriage are formed. For marriage, which is always spoken of as a bond, becomes
actually many bonds, many strands, of different texture and strength, making up a web that is taut and firm.
The web is fashioned of love, yes, but many kinds of love – romantic love first, then a slow-growing
devotion, and playing through these a constantly rippling companionship.
It is made of loyalties, and interdependencies, and shared experiences. It is woven of memories of meetings and conflicts, triumphs
and disappointments. It is a web of communication, a common language, a knowledge of likes and
dislikes, of habits and reactions. It is a web of instincts and intuitions, and known and unknown exchanges.
In the years together one recognises the truth of Saint-Exupery’s line “Love does not consist in gazing at
each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction”.
A good relationship has a pattern like a dance built on some of the same rules. The partners do not need to
hold on tightly, because they move confidently in the same pattern, intricate but swift and free, like a
country dance of Mozart’s. To touch heavily would be to arrest the pattern and freeze the movement, to
check the endless beauty of its unfolding. There is no place here for the possessive clutch, the clinging
arm, the heavy hand; only the barest touch in passing. Now arm in arm, now face to face, now back to
back – it does not matter which, because they know they are partners moving to the same rhythm, creating
a pattern together, and being invisibly nourished by it.
When you love someone you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to
moment. It is an impossibility. And yet this is exactly what most of us demand. We have so little faith in
the ebb and flow of life, of love, or relationships. We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb.
We are afraid it will never return. We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only
continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity – in freedom, in the sense that the dancers are
free, barely touching as they pass, but partners in the same pattern.
This reading is suitable for a civil ceremony and is also one of the readings
that I had during my own wedding ceremony.
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