putting our hands into the earth

the rosemary we planted

I’m a terrible bride.

In the moment, I’ll be beaming. I don’t know if, as I walk down the aisle toward my love, I will be giggling and skipping or not-so-quietly sobbing with grateful happiness. Perhaps both. I do not doubt this: on the day, I will be cleanly happy. Happy that I am marrying the man of my lifetime’s loving. And happy that the damned wedding planning is done.

This is how I am a terrible bride. I don’t take much pleasure in any of this planning. Oh, in the moment of each purchase and errand run and phone call, I find a way to connect with the people I am meeting. The young woman who fit me for a bra today just moved to Seattle from Rome, and I asked her all about her stay there, and where we should eat on our honeymoon. By the end, we were laughing. But if anyone expected me to be in girly tears because I was buying frilly underthings for our wedding night, I have to disappoint you. I was really just eager to reach the car and start the next errand.

You see, I already feel married to the Chef. Very much. We have lived and laughed and learned each other’s foibles for well over a year now. We knew as soon as we met that we would be together for the rest of our lives. For us, forever is just a series of moments. A daily choice to love each other. The marriage — of minds and palates — has already begun. We don’t need a marriage certificate to signify our commitment.

Besides, have you ever been to the office where the state dispenses marriage licenses? There is no less romantic place.

For us, our idea of this wedding has just been a big party, a chance to laugh and eat with our dear families and friends. All along, we have tried to approach it in a low-key, relaxed manner. We are having a potluck. The people who run one of our favorite restaurants in Seattle are roasting an entire lamb for us. Friends are playing music, taking photographs, and arranging flowers. There will be no garter ceremony or tossing of the bouquet. I feel certain that the wedding favors we decided to give to everyone we love are something no one else has ever given. As beautiful as my wedding dress makes me feel, I can’t wait to take it off and just dance, in my bare feet, with my love on the beach.

But I know this now: no matter how low-key you want this event to be, it’s still a wedding. And that’s a damned big deal.

If I had to do it all over again? I’d probably say, “Let’s get married in two weeks. Go!”

Of course, I have been doing much more than planning a wedding this year. Oh heavens, much more. But it has been in the back of my mind — and filling the pages of a Moleskine notebook — for almost a year now. The pages of that poor, battered notebook have been scarred with words and crossed-out phrases. Some edicts have trailed from page to page, never quite finished.

In one way or another, we have been planning one day of our lives for twelve solid months.

This is, to me, a fool-proof recipe for unhappiness.

Lately, I have been scattered and yowly as an alley cat at midnight. I buck and resist, I feel overwhelmed with phone calls to make, I wake up every morning with a list of things to do in my head. I have the attention span of a newt. A friend asked me today, “So, how’s the rest of your life besides the wedding.” I was silent. I couldn’t think of a thing. The Chef and I say I love you, every morning, our first words. But lately, the second and third words have been, “Honey, today before I take you to the restaurant, can we….” Anything to make those words in the notebook go away.

My favorite phrase of late has been, “…after the wedding.”

After the wedding. Ah.

But really, I want to be in the middle of the wedding celebrations. The Chef’s family — dear people whom I adore — are arriving in town on Friday. We will be at the Market, shopping for food, and cooking dinner together. Much laughter, of course. There will be a lunch on Saturday with both the sets of parents, and then a party my dear friend Sharon (of course she’s my maid of honor; we have been friends since we were fifteen) insists that I call my bachelorette party. On Sunday, we are having both families and our closest friends for a big barbeque. (This morning, we made ten jars of dill pickles from scratch.) And on Monday — six days from now — we will be married.

So it all really starts in three days.

Thank goodness.

You see, it’s not in my nature to spend an entire year planning one day. I want to live in the moment. I want to savor the surprises. I want to be amazed, continually. Planning something in a notebook and knocking off the tasks? It feels like a prison, of sorts.

I have been thinking about this Albert Einstein quote lately: “Americans are always becoming and never being.” Yes. (I’m sure that’s more than Americans now too.) This is exactly the way I do not want to live.

I can hear it in my head: “I’m a Buddhist. I don’t do this!” I want to be the peaceful one, the one who knows how to breathe past it and laugh into the tight places and be above all this silly bridal stuff.

Just this week, however, I realized the error of those ways. If this is my way of being at the moment, I have to be with it. I can’t wish to become something else.

Really, I just needed to put my hands in the earth.

On Sunday evening, the Chef and I brought home cartons of fresh herbs and a big bag of potting soil. Our lovely landlord left us more than a dozen enormous containers on the back deck, the day after I had told him that we wanted to plant some fresh herbs. For months now, we have been saying, “Oh, let’s have some herbs and snip our own plants into our food.” And for months, it has been an idea.

That’s the problem of all this. We have been swarmed and controlled by ideas. I haven’t been cooking much, mostly nibbling. Or we bring home food from the restaurant and eat it in bed at midnight. Recipes feel like another list to me, at the moment. (surely, most of you have noticed, I haven’t posted a recipe in ages.) I have so many great stories I have wanted to tell here — Clotilde in town for an event at the restaurant; driving David Lebovitz around all day on his book tour; going more than twenty-four hours without food at the Richmond airport — but without the time to write them, they have been more ideas pressing at the back of my head.

And so, instead of putting off what we had planned for months, we planted some herbs.

Immediately, I felt better. The peaty, tangy sweet smell of organic potting soil rose to my nose. I had dirt under my fingernails. The green leaves of the lime basil gleamed in the sunlight as I gently patted earth around the roots. The tall shoots of the chives plants rustled in the little breeze that blew through the backyard.

I looked over at the Chef, laying in the grass at the end of our planting session, his face illuminated by the golden light at the end of the day. My shoulders eased down. He grabbed the camera and took my photo. It occurred to me, for the first time: I don’t have to take self-portraits anymore. One of my favorite smells has always been the sun-warmed skin on my forearm at the end of a long summer day. Now, it is the smell of his. I looked up to see green grass, dazzling sunlight, and hazy air. It is, in the moment, summer. The long-anticipated season.

Looking over at the row of containers of herbs, my mind started racing with possibilities. Lemon verbena sorbet. Tarragon mayonnaise. Marjoram and oregano in pasta sauce. But quickly, I stopped myself. Later. Those were just ideas, again. Be here, now.

The sharp scent of rosemary, kind in its acrid greenness, brought me back.

Soon, I will be a bride. And then a married woman. In the moment of it, I will laugh, and feel grateful for all the planning that allowed that beautiful day to happen. Thankfully, even with all this planning, the Chef and I have been laughing. We haven’t fought once. We have been dancing.

That’s why I’m marrying him.

I’m just happy that I can stop imagining it and live it instead.

24 comments on “putting our hands into the earth

  1. terry

    those pictures made me smile as much as your words did.

    enjoy the wedding celebrations. i just know you two will have the time of you life.

  2. kimberly

    Rosemary for remembrance… my first thought when I saw your photo. When Paul and I married, I had rosemary woven into my bouquet and into the garland of flowers I wore in my hair. I associate its lovely, pungent scent with weddings, so it seems fitting that you’re planting rosemary with the Chef days before your wedding.

    I’ve been thinking of you, wishing you some calm during these last few hectic (and heated!) days.

  3. Elizabeth

    Wedding planning can be hell, that’s for sure. Even when your goal is a low-key, fun day for family and friends rather than a perfect, magazine-worthy impossible ideal of a day, it’s still a big event involving a lot of people. Actually, in some ways it can be harder to do a non-traditional wedding because you really have to decide everything yourself, instead of choosing option A,B, or C at venue XYZ.

    I’ve been reading your blog for almost a year now and I’m so happy for you and the Chef. I hope your wedding day reflects all the joy and love that you find in one another.

  4. M

    I have been reading you blog for a long time now, and I am always amazed by your words and pictures.
    At the same time I have had a strange feeling since your world in Seattle is so different from mine here in Sweden.
    But then today my doctor told me to stay away from gluten for 5 weeks to see if the problems I am having is due to gluten intolerance.
    And then your world suddenly didn’t seem so different at all! In fact, I realized that it’s not a question about different worlds, but more a question of an experience that I now am sharing with you.
    — - I will also most definately try a couple of your gluten free recipies over the next weeks. I am so happy and grateful that you are sharing them with us.

  5. Nena_nieve

    I hope you have a wonderful weekend with all your family and friends! Give yourself some room to be annoyed/frustrated with all the errands and to-do lists. I don’t know anyone who’s gotten married who actually enjoyed the madness running up to the Big Day. I’m very happy for you that you’ve found such a well-matched partner for your life. Congratulations!

    And your herbs! They sound beautiful. I hope you get a chance to enjoy them, soon!

  6. Sheltie Girl

    Shauna — I wish you and the Chef all my best wishes for a wonderful wedding day and for many joyful years ahead.

    So many times in our family life, we have needed to slow things down to work on the house, dig in the yard or add fanciful little creations to our children’s fairy garden. These moments ground, join and hold you together when life gets hard or hectic. Savor them. They will become little treasures to remember together.

    Sheltie Girl @ Gluten a Go Go

  7. Francesca

    I wish you the best on your wedding. I love your blog and your adventures with chef. It’s so inspiring. I check it everyday for updates.

  8. Amy Stephenson

    You have the right idea! It’s the celebration and gathering that matters, not some sort of precision checklist. We had a fairly simple, low-key outdoor wedding and so many people told us it was the nicest one they’d ever been to because everyone was happy. Best wishes for the day and the lifetime!

  9. Anonymous

    Rosemary is for rememberance! Exactly my first thought too! Put it in your bouquet so that every time you look at it in the future, every time you cook with it, every time you smell it in the warmth of an Italian summer, you will think of your beautiful, happy, bright and shining wedding.

    I got married just over 7 weeks ago, and I remember feeling exactly like that. Completely overwhelmed with the tiny details that I hoped never to care about, and having to bring myself back to the reality (because the rest is just a kind of fever) that I was doing this for the day that I would marry my beloved. I thought that I would find myself stressed out and harried on the day, worrying about those details, but guess what? Not a single stress or worry on the day. I spent it clinging to my husband’s hand, smiling as he compulsively kissed me. We weren’t parted from eachother that whole day or night, and believe me, Irish weddings last all night.

    But I enjoyed it partly because I had been through that stage of stress, and then I knew, on the day before the wedding, that everything was done, and all I had to do was damn well marry the man! And so I did. And so I do, every day we spend together, with every piece of me.

    Vanessa xxx

  10. mary

    Having just come back from getting married, I can empathize with so much of what you said. Wedding planning was so stressful and seemed so trivial and I really resented having all that time taken up.

    But in the end, it really was all worth it and our day was beautiful and perfect and everything we hoped for. And we were so happy to be done with the planning! Never again!

    Best wishes for a beautiful day.

  11. Anita

    »I already feel married to the Chef. Very much. … We don’t need a marriage certificate to signify our commitment.< <

    Ah, I thought that, too. After 6 years of being as married as I thought we’d ever be, we finally tied the knot. And you know what? It changed things. In a good way. I hope it happens for you, too.

    I hope you’ll permit me a bit of advice for your wedding day, because I know you will do this whether I suggest it or not: Don’t forget to be there. It’s so easy after months of planning to let yourself get caught up in the wedding like it’s a dream, to be swept along with the force of everything you’ve set in motion with your dollars and your dreams. But — at least once all alone, and once with The Chef, if you can — just stop. Look at it: Marvel at the gorgeous present you’ve given to yourselves and to your friends and family. People are having an amazing time, and it’s all your fault! :)

    That will get you through a lot. It will make all the wedding-planning trauma worthwhile, if you recognize it.

    I wish you both a lifetime of happiness. And I can’t wait to see the pictures!

  12. Dianne

    Best wishes Shauna for a happy GF wedding and life. It sounds like you are going to have one fantastic time!

    :) x

  13. firefly

    I know exactly how you feel, although not related to planning a wedding. I’ve lived with the same man for 26 years and 2 years ago we bought a house. You’d think that would be an endpoint, but since then, nonstop planning — renovations, moving, more renovations, changing the yard over to garden — and oh, I got so sick of it.

    I’m used to living in apartments where you cover up the walls with favorite pictures and hang your plants and voila, you’ve renovated and have an indoor garden. And you can thereafter enjoy it and change it at will.

    Just a few weeks ago I finally got to a point where the garden is mostly finished and my office space is almost ready to paint. Can’t tell you how good it feels.

    The best thing? All that planning really was worth it. What we have now is a much more solid thing than ever before. And you know, you learn that you can stay in a process long enough to move mountains, one rock at a time. That in itself is worth a lot.

    But getting to where you want to be, and being seen there, is the biggest thing. I changed over half the front yard to a garden, in a neighborhood where it’s all lawn and evergreen foundation plantings. It’s weird, but it was enormously freeing to tear up the grass, throw it in a wheelbarrow, and dump it in the compost bin. In full sight of the neighbors. Whee!

    In a sense, that’s what the wedding is; you’ve changed reality, and now you’re showing it. Running off and getting married would be easier, but only accomplish part of that.

    I’m glad the planning stage is almost over for you — and it’ll be oh, so worth it. I look forward to seeing all the happy faces in your wedding pictures — yours and the Chef’s most of all!

  14. Julie

    Shauna, you’ve been so much in my thoughts lately. You’re so clear, you know so well that this one day of your lives will be whatever it will be, and then you’ll continue weaving your lovely life together.

    In April & May, during G’s and my several wedding events, there were many things that were forgotten, left-out, didn’t go as planned. We were able to let go of it all, simply and happily, because none of it really mattered a whit. We were ecstatic to be marking the continuance of our life together, in the presence of those who love us. You’re already there. It will be beautiful, and special — as will your life together. All blessings to you both.

  15. Vickie

    I found your blog through a link on David Lebovitz’ site, and have been reading it now for quite some time. What a gift you have for writing, Shauna!

    I’m coming out of lurkdom to wish you and the Chef all the very best that life has to offer. Enjoy your day, and kick up your heels in those awesome cowgirl boots!

    Best to you both,

    Vickie

  16. Jodi

    Hi Shauna,

    This wedding will happen so quickly that the next thing you’ll know is that it is Tuesday morning and you’ll wonder where the time went. I say let the details happen as they will. You’ve probably covered them six different ways, and what you didn’t do won’t really matter.
    The second time I got married, it was a one week whirlwind. Fast and furious, and absolutely wonderful. We forgot to do some things, but we were married and so very happy.
    You and the Chef will look back on all of this craziness and laugh (like you guys always do) and you’ll have more memories.
    Come on Monday! I want to see pictures. Then Tuesday you get to rest in your man’s arms and know that that little piece of paper makes all the difference in the world. It is a wonderful feeling.
    I’m going home at lunch to smell my rosemary.

  17. lucette

    The expression on the license bureau clerk’s face is priceless!
    I absolutely agree abt putting your hands in the earth–gardening is my form of meditation.

  18. Jenna

    I had the same attitude when we were planning our wedding: I wanted ti to be a great party. The woman at the place we were getting married came back with this enormous quote for rental of china and crystal. I said, “No. Plastic.” She said, “But… but… this is your WEDDING!” I said, “Yes, and at my WEDDING, I want people walking around, eating, drinking, having fun. What I DON’T want is for them to be either trapped at a table with people they don’t know or worrying about whether they’re going to break something.”

    Even so, we had this conversation a lot:
    Me: You know, we could just elope…
    Him: My mom would kill us.
    Me: You need to stop saying that. I like your mom, and if you keep saying that, I’ll begin to see HER as the reason for my planning pain.

    The thing my maid of honor said to me that made it alright was, “As long as the groom, the officiant, and the license show up, everything else is just gravy.” So, enjoy your wedding, gravy and all :-)

  19. Dalia

    Shauna,

    I’ve been lurking and drooling over the beautiful pictures you put up for quite some time now, but right now I feel the need to post my first comment.

    Tears pricked the back of my eyes as I read this entry. From a bride in 8 weeks all the way from the Middle East, here is to a lifetime of never-ending bliss and ecstasy.

    Sometimes planning each day makes us forget the essence of life. I wish you the very best on your wedding day, and a nothing short of a lifetime of love. Congratulations :)

  20. this little mainyacha

    Just dropping by to say warm thoughts to you and the chef on your wedding day. I think I have wished you that before, but I wanted to again closer to the big day. I hope you gather wonderful memories of that day to revisit again and again.

  21. excelsior

    While I was walking down the aisle I was thinking, “Gosh, my little family of three is going to get totally taken over by his.” He has two sets of parents, five siblings or step-siblings, some sisters– and brothers-in-law, and some nieces and nephews. Who knows where your mind will go? Just notice — look for the details.

    I was in a September wedding where the favors were tulip bulbs, to be planted now, to appear in the spring.

    Congratulations on finding love! There is no greater thing.

  22. ~Jaime

    Your story (ies) are truly touching and beautiful. I am so happy for you and The Chef! I wish you many, many, MANY years of happiness!!!

    Enjoy your new red boots…the officer who sent them is truly an amazing person. I hope good Karma follows her for the rest of her life!

    Visit me sometime!

    http://glutenfreemomma.blogspot.com