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Voices: Wedding Day


It is difficult to write non-fiction. By that I mean, I heard many compelling stories the day of Porter and Louise’s wedding. And their story alone is worth hearing in detail.

But I cannot tell you any of these stories without being indiscreet.

Porter and Louise were married amid the scaffolds in an eleventh century church, Notre Dame de Rigny, which Porter’s Birmingham, Alabama family is helping to restore.



This Notre Dame, built on an earlier eighth century church, was one of the stops on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. It was the church where King Louis XI worshipped when he wasn’t slaughtering deer and boar in the royal forest of Chinon.



Their wedding dinner was held in a fairy tale castle, Chateau du Rivau.

Ah, the splendor of the wedding festivities. The bride and groom glowed. If you knew them, or even if you simply glimpsed them for the first time, you’d see that it was a marriage of kindred souls, of true love.

But that story is theirs to tell. I couldn’t do it justice in one short journal post.

What I wish I could tell you are the stories I heard from the wedding guests. Before the wedding, during the ceremony, on the bus to the wedding dinner, and at the chateau that night.



I’m tempted to turn back to fiction, which puts on clothes and names that disguise its origins, and allows you to say almost anything, just as the wedding guests, in donning vintage clothes, freed themselves to tell stories about their twenty-first century selves.

However, I have an agreement with you here on Paris Play. So I will simply weave some snippets of voices that linger in my mind since I heard them on the wedding day.

Voice of a man to the husband of a couple before taking their photos: “Put on your glasses, it’s sexier.”

The voice of the pastor:

    Père…[c]est toi le Seigneur de notre passé,
    de notre présent et de notre avenir.     
    C’est de toi que vient toute bénédiction.”

(Father… you are the Lord of our past, our present and our future. It’s from you that all blessing comes.)



The inner voice of a woman:  Père, Père, Père, and the son and the holy ghost. Where are the women in this spiritual vision which calcified long ago into a religion? In ancient times, vision came from the muses, all of them women. Where are the goddesses?

The voice of moonlight striking water on a warm summer night, Claire de Lune, the voice of Debussy coming through piano keys played by the groom’s oldest daughter.

The voice of the bride and groom’s two-year-old daughter, laughing as she races around in front of the altar.

     “Nous croyons en Dieu le Père.
     Nous croyons qu’il a créé le monde
     Pour l’homme et la femme.”

(We believe in God the Father. We believe that he created the world for man and woman.)

Where is there room in this creed for the voices of women who love women, and men who love men?

The murmuring voices of the bride and groom as they exchange vows.

The sweet innocence of the pastor’s voice in French.



The voices of the naked men and women who climb out of the underworld in a Judgment Day frieze high above the altar. The voices of the dead.

The voice of a man (who is talking to one woman) greeting a second woman outside the door to the church: “Have I ever told you what a fine specimen of a woman you are?”

The voice of a man saying about the groom (whose livelihood is helping people buy and renovate Paris apartments): "Wouldn’t he have to have been married on a construction site?"

The voice of a woman describing how they met:  “Come here,” he said. “Come here, so sexy.”



The voice of a woman who has recently moved from Paris to the country, to someone who has just moved to Paris: “How can you live in Paris? How can you? How can you live in Paris? How can you live in Paris?”

Voice of a single woman describing to a wife what her husband just said about her: 
“He said to me, ‘I’m looking for my wife.’
And I told him, ‘You can always find another one.’
Do you know what he said?
‘Not like this one, I can’t.’”

Voice of a woman who is newly single after many years of marriage: “One day he said to me, ‘I don’t want to be married to you any more.’ No warning. Out of the blue. I’m still in shock. I’d like to move to Paris, but how would I earn a living there?”

Voice of a man watching his daughter and her husband sip champagne together as the desserts are unveiled: 
“I’ve lost a daughter.”
“No, you haven’t,” two women say at once.
“Yes. I have.”



Voice of a woman telling her story of her divorce after a long marriage to an alcoholic: “After the judge heard all of us speak, he said to my husband, ‘You grew up in a good family, you’ve had good fortune in your profession, you have a wife and children who love you, and you’ve thrown it all away. Why? Why have you ruined your life?’”

And I remember the voice of Antonio Machado: “What have you done with the garden that was entrusted to you?” 

The Wind, One Brilliant Day

The wind, one brilliant day, called
to my soul with an odor of jasmine.

"In return for the odor of my jasmine,
I'd like all the odor of your roses."

"I have no roses; all the flowers
in my garden are dead."

"Well then, I'll take the withered petals
and the yellow leaves and the waters of the fountain."

The wind left. And I wept. And I said to myself:
"What have you done with the garden that was entrusted to you?"

—Antonio Machado (Translated by Robert Bly)



Gods and goddesses,

ancestors and muses,

a prayer for Louise and Porter:

May their garden be fragrant with jasmine and roses.

May they tend it together their whole lives long.

May they blossom.

May they thrive.




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Reader Comments (14)

wonderful! discreet but profound. love-filled. colorful (via words and photos).
another fun post! thanks, S

Saturday, August 27, 2011 at 19:08 | Unregistered CommenterSuki

Dearest Suki,

Thank you so much. And thank you for printing this out for Betty.

We remembered another magnificent wedding while we were celebrating this one: Sally & Jeff's festivities less than a year ago. Both were beautiful, both filled with love.

Much love to you,

Kaaren & Richard

Saturday, August 27, 2011 at 23:59 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren & Richard

Dear Kaaren and Richard,

What beautiful people... and what a beautiful day you have shared with us. The snippets of conversation speak volumes! You have such an ear for the key moment, the revealing line, Kaaren. And the Antonio Machado poem made my heart ache. The photos, as always, Richard, are perfect in capturing the joyous spirit of the day and the words they accompany. And I could see and hear the happiness (and curiosity!) of the two of you mingling and celebrating on this lovely occasion.

Thank you for sharing this!

Love to you both,

Monday, August 29, 2011 at 2:57 | Unregistered Commenterdawna

The photos are filled with so much texture, and wonderful play with light and shadow. The photo of the naked dead struck an inexplicable chord with the gold/gray combo.

Within your story of a beautiful wedding day and delectable snippets from the "overheard," your question pierced."Where are the women in this spiritual vision which calcified long ago into a religion? In ancient times, vision came from the muses, all of them women. Where are the goddesses?"

Being exposed to and raised in a variety of religious milieu I've developed my own particular and intimate relationship with the Divine. Dad exposed us to Catholicism. Mom was raised by a mystical grandmother who was Christian Scientist. Then I began practicing yoga and meditation at 13. Mom took us on church expeditions. As a child I witnessed holy rollers, wailing and flailing on the floor with snakes. At spiritualist churches I sat on healing stools on which my feet did not yet touch the ground, as I received healing and messages from the unseen. A kid amongst blue-haired ladies, I studied weekly with a teacher who channeled, for 13 years, beginning at age 15. My dreams assist me in balancing the anima and animus.

From Catholicism I've gleaned Mary as an archetype of nuturing and Jesus as a great pioneer, a guy who trailblazed the consciousness of forgiveness, mercy, tenderness (feminine tendencies?) who surrounded himself with powerful women. In the sequence of the biblical story of creation, some Christians say that women are the "crown" of creation. God realized that Adam needed some beauty, nuturing, some bling, a muse, and let's face it, some help, so topped things off by creating Eve. These Christians say that the "enemy"/devil is jealous of womens' beauty and has been telling us lies. The enemy and his lies are the equivalent of the Hindu's maya/illusion. Media, acculturation, society certainly gives us a load of ... illusion, casting the spell that we are never adequate as we are. It stonewalls, abuses, diminishes. I appreciate your courageous and relentless questioning. Let's be the spell-breakers.

Monday, August 29, 2011 at 7:41 | Unregistered CommenterMarguerite Baca

I second what Dawna said, as she said it as beautifully as anyone could ever hope to do. And I second what Marguerite Baca said, for the same reason.

That said....

"Father" God has no sex. God is called "he" simply because the highest authority, for most of human history, has been male. (Though I realize there are matriarchal societies and therefore exceptions.) And though there are stories about God being our lover and "taking" us as a bridegroom takes a bride (loving, protecting, nurturing), the Bible is clear that there's no penis, no body of any sort, attached to that equation.

Jesus is definitely male. (Was already tough enough for him to accomplish what he did 2000 years ago as a male.) But he refers to himself as a mother hen brooding over her chicks. He makes it clear that in heaven we'll neither marry nor be given in marriage but will be 'as the angels" (who apparently have no sex either).

The Holy Spirit likewise has no body.

Paul is clear that in Jesus "there is no male or female."

I was offended for Chaz Bono when the LA Times referred to him as "she" today. When someone goes to all the trouble to get a sex change, the least we can do is respect that. But when it comes to God, sex organs seem beside the point. Both Judaism and Christianity are odd, in that they are very much religions "of the body": we will be recognized in the afterlife; we will be corporeal in some way or other; there's a lot of talk of procreating in the Bible; and God even equates our relationship with him (or her, if you wish) as that of lovers. But while the gods and goddesses have penises and breasts and vaginas, there's no such image in the Bible. In fact, there's a prohibition from depicting God at all -- something we've blithely ignored through the centuries (not having fatwah, I guess), thus making it easier to equate the Judeo-Christian God with gods and goddesses when in fact it's apples and oranges. (Or other fruits of your choosing.)

Beyond all that, God is not external to me but internal. I am the abode. So when someone wonders where the female is in Christianity, I can say "right here."

Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 8:47 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

Dear Dawna,

Thank you from both of us! It was such a true celebration, in a wildly extravagant setting, with so many fascinating people, you just could not help being curious and happy. But as I hinted, there was one big difficulty: I couldn't convey the full stories, and it's pulling me back towards fiction. I've never understood so acutely why fiction is necessary for fully honest story-telling. Unless you're writing about strangers, but our deepest stories come from the life we've lived with people we love, who are NOT strangers.

I'm hoping that you're making great progress on your novel. And that you plan on coming to Paris soon.


Kaaren (& Richard)

Thursday, September 1, 2011 at 21:20 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren


Fabulous comments. It's wonderful to hear about your religious/spiritual history. The wailing and flailing on the floor with snakes is especially appealing. So Dionysian!

I too was riveted by this wall mural high above the altar. We weren't sure if it was the faint traces of an ancient mural or a more recent recreation, but it was powerful and haunting. Did you notice the three fleur de lis designs that look like masks for divinities in a play?

What you received from Catholicism sounds to me like the true essence of Jesus and Mary. At a time in Western cultural history of Roman brutality and decadence, Christ's qualities of tenderness and forgiveness and Mary's qualities of motherly nurturing and purity were what much of the Western world seemed to need.

The problem is that monotheism seems to be a way of making divinity male, and making female spirituality secondary. Whereas the truth is that spiritual vision is not exclusively male. The effect of making divinity male has profound implications for every part of human life. Our bankrupt relationship to nature is connected to this, and so are the unbalanced images we hold of men and women in a patriarchal culture.

And surely the sacred is imminent, in matter and appearances. To say otherwise is to blaspheme the beauty of nature. All the media commercializing of women's sexuality is a way to reduce women to useful objects for lusty eyes. What's missing in all that is female subjectivity, female spirituality!

Breaking the spell... and then what? Everyone gets to discover their own spiritual vision? That, I think, would be divine.

Muchos besos y abrazos,

Kaaren (& Richard)

Thursday, September 1, 2011 at 22:07 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren

I have been back in Berkeley now (from France) a little over two weeks, getting lost again in the sights, sounds, rhythms and smells of this place. Reading today your wedding posts have struck me like a bolt of lightening from a joyous God or Goddess or something in-between or beyond, yanking me back to France with such longing and appreciation.

The Loire! I was just there a few weeks ago! The old broken down castles, the stunning cloud formations, the rivers, the cheeses, the brochants--I miss it all.

Such imagery you both give us with such charm, such sweetness, such poetry, such humor. Bad omelets made by bad people! Good omelets made by good people! Yes, it is true. A brilliant insight, worthy of an M.F.K. Fisher.

And good marriages made by good people, as you so vividly portray. I would not worry so much about non-fiction vs fiction. If you can offer your reader/viewers the essence of what is with style and intelligence and wit, what difference does the art form make? This flower, that flower, there is room for it all. I dont know what makes me more jealous--the actual wedding you have shared, or being a witness through your verbal/visual lenses. Wishing you were here, but wishing I was there more.

--Stranded in Berkeley.

Friday, September 2, 2011 at 2:30 | Unregistered CommenterL. John Harris

The lucky subscribers of Paris Play got to attend a wonderful wedding. Our ears were there, eavesdropping. Varied snippets intriguing us to learn so much more. I love the Impressionism software (or how is that effect achieved?) along with the period dress, and the ancient structures, it all adds up to: timeless.

And yes, at some point, if it suits your inspiration - fictionalize the characters you know here (and elsewhere) It might prove equally intriguing to compare these notes again in light of that.

Steve DJ

Sunday, September 4, 2011 at 4:46 | Unregistered CommenterSteve De Jarnatt

Ah. Paris. Your musings on your love of fiction and your commitment here to non-fiction (within Paris Play) was so helpful to me in thinking about my work. The bias of the writer's vision makes even a work of non-fiction a fictive narrative in the sense that what we choose to see and depict is only through our lens -- our imagination . I love the "fly on the wall' snippets of conversations. Over a month ago, I overheard Steven Soderberg say, walking out of the DGA (Directors Guild of America) elevators, say to his companion, "I have run out of ideas." And then this past Tuesday, after a screening of his new film "Contagion" he announced his retirement (however temporary.) Snippets of words can the beginning of actions that we have not yet commited to. "I don't want to be married to you." Those words are dreadful to hear. But, as I can attest to, in those words are a new beginning. Like Steve De Jarnatt, I also love the impressionistic pictures. I misses your faces, but you continue hold a virtual salon. With love, Jon

Sunday, September 4, 2011 at 21:02 | Unregistered CommenterJon Hess

Dear Anna,

This conversation about the form God or the gods and goddesses or The Great Goddess or nothingness or however one envisions divinity is so large that I think we'd have to have it in person. To me, the most important thing you said is: "God is not external to me but internal. I am the abode." That's it.

Yet... there are implications, I think, in whether one's image of the divine is a "he" or a "she" or both or neither. (Laying aside the question of sexual characteristics) When ancient cultures envisioned the Great Goddess, that vision had psychological, political and social repurcussions on that culture; it mirrored and was mirrored by the respective positions of men and women. The same is true of envisioning one god as a He, whether in Judaism, Christianity or Islam. I think we're entering a time of equality between the sexes, and that seems to me best mirrored by a cosmology of gods and goddesses. But this isn't an intellectual matter. I came to this view by doing years of a vision quest. By going inward in depth, I heard the voices of the invisibles as polytheistic and both male and female.

So we each honor what we perceive within. Just different abodes with different inhabitants. And when you put this spiritual intuition into words, it sounds "out there" from a rational perspective. But does anyone really believe our minds are solely rational? Jung got it: the spiritual dimension has been celebrated thoughout time by different cultures in various ways. William Blake had direct experience of the sacred and embodied it in his art. So did Rumi. So did Mirabai. And we try to do the same. A lifelong challenge!

Thank you for your eloquence and spiritual depth. And friendship!

Much love,

Kaaren (and Richard)

Monday, September 5, 2011 at 21:28 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren

Dear John,

We felt the imprint of your presence the other day when we walked by the cafe where the three of us used to meet. You'll be back soon, we know.

But with all the dinners and celebration of Alice Waters' 40 years of Chez Panisse, Berkeley is hopping, oui?

We're not sure if you're joshing us about good people serving good omelettes, etc. being an M.F. K. Fisher-worthy quote. It may be so obvious to those like you who are food writers that it's silly.

Your observation about fiction vs. non-fiction is wonderful. If only I weren't so fascinated by people's character and stories. But in writing non-fiction, there is a limit to the stories you can tell about people you know. I can say more about strangers in non-fiction than I can about friends. The solution, of course, is to write both non-fiction and fiction. Last week I began a fictional story after six months of no interest in that direction. It's heavenly to do both genres, just as you write AND draw.

We will keep sending out stories of life in France to tide you over till next summer.

Much love,

Kaaren & Richard

Monday, September 5, 2011 at 21:56 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren

Dear Steve,

We're glad you enjoyed the wedding! Snippets and timeless--two great words. Don't all weddings have something of the timeless about them?

About writing fiction: the truth is that I have to go back further in time and make an impressionistic weave of characters I've known and those I invent. Fiction seems to work best from a distance, after time has passed and time has been spent getting to know a place. Paris (and France) are too fresh and real for me still for fictional characters and setting.

I have no idea how Richard works his wizardry on photos (Richard adds: Topaz filters). But these did seem to fit the vintage theme.

Thank you for your appreciation!


Kaaren (& Richard)

Monday, September 5, 2011 at 23:08 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren


This is such an insightful observation about nonfiction/fiction. You are right. All writing is fiction. But then perhaps all of our versions of reality, artistic or otherwise, are fiction, in that we cannot see the world except through our own eyes.

I can't imagine ever saying "I've run out of ideas." All you have to do is look around you at one character or another, at one story you hear or another, at one gorgeous or horrendous thing or another, or just close your eyes and find a memory or some imaginative strand, and you've got a story. Of course, Steven Soderberg will probably be "retired" for about a month and then the lightning bolt will strike and he'll be on to his next film.

Jon, your life has improved since that divorce. But I remember--it wasn't easy.

Isn't the Internet wonderful? I love that we can all stay in touch all over the world.

Love to you,

Kaaren (& Richard)

Monday, September 5, 2011 at 23:20 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren

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