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    The Sky, the Tides and the Winds of the Heavens

    reverendFrom our greatest poets and writers comes some of the most profound wisdom about marriage and lasting love. Howard Steiermann’s article in the last issue of the San Francisco Bay Times reminded me of this, as he quoted song lyrics from The Sound of Music and a wonderful poem by James Kavanaugh.

    Have you noticed how much great poetry, in describing the ineffable or indefinable (things like God, love, and eternity), uses images from nature? Here are quotations I like from three wonderful writers, illustrating some important truths about love and permanency in marriage. (And do note all of the nature imagery!) The pieces bring forth at least three truths.

    1. In the closest of loves, you must accept one another’s uniqueness and uphold and support each other in your separateness.

    2. Security in marriage does not come from holding on to what was, but in allowing life to flow, and living wholly with one another in each new moment as it comes.

    3. Your love is strengthened by each of you being able to follow your own star and to be your own person, and acknowledging that in the other.

    From Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke:

    The point of marriage is not to create a quick commonality by tearing down all boundaries; on the contrary, a good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of his solitude, and thus they show each other the greatest possible trust…once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a marvelous living side-by-side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky.

    From A Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh:

    When you love someone, you don’t love them all the time in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. It is impossible; it is even a lie to pretend to. And yet this is exactly what most of us demand. We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships. We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror at its ebb. We are afraid it will never return. We insist on permanency, or duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity, in freedom.

    Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what it was with nostalgia, nor forward to what it might be in dread or anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now. For relationships must be like islands; one must accept them for what they are here and now, within their limits: islands, surrounded and interrupted by the sea, and continually visited and abandoned by the tides. One must accept the ebb and flow of intermittency.

    Excerpts from “On Marriage” in The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran:

    You were born together,
    and together you shall be forevermore.

    You shall be together
    when the white wings of death scatter your days.

    But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
    And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

    Love one another, but make not a bond of love.
    Let it rather be a moving sea
    between the shores of your souls.

    And stand together, yet not too near together.
    For the pillars of the temple stand apart,

    And the oak tree and the cypress
    grow not in each other’s shadow.

    Reverend Elizabeth River is an ordained Interfaith Minister based in the North Bay. For more information, please visit