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Gratitude and Imperfect Offerings

The news came at work, in a text from my fiance: Oregon's ban on gay marriage has been overturned, and the state is issuing marriage licenses to gay couples effective immediately.

It's big news for us, because it means when we say our vows next September we'll be able to do it on Oregon soil--or, in our case, sand, because we want to be married on the beach. I immediately have to go lock myself in a bathroom and cry a little bit, because up until this moment I wasn't convinced it was really going to happen.

Sure, gay marriage is legal in Washington state, just across the river, but I want to be married here. THIS is the place I call home, THIS is the soil that nourishes me. Our love was born in the coffee houses and brewpubs of Portland, it grew and deepened on Oregon beaches and in Oregon houses and apartments. Most importantly, this is where we have begun the process of building a life together. And though I wasn't born or raised here, this is the only place that's ever felt like home.

So this is where I want to marry her, in front of the community that has celebrated with us and sustained us, both before we met and after we fell in love. How can I not have a little happy cry?

At home after work, I realize this is a moment that calls for gratitude. I sit and consider how best to say thank you to the universe for this miracle, but nothing feels big enough. In my tottering steps toward spiritual renewal I have not yet found rituals and offerings that sing to me; mostly I feel like I did in the first years of learning about paganism, like I know nothing at all.

I don't know what to do, but the day is beautiful and I've promised myself to take my paganism outdoors whenever I can. So I step out to my tiny pocket of a garden and clear a few weeds from around my herbs. The lavender is budding, slender green stems bearing tiny green beads rising over the soft foliage, and its fragrance washes over me as my hands brush its leaves. The lemon thyme, too, offers up its scent, and I breathe deep. I straighten and look up at the sky, its colors fading and washing out as the sun passes from view, and say thank you. A whispered prayer feels inadequate, but it's all I can think to offer right now.

Because my joy isn't unadulterated. The subject of love and sexuality is a tough one for me, as it carries the weight of years of conflict with my fundamentalist Christian mother. Even as my home state has offered its legal recognition of relationships like mine, I know that unless a miracle happens my mother will never accept my partner or our commitment to each other. Between my chosen spiritual path and my innate sexuality, my relationship with my mother has been completely severed for two years now. I've accepted our estrangement as the price of being able to live my life and speak my truth, but I haven't really made peace with her rejection.

So today's beauty is overwhelming, partly because of its enormity, and partly because of its bittersweet complexity. I'm reminded that authentic love demands much of each of us--and sometimes we choose to step away from it because we're not ready for its thorny side. The failure of the deep and tangled love between my mother and me is a mystery I might never understand. But I can't let this failure prevent me from striving to make love work elsewhere; and in the meantime, I can try to forgive both my mother and myself, and I can pray for a miracle.

And I can be thankful on days, like today, when love wins. So in the twilight at the edge of the garden bed I offer the only thing I have--my confused, conflicted, hopeful heart. I promise the gods and myself that I will keep loving and struggling, however much it hurts. I promise myself to carry the power of this moment and hold it tight when things look bleak. It still doesn't feel like enough: but I remind myself that real love, with its inevitable side-effect of being vulnerable and often broken, is at least an offering that's unquestionably mine to give.


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Michelle Simkins grew up in rural Northern Michigan, where she divided her time between reading fantasy novels and wandering the woods. It was no surprise that as an adult she found herself drawn to earth-based spirituality and energetic healing, both of which she's been exploring since 1999. She now lives, works, writes, and studies her craft in the Pacific Northwest.


  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ Wednesday, 21 May 2014

    thanks for your piece. so touching.

  • Stephen M. Stirling
    Stephen M. Stirling Tuesday, 27 May 2014

    That's a touching and well-written piece. It's sad about your mother, of course, but congratulations on your upcoming vows.

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