“Plans are worthless but planning is everything.” –Dwight D. Eisenhower
Greetings Dear Ones!
Here in the dark underbelly of mid-January, the thoughts of this shivering Seamster turn to ice, mice, and brides. “Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste/ An’ weary Winter comin fast/ An’ cozie here, beneath the blast/ Thou thought to dwell…”
The recent storm was the perfect opportunity to dwell in Snowetry (snow + poetry): Burns by the woodstove—while outside, the whole forest became its own Poem. Friday is the 260th birthday of Scottish poet Robert Burns and anyone with a drop of Scotch in his/her veins will be wearing “hodden grey” and dining on “hamely fare” of “neeps and tatties” and singing odes to mice and lice and prehistoric-style sausages made of all the mutton the Scots couldn’t sell to the English. This morning, according to Accuweather, it is -2F degrees with a “real feel” of -27 and a wind speed of 17 mph here in my enchanted Forest. It’s the kind of cold that makes one’s nostril hairs clink if one sniffs quickly. It’s the kind of cold that has all the Jack Russells piddling on the welcome mat outside the door because they will venture no further into “bleak winds ensuing, baith snell an’ keen” to do their business. (They care nothing for Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening either!) Our wee homestead is a vaguely familiar foreign planet I navigate shin deep in a white, granular substrate. My snow gear, like an astronaut’s suit, impedes any forward momentum as I bring the breakfast hay to the sheep and fresh water to the chickens. It is literally Breathtaking to feel my eyelashes freeze and my eyebrows go crispy as I pause to gaze at the fading morning stars, which seem like local chips of ice themselves, rather than heatless distant suns.
In the warm bright shop, our “earth-born companions an’ fellow-mortals” come blasting through the front door, stamping their gritty feet, blowing on their reddened hands “wi’ bickerin brattle” and blurting dumb things like “Cold enough for ya?” Most folks seem to hate the cold and can’t believe how COLD it is. “I just can’t believe it is this Cold,” shudders one woman. I can’t believe she can’t believe it. “Were you here last year?” I want to know. It’s Winter… In New England. This shit happens Every year. And it’s MAGNIFICENT. The intensity of all four seasons is why we live here! (It’s certainly not for the antics of our fellow motorists in heavy traffic, on macadam renditions of Swiss cheese.)
In the dressing room, the theme of “white and wild” continues. We have two bridal fittings: First up is a “wee, sleeket beastie”— standing on the platform in the dressing room. She is beaming into the mirror and turning this way and that to see the contours of lace frothing about her like she is a dishwasher gently overflowing. Her wedding is not until October but she is Ready. Her eyes glitter with deep satisfaction. “You are so Organized!” I say with admiration. “Well,” says her mother, nonplussed, “She’s only been planning this since the fifth grade. She has been holding a spot at her favorite venue for the past two years, just in case her man proposed. You know how those prime venues are…” I nod because everyone else is nodding knowingly but secretly Prudence and I are Astonished that Franz, the head coordinator at Top-of-the-Hill-Posh-Weddings-R-Us-Estate knew her wedding would take place there before the groom knew he was going to be a groom!”
Later that afternoon, we have a vastly different fitting with another bride, with “O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!” who, by no stretch of the imagination seems to have been planning her nuptial celebrations since last week. Who knows? Maybe she just woke up on Monday and realized she had to get her act together by the weekend. She has been pulling all-nighters for several days. Her bridesmaids are with her. They look irritated and exhausted. She just got the gown and it needs quite a bit of work. We’ve got less than a week to slap this thing together before it gets stuffed in a suitcase bound for a beach resort in the Carribean.
It amazes me that on the Same Day, we could entertain the opposite poles of the Bridal Planning Spectrum. One girl is methodically ticking items off a long list of Everything She Ever Wanted, the other girl, the now-crazed slacker, is going to have to make mad dashes, split-second decisions, and surrender to the Best that Can Occur in the moment. Both women will be beautifully dressed and equally married by the time all is said and done but one will have the blood-pressure of a New York stock trader and the other will have nothing to do but organize her future husband’s sock drawers. No doubt, the friendships of all those in both wedding parties will be tested to the limits.
It makes me think about the clarity needed to manifest what we want—whether we know that years in advance or moments. We need to ask for help. We need to rely on our friends. We DO need plans. I can’t help thinking that astute couples will look at how they are getting through the wedding prep as a potential blueprint for how the rest of the marriage could go. I imagine one couple systematically acquiring a mortgage, coordinating the arrival of their children around their vacation schedules, then saving for college and retirement…the other couple just winging it in a perpetual state of reactive astonishment as Life Choices come at them like asteroids in a video game. In the Amusement park of Marriage, some couples choose to sit in the Tea cups and go gently round and round smiling; others ride the roller-coasters, holding hands, strapped in, screaming all the way.
You might think that I, or certainly Miss Prudence, might have some judgments around which one is doing it “Right.” (Prudence does not care as long as they all Get married and Stay married, with minimal fuss and as little karaoke as possible.) Truly, I have equal affection for each bride. Each one is a strong, young woman doing her best, with certain presuppositions about how she manages her world or how her world manages her. Things change. If there is anything I have observed from my little sewing table in the corner, it’s that Life usually throws the Best Planners a curve ball or two and those who don’t plan at all lurch abruptly between disappointment at not getting what they think they want and suddenly having things work out for the best anyway. Fate has a way of grinding the roughest edges off us all. But I’m not saying anything than an Ayrshire farmer turning over a mouse nest in the 18th century didn’t already say way better!
Despite all our anxiety and fretting, the truth is that none of us REALLY knows what is really happening until it happens. We live for our goals, for our routines, for the constructs and structures we create for ourselves “Till crash! the cruel coulter past/ out thro’ thy cell.” We all know “the best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men (and brides, and parents, and lovers, and seamstresses) gang aft agley,” but what is there to do but plan anyway?
On we slog, in “Winter’s sleety dribble, an’ cranreuch cauld!” and backward cast our eyes on prospects drear—while forward, though we “canna see,” we guess and fear! So we plan, and insure those plans… and then, when plans fall through, there’s always Poetry!
Be warm and well, my Darlings! Button up and aye be cheerie! And do Good Work!
P.S. If you come visit me any time soon, please don’t wipe your feet on the Welcome mat!