A couple of months ago, I went for a walk with a dear friend, hashing out some plans for the PFLAG fundraiser, and mentioned to her that I would soon have my official name change in hand. "Oh, that's wonderful, my dear," she said. "You should have a naming ceremony." She checked my expression, and sensing assent, said, "I'd like to do that for you..."
So, two evenings ago, Beloved and I drove down to town in a shower of cold rain -- something we've seen a lot of in May and June this year -- desperately seeking summer -- and after circling the neighborhood once, stressing, found my friends' house. It's always a tough one for me to locate, the streets there are curlicues with blind cul-de-sacs all over. We found stone lanterns and candles lit on the front doorstep,and a sign, "come in." So we did.
They have a tokonoma in the entryway, lit dramatically from above, with a Japanese scroll, a plant, a Nepalese bell, and a crone's staff. The house seems larger than it is, because it's well laid out, and the windows open onto brilliantly thought-out gardens that seem to reach into the distance, even though it is a tiny lot and the house is very near the street.
In the living room they had placed a circle of chairs round a small square table with ritual objects laid out round a candle in the center. Over the next half hour, friends arrived, and visited, waiting for other friends. At last the circle was complete, and we were ready to begin. Beloved and I sat side by side, holding hands. I wore a simple black print dress and a four-string necklace of faux pearls, and she wore a red crafter's dress with dime-sized mirrors embroidered onto it at intervals.
Nearly all present, some dozen, were women. Two were gay men, and one was a two-spirit shaman, specially invited to help with the ritual as ze is a pipe carrier. Ze began with an explanation of the pipestem and the pipestone bowl, both handmade and very sacred, and then invoked the six directions with prayers to father sky, mother earth, and each of the four winds. Hir movements were among the most graceful I had ever witnessed, a fluid epiphany of concentrated, effortless grace.
The candle was lit, and a poem by my former self was read aloud by our other ritual leader, which was "Handcraft," a depiction of our wedding day 28 years ago.
Then each person present offered me a small gift from the heart: a glass star, a pendant, earrings, a painting of a loaf of bread, a mirror, favorite books, a small plush bunny, an even smaller bear, a rhinestone heart, a plant, a berry crusher, a necklace, a wooden egg. One gave me a feather and said that it was to "welcome you into the company of women." I spent much of this time crying, and when I lost track of my handkerchief, a dear heart stole quietly away from the circle and found a lovely box of tissues for me.
Beloved was recognized by our ritual leader with a beautiful speech, thanking her for her support of me, and presenting her with a miniature potted rose bush bearing several carnation-colored blooms and one peach-colored one.
We then stood up and our leader read a blessing she had written, and then read an early poem by the new me, "Allies are made, not born." I was given a dozen white roses and a scroll, made by our leader's daughter, with my new name on it. Everyone applauded. I was then asked to blow out the candle and received it as well.
The ritual was now declared to be over, and everyone headed for the dining room to have potluck dessert. One of the men, known for buying cakes to bring to meetings, had baked, from scratch, a superb German chocolate cake for the occasion. I had only a few bites, having eaten everything in our house not nailed down, out of sheer nervousness, before we left.
Beloved and one of our gracious hostesses gathered up my "loot" and took it all to our car while I collected my goodbye hugs. When I got to the car, I climbed into the passenger side, shut the door, looked over at her, and burst into tears.
"That was really something," she offered.
"Omigod," I blubbered.
"You aren't going to accuse me anymore of being the one that has all the friends, I hope."
"We go now?"
"Righto." She started the car, and we drove off into the night's rain.
-- risa b