Like lavender and eucalyptus

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Cliff-side switchbacks descending into
what seems a deepening fog.  Hundreds of great northern seals layered
beach-lazy on the shoreline.  A small sign hung high above the
road—“Yridises”—and I make a fast right, kicking up a dust
cloud that only gathers as I meander a half-mile, and yet another
half-mile, until I settle among the few cars parked just below the
horse corral on this 17,000 acre, SoCal ranch.  I have arrived–at
what has become fancifully known as the first Jackson Center wedding.

Not that it’s the first time friends
affiliated with the Jackson Center have decided to make a lifetime go
of it.  But it is the first time that friends whose lives entwined
first through a course dedicated to action in Northside and then
through devoted service to the Center and St. Joseph C.M.E. have
invited our own Reverend Hudson to preside!  On Saturday July 16
2016, in a barn that—through relentless vision and a year of hard
work–became a grand, breezy cathedral, Hudson pronounced Monica
Palmeira and Crister Brady husband and wife.

I wish I could share with you the
scents of lavender and eucalyptus that seemed to trail through days
of preparation.  I wish you could have seen Monica’s parents dive
onto the dance floor upon hearing the first chords of a Portuguese
song dear to their hearts.  I wish I could invite you to enjoy the
sweet encampment above the arbors and orchards behind Crister’s
home (well, I can offer you a pic anyway):

For now, let me just say that somehow
being so far away and off the grid brought us all home.  There was
Brentton singing into whatever mock version of a microphone he could
find.  There was Aleck dancing as if just waiting for the world to
come to him. There was Elizabeth giggling like the fourth
graders who inspired her creation of the Jackson Center’s “Learning
Across Generations” initiative.  There was Monica, bringing all of
her color-coded joy to bear on manifesting the big event.  There was
Crister, shyly and proudly introducing friends from Harm Reduction
Services in Sacramento, with whom he has created his own oral history
ministry.  There was Leslie—who co-produced Soul in a Bowl—as
lit up by the near prospect of graduate studies in Urban Affairs as
by the firepit that kept us warm long after the rings had been
exchanged and the last piece of cake devoured.  There was
Hudson—who’d been hauling everything from gravel to body boards
to multiple cases of beer all week—suddenly (and somewhat sternly)
leading the parade to the hastily crafted altar.

And from there you could hear Mama Kat
insist that marriage is “all about sharing.  Love and sharing.”  
(And maybe you could hear a little devilish laugh in the background.)
You could hear Matrina Morrow insist through Hudson’s emphatic
repetition: “a house is not a home until it’s shared.”  You
could hear Pastor Harrison once again declaring:  “What has
sustained this community has not been brick and mortar.  What has
sustained this community has not been an influx of greed.  What has
sustained this community has been faith.”  And then you could hear
a slight shift in gear, a slight change in tone.  Fueled by the
stories he was telling, the wisdom he had inherited only to pass on,
Hudson was preaching now:

What has sustained
this community is that in the midst of struggle, this community has
seen and dreamt beyond in a way that allow this community to manifest
a glimpse of that dream.  This community has lived and enacted
hope—not some frothy optimism.  And as a result, this community has
been able to embody a welcome and love that has sustained its core
despite the violence of segregation, through urban renewal efforts
that sought to wipe it out, through investor pressures that seek to
convince neighbors like Matrina to give up her home for a bigger
house.  These external efforts have not wiped out this community
because they can’t wipe out the substance of hope and the evidence
of what they cannot see.  What has sustained this community has been

I couldn’t tell any more to what
community he was referring—Northside? The group gathered in that
gaping barn?  The community of family unfolding before our eyes?  It
could have been that I’d lost my mind to the tears streaming down
my cheeks but I think rather that, in the charge to faith, Hudson
invoked a community beyond community to which we—perhaps too
rarely—dare to aspire, and that lifted all of us in that worldly
oasis at Yridises into the frank possibility that we might see it
here on earth.  Here, at home.

Hudson reminded Monica and Crister
that, these days, lifetime partnership is a radical act.  Perhaps
partnership of any kind is or can be.  Radical not in the sense of
extreme or weird (!) but in the etymological sense of pertaining
to the root of something, of being like the tuberous stem that
grows deep into the ground and shoots blooms towards the sun.  Like
lavender shrubs and eucalyptus trees.  This “first Jackson Center
wedding” was, from my seat, very much a Jackson Center wedding.  
It called us all home to the radical work of making community and the
great blessing of being able to do so.  

With love and endless thanks to Monica
and Crister, Della

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