Thoughts on marriage

A friend of mine said something funny about marriage the other day. Having the time to ponder, I formulated my own thoughts on the matter while lying here doing not much.

I have received four proposals in my life, and politely declined three. Twice it seemed an almost guaranteed way to spoil working relationships, once the guy was obviously not in his right mind. The one time I accepted I may have been in a weakened state, as it happened on a mountain pass 4,800 metres above sea level, just as we were about to descend into the remote valley of Zanskar in the Himalayas.

We stayed engaged without doing anything about it, nor really thinking about it, for several years after that. In the end, my father asked if we had plans to get married, and suggested he might like to host the wedding. So it came to be. I clearly remember suggesting to my now ex-husband that we could always divorce and live in sin if we didn’t like being married.

He didn’t listen. He had a clanger of a midlife crisis, and the whole marriage convention certainly messed with his head. The wedding was splendid though, and took place during the most blessedly beautiful, perfect summer days on an island where we gathered 40-50 close friends and family members. It is still being mentioned as a particularly nice celebration, although everyone knows we are no longer married.

One of the few intelligent things I have ever heard about marriage is that it is best avoided unless you are sure it will not make any difference whatsoever, either way. It really isn’t the thing to fix anything with, and is certainly no guarantee. I am bemused by the importance it still has to people. It is a legal agreement that in some circumstances makes sense, nothing else really.

Love has its own course. And in my world, open spaces are the most inviting. Cue “How to paint a portrait of a bird” by Jaques Prévert:

First paint a cage
with an open door
then paint
something pretty
something simple
something beautiful
something useful
for the bird
then place the canvas against a tree
in a garden
in a wood
or in a forest
hide behind the tree
without speaking
without moving…
Sometimes the bird comes quickly
but he can just as well spend long years
before deciding
Don’t get discouraged
wait years if necessary
the swiftness or slowness of the coming
of the bird having no rapport
with the success of the picture
When the bird comes
if he comes
observe the most profound silence
wait till the bird enters the cage
and when he has entered
gently close the door with a brush
paint out all the bars one by one
taking care not to touch any of the feathers of the bird
Then paint the portrait of the tree
choosing the most beautiful of its branches
for the bird
paint also the green foliage and the wind’s freshness
the dust of the sun
and the noise of insects in the summer heat
and then wait for the bird to decide to sing
If the bird doesn’t sing
it’s a bad sign
a sign that the painting is bad
but if he sings it’s a good sign
a sign that you can sign
so then gently pull out
one of the feathers of the bird
and write your name in a corner of the picture


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