by Renée Tillotson

We’ve all had those moments. Those perfect instances in time when everything is in balance, in harmony, when we can breathe deeply, recognize how much we love someone and how fortunate we really are… given the chaotic world around us. We’re especially blessed if we happen to share that moment with another, or with many others.

Then the moment slides away. We’re back in the conflict and confusion, the hard decisions, the disappointments and anxieties of daily living.

Yet in that blissful moment we caught a glimpse into the way the world could be. Should be. CAN be. Sometimes IS!!! And that gives an over-glow to the rest of life.

A great mentor of mine always enjoined us to remember our “golden moments”. I’d like to do that today, so that you can see how it reminds you of similar moments you’ve experienced.

When I first walked into the dining hall of Emandal – A Farm by a River in the foothills above Willits, California, I had a feeling that we were in a magical place. There hanging on the dining hall walls, we saw dozens and dozens of driftwood signs, each one hand-painted by a family who had stayed at the farm’s summer camp over the decades. Although the hall was now empty and quiet, the happy chatter and laughter over heaping plates of farm food served long ago – or not so very long ago – seemed to still shimmer in the atmosphere of the large room. Outdoors on the hillside above the dining hall, a herd of goats bleated plaintively like crying babies, but their bleating subsided when we hiked up the hill to survey the well-appointed cabins for campers. I think the goats had simply been calling for the human company they missed.

Cliff and I were visiting Emandal with our daughter Sandhya and her finance Dylan, checking it out as a location for their wedding. It was a chilly Thanksgiving week in 2021, and we saw only a few folks who were working at the farm. As Dylan told us of summers in his youth when his mother, now dearly departed, had taught camp songs to the counselors and he and his family had jumped off the great green rocks into the river that rolls past the farm, he warmed our imaginations to what the farm would be like filled with happy campers – literally! We sampled the incredible jams and syrups made from the fruit trees on the farm and bought their fresh eggs, plucked recently from the hens’ nests. By the end of our overnight stay, the four of us were of one accord to hold their wedding at Emandal.

Fast forward to June 2022 and the three-day wedding celebration was almost upon us.

Entering a golden moment feels as if we’ve found a portal into a more transcendent reality – like a hidden gate into a secret garden. The portal is like the still center of a moving wheel or wave. You have to be moving at the same speed as the wheel or wave to catch and ride it…

I got intimations during the time leading up to the wedding that I was getting in sync with something special. Waffle cones were an early indication. ‘Waffle cones?’ you ask. Yep!

You see, Sandhya and I have been wondering and wondering for weeks how to include her three ‘tween cousins in the ceremony, now that they’re too big to be flower girls and too young to be bridesmaids. Hmmm… Then when I’m ordering rose petals for the little girls to sprinkle down the aisle, I imagine everyone in the audience showering the newlyweds with petals. Distributing rose petals to the audience before the wedding sounds like a PERFECT activity for the ‘tweens. But what will the girls put the petals into that will biodegrade on the farm? Waxed paper sandwich bags sound too ugly and too square for an easy petal toss. We need something smooth and round that the petals will easily slip out of… WAFFLE CONES! And then the guests will have something to nibble on before dinner. Divine inspiration in the form of Baskin-Robbins style ice cream holders… the mundane becoming magical. We are getting up to speed.

Then comes the daunting task of planning from home in Hawai’i how I will obtain and put together hundreds of flowers and greenery pieces, trying to keep them fresh for a wedding in a remote site in 90-degree heat. That’s a great story in and of itself, which I’ve saved for you here: (See Winsome Wil’s story).

After all the months of planning, Cliff and I return to Emandal Farm a couple of days early to prep for the wedding. The greyness of late autumn has been replaced by bright sunshine and flowers in bloom across the farm. Sandhya and Dylan have arrived before us and already picked some of the tart cherries hanging in one of the trees to make into a wedding pie. Other trees drop heavy apples onto the deep grass below. Chickens, geese, and turkeys cluck and squawk contentedly in the background. It’s such a natural setting in which to complete our preparations.

Now our guests begin to trickle in from the long, unpaved road that delivers them out of their everyday lives and into the hidden garden where we will convene together for the three days of the wedding. 

After settling into their cabins and bunkhouses, realizing they have no internet or cell phone reception, people’s hands are unusually empty. Our interactions with each other are unfiltered by screens, which is great since we are meeting so many people for the first time. Dylan has one of those amazingly complex families of step-parents and partners, siblings and half-siblings, cousins and cousins-in-law. They have arrived from San Francisco, Seattle, Texas, New York, and even Israel, with a step-brother-in-love from Belarus, although the adoptive family member from Japan could not make it. I keep wanting to consult Dylan’s family tree that I asked Sandhya to draw for me before the wedding. 

You might think that with all that jumble of relations, tensions might flare-up. But no, we are in the shelter of this sacred space. Sandhya and Dylan have thoughtfully delegated many tasks, so we’re all chipping in. Dylan’s dad has taken responsibility for Friday night’s barbeque dinner. Sandhya’s cousin and her partner are in charge of a fabulous sandwich spread for Saturday lunch. When it’s time to prep for the ceremony, Sandhya’s sister-in-love and Dylan’s step-sister take care of the bride’s hair while his step-brother’s wife does her make-up. Dylan’s biological sister makes sure that everyone got into all the right places for the ceremony. 

To start the wedding, Dylan’s step-dad and his partner beautifully serenade us on the lawn as the ‘tweens distribute petal-filled waffle cones out to the guests. The bridesmaids and groomsmen play their parts well, many wearing cowgirl boots or cowboy bolo ties and suspenders. The tiny flower girls dutifully and delightfully strew the bridal path with rose petals. I walk Sandhya down the aisle, Dylan comes down with his dad and step-mom, so now the bride and groom are standing under the arbor flowers we have arranged, and before Cliff, who is officiating. The ring bearers, who cheerfully deliver the goods at the right time, are so thrilled to participate in the ceremony they need to be coaxed back to their seats! Cliff gives a thoughtful prelude to the couple’s beautiful and original vows, the groom and bride kiss, and we all happily fill the air with rose petals from our waffle cones as they almost skip down the aisle in joy. It takes a village, and we get them married!

The post-ceremony dancing carries us even further into the GoldenAge. Our 4-year-old grandson precedes the dance with a sweet rendition of “You Are My Sunshine” into the mic. I love watching the face of a two-year-old 

gazing in wonder at her first bride and groom dance: it’s both touching to see them hug close and hilarious to watch Sandhya laughingly kick the hem of her long white dress out ofthe way with her cowgirl boots. Then the dance floor fills, each song with a different combination of dance partners and groups. My mom recalls after the event how in her high school days, girls could only attend the prom if a boy invited them, and only dance when a boy asked them to. None of that nonsense at this wedding! Think: My Big Fat Greek Wedding. EVERYONE is on the dance floor… except for perhaps my 8-week-old great-niece. 

I LOVE dancing with my darling ‘tween nieces, my older son, and then with my two brothers in a siblings dance. Cliff and I do a West Coast Swing for the first time in years.  We observe gangly young teens with a bit too much makeup – doing their best to act natural while tottering on heels that are a bit too high for comfort – eventually kicking off their heels to dance barefoot, with real smiles after the lipstick has worn off. Middle-aged couples surprise their kids by how well and happily they dance together. Great-grandparents up to 91 years old twirl briefly with youngsters. We’re almost floating above the dance floor, and our ages create no barriers between us.

Our festivities eventually come to a close, and we say goodbye to all our new family members and friends, including the farm’s owner, Tamara Adams. (See her story here). This golden time will serve as a touchstone of hope and promise for Dylan and Sandhya for the entirety of their marriage. For the rest of us in attendance, this fairy story tucked away on a farm by a river will always remind us that love is real, and that when people who care come together with a common purpose, we can make time stand still long enough for us to enter a Golden Age.

Renée Tillotson

Renée Tillotson, Director, founded Still & Moving Center to share mindful movement arts from around the globe. Her inspiration comes from the Joy and moving meditation she experiences in the practice of Nia, and from the lifelong learning she’s gained at the Institute of World Culture in Santa Barbara, California. Engaged in a life-long spiritual quest, Renée assembles the Still & Moving Center Almanac each year, filled with inspirational quotes by everyone from the Dalai Lama to Dolly Parton. Still & Moving Center aspires to serve the community, support the Earth and its creatures, and always be filled with laughter and friendship!

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This post is also available in: English (英語)