My husband Jimmy has been asked to officiate at a non-denominational, yet spiritual blessing ceremony for baby Kuro, our friends Marcus and Julie's three month old. Jimmy was so remarkably touched and honored they would ask him to officiate at something he considers so heavy and spiritual. He was SO touched, however, he became almost frozen and was blocked in how to frame it because he wants it to be perfect, of course! Striving for perfection is always the biggest cause of writer's block for me! Gotta throw perfection out the window. Plus, it's the first blessing ceremony Jimmy's ever officiated, so he asked me to help him out...Then, I felt the heaviness and was blocked for a little while, too (damn that perfection!). It took a week or so, but I think I've gotten past it and have come across some really great ideas in how to best bless a child without being too religious or serious. Life is precious and kids are blank slates. I'm a bit superstitious at my baseline and I believe it should be kicked off right or we may screw him up FOREVER (cue the dramatic music: dum-dum-DUUUUUUM!). In light of that, Jimmy and I have been reading up and searching for cool little rituals that may start him off right.
Julie and Marcus liked the idea of a collective blessing with an "It takes a village..." mentality where Kuro will be blessed by each person asked to be a part of the ceremony. The ceremony is going to be on the beach, which is fitting as Kuro's daddy is one of Jimmy's "Dawn Patrol" guys that meet every Sunday to surf. A fantastic community/friendship-building ritual in its own right. There's going to be a basket of shells and each person in attendance at the ceremony will be asked to choose a shell, think of what they can offer this special little man as they're holding it, then put the shell into a cool container chosen by his parents who will keep it for Kuro until he's old enough to get it (and not break it and smash everything to smithereens along with the promises and wishes!). Sweet, huh?
I recently read an article about a man who was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He was terrified his three children would be denied his guidance in the life lessons and everyday things they would learn and be exposed to. He was afraid his family and friends, in his absence, would not be prompted to teach his children the things he thought each of them had to offer them. So he got proactive. He wrote letters to each of his friends and to members of his family asking them to pledge to take their roles in his children's lives over the years seriously and to consider that role ongoing and long term. He picked a quality or talent that each one of these people had that he thought his children should be taught or exposed to. For instance, "Joe, you're hysterically funny. Please teach my children the importance of knowing how to tell a good joke and teach them mirth!" I thought that was a fantastic idea. Each and every one of us DOES have something special we can offer. I feel that I am definitely a collaboration of the things my parent's friends and our families have exposed me to and taught me over the years. I'm blessed to have had parents with a wide and diverse group of amazing people they involved in our lives to learn from. Of course, there was no formal, "Would you please teach my daughter the value of good woman friends in times of trouble?" or "Would you please teach Erin how to drive a stick shift by taking her out in that dune buggy there?" It just happened over the course of a childhood packed with good friendship and good times! This man with terminal cancer wasn't going to have the luxury of time for any of that. I like the way he took the matter into his own hands. What a gift for his children! The idea that we are shaped by those we are exposed to and for us all to take that seriously and to be proactive with it is a novel approach, eh? I like it and I guess subconsciously it's the way I approach raising my own children.
The other ritual we're considering has to do with salt. Each person will take a pinch of salt and will throw it over their shoulder into the sand on the beach to be washed away and incorporated back into the ocean. Salt has been included in almost every religious ritual throughout time. Salt's WAY important. Without it, humans and animals die. I didn't know it, but one of Napoleon Bonaparte's famous battles was lost not by force or cunning, but because most of his soldiers died because their diets were lacking in SALT. Hel-lo. Salt's so dang important, it's been used as currency again and again throughout history. Salt's mentioned in the Bible over and over. In both the Old and New Testament, salt is used to seal covenants. Shinto religion also uses salt to purify an area. Before sumo wrestlers enter the ring for a match—which is actually an elaborate Shinto rite—a handful of salt is thrown into the center to drive off malevolent spirits. In India, salt is a symbol of good luck. They use salt as a reference to Mahatma Gandhi's liberation of India, which included a symbolic walk to the sea to gather tax-free salt for the nation's poor. It's come to mean love. It's used to ward of evil spirits. Salt rocks (pun intended!). It's perfect for a blessing ceremony!
I'd, of course, like to incorporate a poignant famous quote or poem in everything. In searching, I found a quote that's more like a poem by Francis Thompson who lived in the early 20th century. He was apparently referring to a poem by William Blake titled, " Auguries of Innocence." (http://www.artofeurope.com/blake/bla3.htm) I like this quote paraphrasing what Thompson took from Blake's poem. His quote is EXACTLY what I felt as a child: Magic is possible and is around every corner. You just have to look! I hope my children feel it...especially the part about elves. Of course, I'm paraphrasing it for the ceremony by taking out the last part about death, even if it's true! I don't think the last line of a blessings ceremony should contain the word death! However, the crux of the quote touched me:
Know you what it is to be a child? It is to be something very different from the man of to-day. It is to have a spirit yet streaming from the waters of baptism; it is to believe in love, to believe in loveliness, to believe in belief; it is to be so little that the elves can reach to whisper in your ear; it is to turn pumpkins into coaches, and mice into horses, lowness into loftiness, and nothing into everything, for each child has its fairy godmother in its own soul; it is to live in a nutshell and to count yourself the king of infinite space; it is
To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a Heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour;
it is to know not as yet that you are under sentence of life, nor petition that it be commuted into death.
I am looking forward to my husband's blessing of Kuro and I'm hoping the feelings of the day that are so important to convey are expressed well in the words I helped him choose! Heavy...Do you feel me?!