To marry is to walk together on an uncharted road. Neither of us could have predicted where it would lead us. As Wendell Berry says in a poem addressed to his wife: “You are the known way leading always to the unknown, / and you are the known place to which the unknown is always / leading me back.”
I’d discovered Berry’s lines from “In the Country of Marriage” while rehearsing them for a concert in 1990. I still hear the poet’s words as music: a hammered dulcimer, a hand drum, and the voices of a small ensemble led by the composer, Malcolm Dalglish.
Berry’s paean to marriage gave expression to what I’d felt; the revelation thrilled me. When we arrived at that passage, I’d lean into the lines. Then I’d dance as I sang the lyrics that followed: “How many times have I come to you out of my head / with joy.”
The “you” was my husband. He was my known way, my known place—and I his. We came to one another out of our heads with joy. We led one another into the unknown.
Featured image: Empress Dowager Cixi. Happiness, 18-19th C. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
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