Out of Our Heads with Joy

Featured image: Empress Dowager Cixi. Happiness, 18-19th C.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

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.

Anne-Marie Erickson

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