my painted bridesmaids


My painted bridesmaids are lined up on the wall behind us. They’ve come all the way from the Scandinavian folk ballad “Young Svejdal” to grace our wedding in their flowing gowns. I imagine that they bathed, perfumed, coifed, and powdered me, and instructed me in the secret Danish deportment of brides-to-be.
Thankfully my maid of honor was my flesh and blood daughter Lvovy (and wedding photographer):
This is the cover of the booklet they gave us after our wedding. It recounts the Danish folk tales and ballads that inspired the incredible and atmospheric frescoes that turn the walls into bowers and the ceiling into a starry firmament. A few of the photos below came from the pages of the book, while others were taken by us. 
The “Ballad of Young Svejdal” recounts Svejdal’s ride on a magical steed across the world to find the maiden who “sits longing for him in a strange land.”
That must be me, a strange longing maiden in a strange land. A Heinlein Fraulein waiting for Sean to marry me in the strange land of Denmark. 
Miraculously, when Svejdal approaches the maiden’s manor, all of the locks “open of their own accord” and the maiden’s pet lion sits submissively by Svejdal’s (Sean’s) feet. The locks must be symbolic of my (ahem) viginity. I’ve seen my share of medieval museums with steel chastity belts, so I know all about the birds and the bees, and the locks and the keys. 
So in the ballad, my lock fell open and my love took me in his arms. Note his sword!
I’m the maiden and the lion both, a Leo who guards the perimeter of my emotional manor with fang and claw. Sean arrives gently and the bolts, the claws, the fangs all retract and all is gentleness and welcoming.
When Sean arrives, the maiden awakens from her long sleep and welcomes him – followed by her handmaidens who usher her toward matrimony. 
That’s me, in the duck-egg blue gown, and crimson sash, followed by my older daughter Akychame, and all of the women I’ve become sisters with over the years: Diane, Annette, Richanne, Elinor, Jen, Laura, Laurie, Jeanette, Isa, Miss Jenny, Shelly, Nona, and Louise. My lovely family was represented by my sweet dad. Dear Friends, can you spot yourselves in the fresco? 
This past year has been a whirlwind – one could equate it to a long sleep of purposeful obliviousness and the occasional nightmare of divorce, deportation, etc. 
But the wonder! The adventure! 
Sometimes it takes a trauma to set off a course of events that leads to the stuff of folk ballads. In the end, I’m eternally grateful for the growth all of these life changes have triggered. Without the cosmic zap in the ass, I might still be a lonely maiden sleeping through her life, guarded by a lion of her own anxiety and a locked into her own mind.

But now that Sean and I have saved each other, I’m more awake than I’ve ever been, and moving on to the next vignette in the fresco of our lives together with my tame lion at my side and and also above our heads, in the zoo of the zodiac. 

The ceiling of the wedding chapel reminds me of the firmament in Brunelleschi’s Pazzi Chapel in the Basilica of Santa Croce next door to our apartment in Florence. There are so many heavens, and they seem to be following us. All I have to do is look up. 

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