When my young colleague asks me to read a poem at her wedding, I am justifiably flattered. We have been through a lot together. As a newcomer on the first day of back-to-school orientation, Christin shared that she had just returned from South Africa having gone to KwaZulu-Natal with EarthWatch. Because I was interested, and she was not yet someone in my well-established teaching circle, I’d escape my routine a few times a week during our common prep periods, and visit her room to talk. We became friends, and I soon learned that she wanted to teach Language Arts in the upper grades, seventh and eighth, but there hadn’t been a position when she’d interviewed. Our superintendent had promised her that eventually a spot would open up. He wanted to keep her until then.
He was wise to think ahead. Christin quickly proved herself to be intelligent and dedicated, funny and forthright, insightful and honest. She and I hatched a plan to return to South Africa in the summer of 2004, the tenth anniversary of the first democratic elections after the end of apartheid, with Rutgers University. Rutgers had begun the South African Initiative (SAI), had traveled to that country once before, and I received the information about the tour through my connection with the Graduate School of Education (GSE).
Before we left, we learned that we would be teaching together, Language Arts in the seventh and eighth grades, as we had hoped. So began our collaboration that grew into a dear friendship. When she decided to marry, she said, “I’m not interested in getting married, Trish. I want to be married.” She cared about her dress, the food, the music…and my participation.
At the rehearsal dinner, Christin told me that during an early planning meeting, the officiate had asked who would be included. When she and her husband-to-be said that I would be reading a poem, the officiate said she could make some suggestions for me. He quickly interjected, “She doesn’t need any suggestions about poetry from anyone.”
I didn’t know on that December evening that in the coming Spring, we’d see a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream together and purchase identical silver Mobius strip bracelets with the eloquent first lines of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116: “Let me not to the marriage of true minds/ Admit impediments. Love is not love/ that alters when it alteration finds.” That, too, would have been a perfect choice. But after searching, I settled on “The Master Speed” :
No speed of wind or water rushing by
But you have speed far greater. You can climb
Back up a stream of radiance to the sky,
And back through history up the stream of time.
And you were given this swiftness, not for haste
Nor chiefly that you may go where you will,
But in the rush of everything to waste,
That you may have the power of standing still-
Off any still or moving thing you say.
Two such as you with such a master speed
Cannot be parted nor be swept away
From one another once you are agreed
That life is only life forevermore
Together wing to wing and oar to oar.