“As a Monash graduate student studying Civil Ceremonies I spent a day conducting a survey on attitudes to secular ceremony and celebrancy at my local shopping centre, largely through conversations, though I did have a form. A group of redoubtable older women, quilters from another town, descended. Their enthusiasm riveted me and we talked for quite some time. With Christian childhoods, several were devout church goers, the others were occasional and social. They spoke of the man ways community life has changed in their lifetime, how they miss the continuity and community of their family churches and how sad they were (for this reason) when their children chose secular ceremonies. Still they were all agreed on the value of ceremonies being more about the people rather than their God. Their greatest grief however was for family stories. “Tell them”, they ordered, pleased to have got hold of someone who could take some responsibility in the matter, “that they simply have to tell their family stories. We know it is difficult these days with families so scattered and both parents so busy working, but we are all in danger of losing our stories and our old folk are dying.” They concluded sadly, “Soon we won’t know who we are.” P38 A Celebrant’s Notebook.
I remember the quilters often. I feel them with me, at my back and in my heart. They are my elders remarking how I listen to stories, ask for stories and weave them into ceremonies. Ceremony making with my clients is full of family stories that capture a milestone, a turning point, a change of relationships, of high points or of difficulties overcome, of how my clients came to this point, about them now, their families and friends and the things that have happened to them. When stories are shared, real stories, with our families and communities we can all benefit as we bear witness to the transitions and rites of passage, happy and sad, raucous and outrageous, or quiet and tender. We can inhabit the cycles of our common humanity, reminding us of what matters, what sustains us, what is required of us in our world as it is now and how we want to live.
A Celebrant’s Notebook was published in 2018. My intuitive desire to give my books from hand to hand when I can is a good one, and it is a great pleasure. I also enjoy wrapping it to send to people. I hold it in my hands lovingly. This is how I want people to pick my book up. With both hands, evenly, one on either side. And simply look at it. Then turn it over and look at the back. Then slowly turn the pages. No rush … simply enjoyment. And they do.
Someone once said that producing a book is like giving birth. I thought this perhaps a little sentimental at the time. Now it is obvious to me. I am as struck with much the same wonder. I show it with a similar pleasure and a desire to share the gift and wonder of it, scattering copies like dandelion seeds across the landscape.
Those who have read it so far find themselves inevitably, it seems, a-bubble with their own stories, told to me in a similar state of freshness and wonder.