Tanabata is a Japanese festival celebrated each year on July 7th. It celebrates the coming together of Orihime and Hikoboshi, the stars we call Vega and Altair. In Japanese folklore they are celestial lovers, separated by the river of the Milky Way, except for one day a year.
According to Wikipedia:
Orihime the daughter of the Tentei wove beautiful clothes by the bank of the Milky Way. Her father loved the cloth that she wove and so she worked very hard every day to weave it. However, she was sad that because of her hard work she could never meet and fall in love with anyone. Concerned about his daughter, Tentei arranged for her to meet Hikoboshi sometimes called Kengyuu who lived and worked on the other side of the Amanogawa River (Milky Way). When the two met, they fell instantly in love with each other and were shortly married. However, once married, Orihime no longer would weave cloth for Tentei and Hikoboshi allowed his cows to stray all over Heaven. In anger, Tentei separated the two lovers across the Amanogawa River and forbade them to meet. Orihime became despondent at the loss of her husband and asked her father to let them meet again. Tentei was moved by his daughter’s tears and allowed the two to meet on the 7th day of the 7th month if Orihime worked hard and finished her weaving. The first time they tried to meet, however, they found that they could not cross the river because there was no bridge. Orihime cried so much that a flock of magpies came and promised to make a bridge with their wings so that she could cross the river. If it rains, the magpies cannot come and the two lovers must wait till next year.
This festival is celebrated, in part, by tying wishes and poetry to the bamboo.
This is noteworthy to me now because I was at the Huntington Library this past Sunday, and was surprised by all the little children about dressed in traditional Japanese clothing.
Amy was down for the weekend from Portland, her first visit to California since we became more than friends. She met my parents the day before. We went kayaking in Newport. On the 4th we walked around Pasadena, had cheese and salmon on french bread along with cans of Cactus Cooler. We watched The Castle and fireworks shooting out from the Rose Bowl.
So, the weekend had been a nice time already.
I had made reservations at the Tea Room at the Huntington Library Rose Garden and so we wandered over there around 10:30 in the morning, slowly made our way past the entrance, around the statue garden, through the occasional spider web, and finally to tea. It was, as one might expect, delightful. Finger sandwiches, strawberry tea, rude people at other tables we happily laughed at, not letting anything interfere. Our bond is joy and good humor and ease in each other’s presence.
We walked more among the roses after that, sitting for a bit on a bench, enjoying the warming California day. It was hot, to be sure. But quite a nice treat for her to see both blue sky and yellow sun.
We walked some more through the gardens. Through the semi-tropical forest, into Australia, then spending a long while in the desert. We watched the lilypads, felt the bamboo, and enjoyed wondering about the gazes of the various marble gods and heroes and figures.
We ventured into the old Huntington mansion. Recently re-opened after many years of restoration. There was art on the walls, fancy furniture about.
It was all delightful.
Then to the Japanese garden, following the costumed children wandering through the grounds. We found the answer to our question there. It was Tanabata. Apparently, even though it was the sixth, it was the day to celebrate the coming together of two celestial lovers who had had lived lives of many trials separating them for far too long.
Such was a fitting festival.
We walked back through the Japanese scenery, across the little stream, back to the Rose Garden where we sat on a bench once more. People walked along the sidewalk not too far away but it felt isolated because there were many rose bushes and trees and other flora walls between us and them.
There were no more barriers between us, neither river, nor mountain. Time and space, the work of not the gods but of God, had brought us to this moment.
“Amy,” I said, leaning towards her and reaching into my pocket at the same time. “will you marry me?”
“Of course,” she replied, without even a slight moment of hesitation. I had the ring in my hand and I put it onto her finger. I kissed her.
“Will you marry me?” I asked again–just to make sure she knew what I was saying.
“Yes. Yes. Yes.” She replied.
And at the Huntington Library, sitting amidst the bright roses, on a hot July 6th 2008 I became engaged to Amy Gustafson. Engaged to be wed. She my wife, I her husband.
Real and surreal.
Such is the way of celestial lovers no longer separated.
But by a temporary bit of time and space until January 3.