Here is calm so deep, grasses cease waving.
Everything in wild nature fits into us,
as if truly part and parent of us.
The sun shines not on us but in us.
The rivers flow not past, but through us,
thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fiber and cell
of the substance of our bodies,
Making them glide and sing.
The trees wave and the flowers bloom
in our bodies as well as our souls,
and every bird song, wind song,
and; tremendous storm song of the rocks
in the heart of the mountains is our song,
our very own, and sings our love.
It's still hot in Northern California, but I can smell Fall in the air. The nights are getting longer and soon the shadows will be cool, and socks will feel cozy again. Here's a sweet knit cardigan for the shift of season... it's so long, so stripe-y, and so hooded!
William Blake, 1783
O thou who passest thro’ our valleys in
Thy strength, curb thy fierce steeds, allay the heat
That flames from their large nostrils! thou, O Summer,
Oft pitchedst here thy golden tent, and oft
Beneath our oaks hast slept, while we beheld
With joy, thy ruddy limbs and flourishing hair.
Beneath our thickest shades we oft have heard
Thy voice, when noon upon his fervid car
Rode o’er the deep of heaven: beside our springs
Sit down, and in our mossy valleys, on
Some bank beside a river clear, throw thy
Silk draperies off, and rush into the stream:
Our valleys love the Summer in his pride.
Our bards are famed who strike the silver wire:
Our youth are bolder than the southern swains:
Our maidens fairer in the sprightly dance:
We lack not songs, nor instruments of joy,
Nor echoes sweet, nor waters clear as heaven,
Nor laurel wreaths against the sultry heat.
Last month, my father passed away.
Roderick Allen Soukup, 1935-2012
There are no words to capture just how painful it is to lose a parent- I am not even going to try. I will leave that to poetry and music.
Initially, I never considered writing publicly on this subject-- if you have been following my blog, you may have noticed that I never even mentioned that my dad was ill (with prostate cancer). It felt far too private to share with the whole world, and, more than that, I didn't want to portray my dad in a depressing light. He strove to be an upbeat guy his entire life, and the last thing I wanted to do was to have people feel sadness for him because he was dying of a terminal illness.
After he passed, however, and his spirit became free and light, I realized that he would love a positive tribute on my blog. He was, without contest, my blog's number one fan-- he read every word from day one, and wrote me e-mails about each and every post! (He used to call his personal e-mails "blogs", too, which was very cute- they were actually more like Captain's Logs.)
There are several ways in which we can put someone's life into words after they are gone. My dad was an organized, forward-thinking pre-planner, and he actually wrote his own obituary. Here is the long form that was used in his hometown of Wausau, Wisconsin:
Rod (Roddy) Soukup, at the start of his professional career
Chris and I came up with a much briefer version for the local paper, which contained this line:
"Rod loved barbecued ribs, trains and collecting toys. His zest for life and buoyant sense of humor will be greatly missed by his friends and family."
It took us an entire afternoon to distill my father's big personality and big life into such few words-- what a surreal writing exercise. But come to find out, when there are no word limits, suddenly it becomes hard to know what to say.
Where do you start?
My dad on my wedding day, 2002
We'll start with ribs.
My father liked eating at the counter at Emil Villa's Hickry Pit, whose specialty was prime ribs. They were like no other ribs in Northern California. They were slathered in homemade barbeque sauce and they required multiple napkins and two hands to eat.
He liked to meet everyone who was eating at the counter alongside him. He could get almost anyone to tell him their whole life story-- he was so sincerely interested, and asked such intelligent questions, and never judged a book by its cover. He liked to tell cheesy jokes to the waitresses and he always thanked the chef if he thought they'd done a good job. He always saved room for dessert.
He didn't just love ribs, of course-- he loved all good food. He liked to start his day with a donut and a coffee from Johnny's Donuts in Dublin. He always dunked his donut, and he always read the funny papers before the news. On weekends he liked to take us to far-flung breakfast places, like Fred's in Sausalito. He loved driving, and he always tried to come home a different way. He knew all of the back roads and alternative routes in the whole Bay Area and most of Northern California by heart. And each and every time we crossed the Bay Bridge into San Francisco, he would say the same thing: "people all over the world would give their right arm to see this view!".
He crossed the country multiple times in all kinds of vehicles, from his little VW bug to a semi truck. Every road trip started, at dawn, with him singing the opening lines of "On The Road Again". This is the man that trained to be a truck driver, post-retirement, for the fun of it. It all started in Wausau Wisconsin, with the trains-- the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s were the era when trains meant freedom and adventure and older brothers hopping them to "hobo" around the country, coming back home unrecognizable and covered in coal dust.
He was unhappy that Train Engineer wasn't a viable career option in the 1960s, and that his bad eyesight kept him out of the running for a job as a professional pilot, but he made up for it with thousands and thousands of miles logged on American roads, along with a private pilot's license, a motorcycle, and adventures on friend's sailboats (when he talked about sailing, he always sang "26 miles, across the sea, Santa Catalina is waiting for me..."). He could never afford a model railroad growing up in the Depression era, and he felt like a king when he was able to collect vintage trains as an adult. He started with the trains, but he didn't stop there-- he added trucks and cars and fire engines and planes and boats and submarines and spaceships and then he just went in whole hog and collected thousands-- literally thousands-- of vintage toys of every type. His inner child was well taken care of.
little Roddy, Wausuau, Wisconsin
When my dad was growing up, he had brothers and sisters who were much older than he was, and when they introduced him to their "cool" teenage music, it was Big Band and Swing-- rock and roll was not even invented yet. My dad never liked a single rock song in his entire life, but he did like classic Country Western music, and eventually got into Jazz, especially Brazilian jazz. He always said that music should be mellow and you should be able to hear every word clearly.
He was a huge radio fan, and when he was little he used to amplify the antenna on his radio using the metal bedsprings. Late at night, when the atmosphere carried radio waves for longer distances, he could get in the broadcast of the Grand Ol' Opry from Nashville, Tennessee. When he was an adult, the radio was always on at home or in the car-- and late at night he would lie in bed and listen to Art Bell talk about conspiracy theories and space aliens.
I think my dad was always a little disappointed that he never saw a space alien himself, or had an ESP experience. His bookshelves were full of science fiction, past life regression accounts, lucid dreaming manuals, out-of-body experience stories, Isaac Asimov, and Carlos Castanada. He liked anything with a great story and a world unto itself: Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, Clan of the Cave Bear. He could devour a huge fiction book in a single day, and he always took me to the library every single time I wanted to go when I was a kid, and encouraged me to check out the maximum number of books and read them. He was the first person in his family to ever go to college. He worked in the educational field, and held academics in high esteem, but he also valued self-education. He loved the American ideal of the entrepreneur as much as he loved the open road.
My father was one of the most generous people I have ever known- he was happy to share his time, his energy, his money, and his interests. He was always giving rides to me, to friends, and to friends of friends. His specialty was driving tours of the Bay Area. When I was growing up, he was my chauffeur, always whistling a song, and always on time, like a German train. He bought me the computer that I am writing this on, and he bought me my first lot of 20 vintage dresses from an estate sale that I used to launch my Etsy shop. He loved to share in other's success- he was a natural born cheerleader for me and for everyone that he ever knew. He he inspired people to believe in themselves and to dream big and do their best.
They just don't make 'em like him anymore.
Me and Dad, Ashland, Oregon, 2004
If you are reading this now, Dad, I would like to formally welcome you to your first out-of-body experience-- and I hope you have a great time driving/sailing/flying around up there.
Last week I had the pleasure of being in one of the most beautiful weddings ever- my friends Bluebird and Dylan tied the knot (or, more accurately, stomped on the glasses) in a magical ceremony held on Lughnasadh. The moon was full, spirits were high, and love was everywhere!
Take note: this blog post is going to have a LOT of pictures of dresses! Not only did the bride make her own wedding dress-- inspired by the elaborate bridal dress worn by Isabella, Queen of Spain, incorporating the skirt from her mother's wedding dress, which was handmade in Mexico in 1960 by her great-aunts-- but she made each and every one of the eight bridesmaids dresses. She even hand-dyed the silk for the dresses. Yes, she did this AND planned a wedding- you read that right. She's a professional costumier, and she wanted each of us to have our Dream Dress!
Here we are, hurrying quickly around the edge of the wedding, hiding the bride, as we make our way to the other side of the pond:
The groom and his groomsmen (and groomslady) are all painted in a dye handmade from the sacred herb Wode, and wearing head wreaths made from symbolic trees and plants.
On the other side of the pond, we board the raft and are pulled slowly across, gradually parting to reveal the bride, as we sing a traditional round:
Rose, rose, rose red
Will I ever see thee wed?
I will marry at my will, sire
At my will
The groom, dressed in a cloak of deerskin which he made and tanned himself, painted in sacred runes, awaits the arrival of his bride:
The bridesmaids line up on shore, and watch the ceremony, which takes place on the raft.
The four elements are invoked, including air, here symbolized by a beautiful and breathy song played on the flute:
When it comes time for Dylan to say his vows, he is handed his hand-carved harp and sings the vows to her. There is not a dry eye in the house. I actually thought Bluebird might faint from joy!
"Can you believe how lucky I am?!?!?"
Bluebird and Dylan were so utterly, profoundly sincere in their declarations of love.
Kissing in the flowered wreath!
Here is the bride and groom with their families- Dylan's mom came all the way from Michigan, which made him so happy. That's Bluebird's dad, and her two gorgeous daughters:
All the bridesmaids, and the flower girls:
(What did I say about those dresses?!?!?)
The first dance, with Bluebird and her Dad:
The groom cuts in:
The song is "Unchained Melody"- sigh!
Aren't they lovely?
I haven't even talked about my dress, but I am guessing you've noticed it by now- it was extraordinary! When Bluebird asked me what my Dream Dress was, I had to go with my first impulse- the era of Marie Antoinette. This dress was done in authentic 1700s style, with a lace-up back and pocket hoops in the skirt and the whole she-bang. The colors, of course, were my own choosing- I love hot pink and green and gold so much it HURTS! And yes, I really did dye my hair to match. Here I am, with some of the mead that- get ready- the bride and groom made for the wedding. (Yes, they even made their own alcohol!)
(those are Hops in my hair, for you plant spotters out there!)
With my Sugatroll (why oh why did no one get a photo of his amazing purple and white vintage dress shoes? They matched the top perfectly!):
Dylan totally photo-bombs us:
My stomacher was hand-embroidered by Bluebird. It took her a month of stitching every evening.
Me and Leonna Sapphire! In sapphire blue, of course.
This is my favorite photo of myself- I sure do love a good door!
Hanging with friends:
There was some speechifying (after the mead, of course):
And of course we all get by with a little help from our friends, especially in fancy 18th century dresses- Lucia is loosening my corseted back. How did those ladies do it? I'm a wimp!
Later on there was a live band (Sun Hop Fat) playing 60s Ethiopian psyche/funk, canoeing and swimming by moonlight, and lots and lots of dancing and laughing. But you'll just have to imagine that part!
I hope you have been inspired and delighted by these fun photos- even if you don't know Dylan and Bluebird, I'm sure that you can get a sense of their amazing spirits! Here's to life and love and creativity and community and every color of the 'bow!
Bluebird designs wedding dresses, bridesmaid dresses, historical costumes, corsets, and even Tardis dresses for Dr. Who fans on her Etsy site! You can get in touch with her there regarding special commissions.