Judy Swann and Laurence Clarkberg got burner-married on July 2nd, 2022 at the Cosmic: New Beginnings regional burning man event in Ithaca New York. More of a hand fasting, actually. Not legal in the state of New York or for filing taxes or having privileges in the hospital. But still all spiritual and lovey dovey. It was a beautiful, sun-drenched afternoon on the edge of town. Here are our vows.
Judy to Laurence
Before I met you, Laurence Clarkberg, I was happy. I was a sedate, middle-aged matron, a poet, a bicyclist, a farm worker. My friend Mary Milne even made a video of me called “O Be Joyful,” because I was happy enough, considering that I did not yet know you.
But NOW when I walk into a space or appear in a movie, I am – and I think you’ll all agree – just one big vibrating orgasm, sort of an ambulatory clitoris with rainbow colored hair. I am the embodiment of bliss and everything I do and everything I touch is a making of love to you, my darling Laurence.
You gave birth to me, but I am not your child. I am your mate, your friend, your family.
The sky, the earth, they have both had to expand just to stuff my big bulbous happiness into them, just to fit me in.
And joy, gratitude, love, all these words that are fine in their way, they pale before what I have for you, dear darling Laurence: my madness! I am crazy about you!
Thank the divine you’re a mad man, thank all that is holy, I am mad too! Let’s get crazy together!
Laurence to Judy
Hello fellow burners. Thank you for coming. I feel really comfortable being candid with you all. As you can see I have nothing to hide! And as will soon become apparent, whereas Judy is a poet, my background is as a technical writer. So my vows have a somewhat pedantic flavor that I hope you will enjoy.
And hello Judy. I’m glad you are here. In just a moment I am going to make some promises to you regarding our relationship.
But first while I have everyone’s attention let’s all think about love for a minute. And then I’ll make my promises. And after that I would like to try a little experiment. This won’t take too long I promise.
Okay. What is love? For something that seems so important, perhaps the most important thing to get right in our lifetimes, it’s pretty hard to pin down exactly what love is using words. I can show you but I can’t tell you. I’ve come to accept that some things are simply beyond language. I believe we can’t say directly what love is without diminishing it in some way. However we can describe it indirectly. We can tell it has something to do with life, energy, creativity, beauty and sex. We can maybe describe some of love’s effect on us, how it makes us feel.
But even the feelings we get from love can seem contradictory. If you are in love with someone who does not reciprocate, love can feel like desperation, an intense loneliness, neediness and sadness. It can take over you against your will in some way, and lead to confusion, and feeling dazed, and the fear that comes from loss of control. It can erase you in some way.
And if on the other hand you discover that the person you love does want to reciprocate, if the love is mutual, oh man, what a feeling! A feeling of joy, of exaltation, of feeling incredibly high! And if you play your cards right, and manage to heroically overcome obstacles to your love, and you can conjoin with your lover, you can enter into a trusting, nurturing and divine relationship that can help both of you find yourselves, and help you both grow spiritually.
I know from personal experience that love can also fade from a relationship, almost imperceptibly at first, until you wake up all at once and realize it is gone. And you can end up at a point where you are perhaps good friends with the person in bed next to you, and you wish them well, and you are very comfortable and domestically compatible with this person, but the love is no longer there. The fire has gone out. As burners we are all aware of this inner fire and how it relates metaphorically to the outer fire that we will light on Sunday. What is this inner fire? It seems to have something to do with life, energy, creativity, beauty and maybe even sex. Hmmm…
I don’t know. All I know is that this inner fire is something a person has to nurture, and that a couple has to nurture. When I was at Love Burn in 2020 a woman came up to me and described five things that a couple needs to do to keep their love alive: touch, quality time together, statements of affirmation, gifts, and domestic sharing. I thought this was a pretty good list. People think burns are just big parties. But they have an educational component as well! And so that brings me to the vows part of this little discussion:
Judy, I promise to nurture the fire of our love to the best of my ability. I promise:
To physically touch you and be touched by you affectionately, with consent of course, on a regular basis.
To spend time with you during which I really see you and communicate deeply with you about our relationship; and our inner lives; and books and other media and the very interesting world around us.
To tell you I love you and in other ways support you and nurture you and help you be your best self.
To give you gifts, including both physical objects but also the benefit of my mechanical skills.
To grow a happy healthy home with you.
Please let me know if I am deficient in any of these objectives.
In addition to being a Technical Writer of Love, I am also a dancer. And that is the nature of the last part of this discussion, the experiment I wanted to try. As I said earlier love perhaps cannot be expressed adequately with language, but can it be expressed satisfactorily using dance? Judy and I have studied a dance form known as Butoh. The main technique of Butoh is to feel a certain emotion and then let the movements follow from that feeling. Judy and I will now attempt to express the nurturing kind of love we share using Butoh, and then extend that love to you all. Okay. Here we go.
[Brief Butoh reflection on nurturing love.]
If during this ceremony you get any good ideas about love, and what love is, please take a moment to write them down on this big piece of paper. [See results below.]
[Please make a joyous noise.]
Here are some photos of the event taken by the incredible Mike Heath. The wedding cake cutting photo is by Serenna McCloud.