A Wedding

August 11, 2008

The tiny nest sits on our kitchen counter, three mottled blue eggs in its midst. My wife plans to give it a niche in a beam above the new kitchen. Removing a bird’s nest from a wedding to one’s home is a powerful good luck charm for the new couple, so several dozen of these nests will make their way around North America in the next few days as the guests return home.

This week Bet and I drove down Hwy 81 to Reading, Pennsylvania to attend the wedding of Matt Stutzman and his bride Laura. The garden ceremony came as the culmination of a year of work by our friends Tom and Kate in preparing their home for a large tent, catering crew, 125 guests, and a dozen or so rambunctious children turned loose to roam the grounds.

Do-it-yourselfers like a challenge. In their younger days Tom and Kate raided stone fences on their property to select material to wheel to the masons who built the enormous end walls of their house. Long timbers joined the gap to create the frame. They had asked their architect for a building to match the style of the late-1600’s Pennsylvania deal barn which already stood on the property. Like many projects of its type the house had hung at the almost-completed stage for many years. It took a wedding to finish it up.

When their son Matt announced his engagement to Dr. Laura Bamford, the family decided that the stone patio behind the house would be the place to hold it, so Tom installed shades above the area to soften the light for the afternoon ceremony. This involved much rigging to attach the cables to trees, chimneys, and so on. The overall effect proved quite magical, and as the August sun moved obediently into position, the plan came together.

Following the brief civil ceremony the guests moved past the cabana to the tent for the reception. As the speeches proceeded, many eyes wandered to the chefs at work in an adjoining tent. The salmon and salads were fine and the service impeccable.

The family standard poodle had circulated among the wedding guests during the event, drawing cameras like a magnet wherever she went. You can’t take a bad picture of a dog. On a leash for the meal she nodded off to my ear rubs, only to awake suddenly, discover all these invaders in her back yard, and utter a series of bewildered barks. Kate reassured her so she settled down, but I made sure she didn’t go to sleep again.

From that point on the evening proceeded in much the manner of such celebrations, the music and the merriment drowning out the persistent drone of locusts in the trees and the occasional splash of a largemouth bass from the pond on the property.

What most amazed me about life outdoors in the Reading area was the complete absence of biting insects. We were weekend guests of Vicky and John Friedman, whose estate lies just down the road from the Stutzman acres. I spent two afternoons reclining next to their pool in what I must admit is the finest outdoor reading spot I have encountered. The only insects were a rabble of butterflies around the flowers which ringed the pool. I almost missed my usual outdoor companions, the deer flies of rural Ontario….no, I guess I didn’t.

They certainly have nice trees in this area of Pennsylvania. The silver maple, the spruce, and the pair of pin oaks which in their turn shaded my deck chair were all well over 100 feet above my head. The property also boasts a double-brick gazebo with fireplace, chandelier, casement windows and a large poker table. John told me that the previous owner during the 1930’s had two masons who lived and worked full-time on the property. The many stone walls which line the driveways and terrace the slopes date from this time.

Bet and I found the temperature comfortable, with daytime highs of about 76 degrees throughout our stay. Apparently we had arrived during a cold snap: the previous week had been “stinking hot” in the recollection of everyone with whom we spoke, with temperatures reaching 95 degrees during the day.

The newlyweds are now off to Vancouver for a while. Tom and Kate plan to rest and recuperate at their cottage on Scott Island this week, so you will probably find Tom puttering around the Westport lumber yard or the Elgin plumbing store, looking for that one part which will make his latest cottage project come together. I’m sure Kate will be on her dock, book in hand, with a soggy poodle at her feet.


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