This has to be one of my favorite blog posts I’ve ever done. Not only was this the first destination elopement I have photographed, but it was also my first time filming an official elopement as well. I give so many kudos to videographers out there. I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard at something in my life… going back and forth between photo and video, in the heat, and for hours? Pretty intense but SO worth it.
I just want to talk a little bit about my relationship with Claire:
Claire and I became super close when were just fresh out of serious relationships/bad breakups and really learning so much about ourselves. I honestly don’t know what I would have done without her sleepovers, cooking dinner for me, coming over just to watch Friends and to keep me company. She’s as true and real as they get and I can’t express that enough. I have NEVER met someone more kind, patient, and loving than Claire and I know this because I have experienced her kindness and love firsthand. When she got back into dating she first told me of this guy she met and how instant her attraction for him was. I was immediately defensive because I’m automatically thinking, who is good enough for CLAIRE?! He would either have to be 1) a prince 2) Beyonce 3) or some Nobel Peace Prize winner. So I was obviously a little skeptical and I didn’t want to see my best friend go through anything bad ever again. But luckily, Claire found Read.
I first met Read on my birthday when I was turning 25. They had just started dating and he went out of his way to show up at my party in a room of people he didn’t know AND get me gift when we had not even met yet. I automatically liked him for his willingness to do that alone and seeing how happy it made Claire as soon as he walked in. From that moment on I loved getting to know him, watching their little spark grow into something so intense and passionate, and being able to witness my best friend fall in love and be so happy.
Little did I know at that point that I would be following them both all over the world and documenting their love for each other. A few months went by and I find myself flying to Thailand to photograph a surprise proposal from Read to Claire. These two baptized each other in the Indian Ocean at the same time to cleanse themselves and start a new life together. As Read was dipping her in the ocean he said, “In the name of all the mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers in the waters that meet the lands where all of the families live. We let go of our pasts, look towards the future, and let the water cleanse us from this moment on as we walk together. Claire Hodgson, will you marry me?” I flew on the other side of the world to witness and document one of my best friends getting engaged. It was such an intense moment for me as a photographer to be a part something like that.
For their video I wanted to do something special for Read and surprise him. Claire is an amazing musician with a beautiful voice.. So I asked her to record a song or melody that made her think about him that we could use for the video. She ended up recording a song that Read and her wrote together awhile back when they first got engaged (she wrote the lyrics for it while she was in Thailand and he was back home in Arkansas)! I love the rawness and the intimacy of this song so much and I love how meaningful it is from her to Read.
For this blog post, as a surprise to Claire, I asked Read to write something special for her:
Claire’s mom once told us “Y’all were born reaching out toward each other”. It’s true. Within two weeks of dating, Claire and I recognized Our Love was written long ago. There’s a word for that: مكتوب, or maktub is an Arabic word, which literally translated means “It is written”. Colloquially it carries an experience based meaning and translates to something more like “all things are written by the Same Hand, or The Hand of God is responsible for your experience.” The word is most often used conversationally in response to profound life experiences that seem beyond logical explanation. Some people believe all of Life is already written in the allouh al mahffoz, or “preserved book”. Through all the years until I met Claire, I had to trust that when it came to love, I would just have to wait until my heart told me “It is written”.
One of my earliest and most profound experiences with maktub was while I was studying guitar in college. All I wanted to do was play guitar and make music, but there was so much else to tend to. I loathed tending to the other things. In an effort to gain some meaning or understanding of my lot in life, one night I played a game of bibliomancy ( a practice of interpreting a randomly chosen passage from a book). I chose a random book off of the shelf and opened it to a page. On the page was a poem by Hafiz called “The Lute Will Beg”, and it goes like this:
You need to become a pen
In the Sun´s hand.
We need for the earth to sing
Through our pores and eyes.
The body will again become restless
Until your soul paints all its beauty
Upon the sky.
Don´t tell me, dear ones,
That what Hafiz says is not true,
For when the heart tastes its glorious destiny
And you awake to our constant need
for your love
God´s lute will beg
For your hands.
Of all the pages in all the books on the shelf that night I chose that one. I read exactly what I needed to because maktub. Reading that passage filled me with hope beyond description. After that experience I spent hours reading Hafiz, Rumi, Emerson, and Khalil Gibran trying to gain more understanding of maktub. But you don’t understand a concept like maktub through books. You learn through direct and attentive life experiences. Meeting Claire was my most profound experience of maktub– beyond description for me, but to borrow from Hafiz it was the experience of the Soul painting all it’s beauty upon the sky. Falling in Love with Claire was the heart tasting it’s glorious destiny and has awoken me to Life’s constant need for Love. After an awakening like that I responded the only way a man can, with a proper marriage proposal.
After being engaged for a year I honestly thought I wouldn’t feel THAT different after we were married, but one desert elopement later, and Life feels so profoundly different. Standing in front of an altar saying some words felt like stepping into a totally new and beautiful world. Claire and I often reference a line from the book A Course in Miracles: “Love brings up all things unlike itself in order to heal them.” Everyday with Claire Love makes our experience of Life more and more rarefied. Becoming man and wife was a great clap of thunder that continues to shake the walls of my soul. Saying our vows was as if all the words of all of my favorite poets swept me up, emblazoned their poems onto my heart, and have refused to set me back down–forever holding me up in their deep and abiding knowing. Our love puts us in touch with what has been written in the preserved book. Together we give ourselves daily to becoming pens in the Sun’s Hand. We are beginning to taste our glorious destinies, and its delicious! We hear God begging for our hands to play his lute (guitars, keyboards, synths and anything else he’ll let us get our hands on). Together we let the earth sing through our pores. Together we are two pillars holding up the Altar of Love. Together we are designing a life worth living. Together we are doing The Work. Together we are #TeamForever.