We also took a day trip to Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion, the c.1890 summer home of Frederick Ferris Thompson and his wife Mary Clark Thompson. He was a director of a bank that eventually became Citibank, and she was a socialite who traveled the world. Their Queen Anne-style home is decorated in the eclectic Aesthetic style popular at that time, incorporating everything from beautiful Asian ceramics and Native American basketry to ever-disturbing taxidermied birds (including not just one but two requisite stuffed peacocks). The numerous gardens are lovely, including a formal Italian garden and a Japanese garden with a tea house. The house eventually became a hostel for employees of a nearby hospital, and the pictures in the house showing nurses in the 1940s and 1950s wearing bathing caps and modeling with the ancient statuary were a hoot to look at.
But of course we traveled to the Finger Lakes specifically for the wedding of my dear friends DG and RL, fellow Brooklynites. The bride’s family lives around Rochester, which is why the wedding was upstate. The ceremony and reception was at Bristol Harbor, a rustic lodge and country club that overlooks the lake from the hills above. Their ceremony was simple yet elegant. They wrote it themselves, respecting the faiths of both families, but focusing foremost on their own personal beliefs. I was honored to be asked by them to do a reading during the ceremony. They wanted me to find one myself. It wasn’t easy. I didn’t want the typical love stuff or rehash the same old sentiments. I wanted to find something that was special for my friends, yet could transcend the idea of a wedding so that it had a message for all. Finally, I found it, and when I showed it to them, they agreed that they loved it. The reading is called “Unlimited Friendship,” by The Buddha. I’ve transcribed the passage below, but first take a look at this great picture of us from the reception. Don’t we look fabulous?
by The Buddha
Translated by Edward Conze
From Into the Garden: A Wedding Anthology, edited by Robert Haas & Stephen Mitchell
This is what should be done by the man and woman who are wise, who seek the good, and who know the meaning of the place of peace.
Let them be fervent, upright, and sincere, without conceit of self, easily contented and joyous, free of cares; let them not be submerged by the things of the world; let them not take upon themselves the burden of worldly goods; let their senses be controlled; let them be wise but not puffed up, and let them not desire great possessions even for their families. Let them do nothing that is mean or that the wise would reprove.
May all beings be happy and at their ease. May they be joyous and live in safety.
All beings, whether weak or strong--omitting none--in high, middle, or low realms of existence, small or great, visible or invisible, near or far away, born or to be born; may all beings be happy and at their ease.
Let none deceive another, or despise any being in any state. Let none by anger or ill-will wish harm to another.
Even as a mother watches over and protects her only child, so with a boundless mind should one cherish all living beings, radiating friendliness over the entire world, above, below, and all around without limit. So let them cultivate a boundless good will toward the entire world, unlimited, free from ill-will or enmity.
Standing or walking, sitting or lying down, during all their waking hours, let them establish this mindfulness of good will, which is the highest state.