Sunday, September 10, 2023

The Simplicity of Eloquence

With a build-up unlike any I have witnessed that involved building a huge temporary deck sheltered by a tent, with couches, bars, trees, flowers, a stage for a band and more set up inside, some 150 people attending and fireworks at the end, the grand hoopla of my nephew’s wedding came and went and it was a grand affair. But amidst all the beautifully crafted extravagance, the real heart and soul of it was the extraordinary eloquence of the speeches. All with sincerity, humor, great stories and moments of stirring emotion.


Top of the line were the vows spoken under the huppah by my nephew Eren and his now wife Maya. Both were poetic far beyond my expectations and spoken directly from the heart. Later were speeches by moms and dads, Eren’s sister and his aunt, my wife Karen. Again, all that’s needed to surpass cliché is to speak what you know, what you love, what you live. Doesn’t matter how cleverly you put sentences together. But because I write every day and she rarely does, Karen gave me the raw material and I put it together in the speech she read. Of course, not knowing the people referred to here, the reader here might not be interested, but still I hope it evokes a model of how to speak one’s love not only for people, but place. 


Welcome to “The cottage!” I’m Karen Shultz Goodkin, Eren’s aunt, Barclay’s sister. I’ve been asked to say a bit about this beautiful place to help you understand why Eren and Maya chose this as the place to begin a committed lifetime together. 


The best place to start is to bring Eren’s grandparents Pam and Ted Shultz into this gathering. How they would have loved to be here to witness this moment. I’m sure they’re smiling somewhere, not only in delight and amazement that their little grandson stands here as a grown man with a bride at his side, but that the whole thing is happening here in this place they loved so much. On this land where they built this cottage in 1974, next to their best friends Mark and Joan Wehmeyer who built theirs two years later. So many years spent walking this beach looking for Petoskeys stones, climbing the Sugar Bowl or Baldy, canoeing to Watervale for breakfast, cooling often in these refreshing waters on the hot summer days, sitting on the deck, drink in hand, watching yet another gorgeous sunset. 


And sharing it all not only with the Wehmeyers, but so many friends and family members—Pam and Ted’s parents and Pam’s sisters and all the Prudens and other nieces and nephews and yet more, invited to join them in paradise. Each summer, reconnecting with their children John, Barclay, Karen and soon Doug and Lori and then a new generation of grandchildren— first Kerala, Talia and then, in 1991, the fourth Shultz male with the initials EBS makes his appearance—Eren Barclay Shultz. A lot of pressure on those tiny shoulders to carry the lineage forward— especially the art of fly fishing—and we all can testify that he did not disappoint.


Not that his early years weren’t challenging. Much of his views of the cottage came through the window of the Volvo where he was sent for a time-out. One year, he spent a week at nearby Camp Lookout, but it might as well been Siberia. He spent the whole time looking longingly at the path that led back to the cottage, a five minute walk away. But in between his activities of pulling legs off frogs and torturing his little sister Zoey (the 4th and last grandchild of Pam and Ted), he would spend hours fishing with Pop-pop Ted, berry-picking with Grandma Pam, joining in the family frolics at the beach. This place seeped into his soul, as it has for so many of us.


I have loved watching Eren grow from the mischievous boy to an energetic, resourceful, visionary young man who shakes life by it shoulders and moves from project to project with such intelligence, skills and determination to make things happen. He is a doer, who follows every idea with a trip to Costco or order from Amazon and gets busy making things happen. From making a deck in his San Francisco apartment deck into an outdoor dining area with a large table, benches, planter boxes filled with vegetables and a heat lamp to making an outdoor kitchen in his Sonoma County place, building a chicken coop, selling eggs and cooking chickens whose necks his own hands had wrung, ordering a tiny house that was later delivered to his current work in Washington, where he is putting together a new business that involves frozen fish and transportation. It’s hard to keep up with it all!


And then during Covid, he and Maya sheltered right here— and the cottage has never been the same! In came the Internet, new chairs for the deck, a retaining wall, new pots and pans in the kitchen and sharp knives that can actually cut a tomato— it’s a long, long list.


How perfect that this is the place where we get together to celebrate this momentous occasion, here where three generations have gathered, where unlikely romances involving cousins and best friends have blossomed (Steve and Pam, Roy and Suzie), where so many friends and family members have frolicked for some 50 years. Look around you. We are all together to witness and welcome this next memorable chapter in our shared story, this formal joining of two beloved people who have already loved each other for nine years. But not just us. The ore boats have come to peek in, the waves are applauding and if we’re lucky, the bald eagle will soar overhead and give its blessing. All of this. 


Maya, we are so happy that Eren found you, a powerful, intelligent woman with your own can-do confidence, deep caring about this world and power to make things happen. And Eren, I think you’ve already figured out that this project cannot be realized through a trip to the hardware store or lumberyard and building with hammer and nails. This requires a different kind of building— of trust, humility, of honest communication, of walking together the thorny path of love and marriage. And Maya, remember that if Eren ever falls short, there’s always the time-out in the Volvo to set  him straight. 


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