Although I lived in Chicago for many St. Patrick’s Days, there was only one year I actually saw the boats out dyeing the river green, and that was in 2003 as I walked to the court house with the first great love of my life, Karsten Soltauer, to get married. We paused for a while to lean over a bridge and watch the boats cruising around in the river pouring in bags of dye behind them, turning their wake nearly fluorescent green. The concept of marriage felt like an absurdity to us, and it felt appropriately absurd to share our day with a surreal but colorful tradition.
Whenever I think about the greening of the Chicago River, I always think of that quote from The Fugitive: “If they can dye the river green today, why can’t they dye it blue the other 364 days of the year?” It’s an apt quip, because if you know the Chicago River at all, you know that it’s a vaguely greenish tint all year.
Now it also reminds me of something I wrote several years ago about the fallout from Karsten’s death: “Love is like liquid; when it pours out, it seeps into others’ lives. Love changes form and shape. Love gets into everything.”
Our wedding was thirteen years ago today. The playful absurdity of that moment and the way we looked at life together has seeped deeply into me, and will stay with me. My life will always be a little colored by that great love.
Now, of course, as I observe this anniversary, I do so as a remarried person, so among the many things I’m grateful for are these: I’m incredibly grateful for Robbie, who gives me space to honor the love I’ll always have for Karsten. It’s hard to express how much it means to me that we can love in a way that is additive, without attempting to rewrite or replace. And of course I’m grateful for Karsten, and the chance to have spent a good chunk of my life learning to appreciate life’s little strangenesses.
And meanwhile today as I write this,
students across the United States (and perhaps around the world) are walking out of schools on the one month anniversary of the Parkland shooting to protest unsafe gun policies and practices and a lack of adequate protection for students against school shootings;
it’s Pi Day (since it’s March 14th, or 3.14), a tongue-in-cheek reminder of the mathematical truths of the universe;
and Stephen Hawking died last night, after living a stunning example of defying the odds, and a life of dedication to the idea that everything is connected.
Everything gets into everything. And what colors our lives tends to stay. Maybe dyeing the river is a perfect metaphor for making the most of what you’ve got to work with. I still think it’s maybe a fun little metaphor for marriage, but maybe I’m reaching.
Either way, raise a glass with me, friends: here’s to making your life colorful and bright and fit for celebration. Here’s to honoring what has changed us. And here’s to the connectedness of it all.