Complicit in a Complicity

Since I first moved to Oregon, one of the things I’ve been most struck by is the quantity and quality of the scenic natural beauty around here, which the state leaves carelessly lying all over the place. It’s been part of life since the move, so it’s fitting that when zaiah and I decided to have a commitment ceremony, we would do it in a place that had a particular abundance of it lying about.

The place we chose was the ruins of an old stone cottage in a large park here in Portland. This particular park has a ruined stone cottage a short hike from the road, that we thought might make a lovely place for a gathering of friends and family.

We first started mooting the idea of a commitment ceremony about a year or so before it happened. One of the things that was important to both of us was the idea of a ceremony that wasn’t just about the two of us, but that was about our entire extended networks. Being part of a polyamorous network can be a bit tricky, sometimes, in that there is a tension between dividing up into couples and honoring all of the people who are important to you. zaiah and I wanted a ceremony that showed our commitment to each other, but also to the people we have chosen to make part of our families.

Even the name we chose, borrowed from figmentj, was an expression of the fact that this is something that involves all of us. Rather than a commitment ceremony, we opted to call it a “complicity,” and to make everyone who attended an accomplice in our union.

Not everyone in our extended networks was able to show up. In particular, my sweeties emanix and figmentj weren’t able to be there. A lot of people did make the trek out to Portland, though, including my entire Florida network–people I don’t get to see nearly often enough.

We gathered together and hiked out to the ruins of the stone cottage. Along the way, we passed over a small foot bridge where someone unknown had written good wishes on strips of masking tape and placed them on the path.

I have no idea who wrote this, or why, but I think these are good sentiments.

As I’ve mentioned, Oregon is known for the abundance and exuberance of the scenic natural beauty it manufactures and scatters about the landscape. Even the walk up to the stone cottage was drenched in it, which can be a bit disorienting for folks from places like Florida, where scenic natural beauty is kept tightly guarded and is sold in small parcels by licensees of the Disney corporation. The Florida part of the network paused along the way to recover from the onslaught of gorgeous, which they had developed little natural resistance to.

That’s my sweetie joreth, her boyfriend and my former archnemesis turned apprentice datan0de, my partner Shelly, datan0de‘s wife femetal, redheadlass, and her partner zensidhe. These are folks who have been my family for a decade or more, datan0de‘s attempts to eradicate me, destroy the world, and crush all of you beneath the massive iron treads of his robotic war machines notwithstanding.

When they had recovered sufficiently, we finished the journey out to the stone cottage. We’d tried to be selective in the number of folks we’d invited to this part of the Complicity, but it was still a bit of a tight fit.

My friend edwardmartiniii graciously agreed to oversee the whole shebang, and did an absolutely fantastic job of it. Here, he is seen at the start of the Complicity asking for volunteers to be given over to the Great Old Ones, so as to appease them and call down their blessing of protection upon all who attended. My friend Amanda volunteered; I’m sure going to miss her.

KIDDING! I’m kidding. Of course I jest. There were no sacrifices to gods ancient or modern; for one thing, where would we even find a virgin these days?

Why yes, don’t mind if I do!

One fo the central parts of the ceremony involved passing out dollar coins, which everyone made a positive wish on and then placed in a container. As people left, they drew out a coin, to bring into the world with them with a wish for good things.

I like the idea of mindfully passing out something which represents a desire for good. The wish itself may not have any material effect on the coin–there is no metallurgic Transubstantiation at work here–but the idea that this represents something is a powerful one, I think.

A part of the ceremony that we’d planned for quite some time was the creation of human Langdon charts, using lengths of rope to indicate the connections between the various people there.

What we hadn’t really counted on was the size and complexity of the network, and how much space (and rope!) it would require. Plus, with not all of our sweeties in attendance, it would have been impossible to create a full chart anyway.

But we were able to map out bits of it. Here are zaiah and I with the Florida part of the Squiggle:

We also did Langdon charts centered only on certain parts of the network. Here’s zaiah‘s Portland portion of the network:

Here’s the bit that centers on me, with the partners who were able to make it (emanix and figmentj, you were both sorely missed!):

It’s fascinating to me how human communities of all sorts tend to follow the same structure. If you map romantic connections in poly networks, or business contacts on Linkedin, or friends networks in a large company, you see the same patterns emerging: most folks have small numbers of connections, with a smaller number of people forming large numbers of connections that act as bridges between different groups. There’s something really interesting lurking somewhere in there. I’d love to make some software that lets people easily and quickly create charts of their poly networks, and then analyzes the network and puts the data into a database somewhere.

I still like the idea of doing photographic Langdon charts. I’d very much love, if everyone in my network could ever get together in one place, to do a photo that shows all of us. Perhaps if I suddenly find myself receiving a suitcase full of cash from shadowy government figures in exchange for, like, foiling a plot to hold the moon for ransom or something, I will fly all of us out to Easter Island to do a picture with all those funky statues of giant heads. Or, less ambitiously, maybe I’ll just register or something. (Anyone know a good database programmer?)

But I digress.

I won’t say that I am lucky to live the life I do. I don’t think that’s accurate, for reasons that I outline here. But I will say that I am profoundly grateful for, and humbled by, the people who I have chosen to be my family, and who have chosen me as well. These are all people who, every day, make my life richer simply by being who they are.