Marriage is one of those few life events in which marks a major turning point. Perhaps meeting that person for the first time is the start of the shift, but the wedding sort of makes it official, makes it real. So many things in life change. Here I was, planning to marry Marijke, someone I knew was right for me, but who I'd also only known for 6 months when we made the decision. Not only that, but she was from another country, we had never lived together and I was living in a one room cabin. Honestly, if anyone else told me they were doing what we were about to do, I'd probably think they were idiots, but so be it!
Marijke had been back in the Netherlands for the last 7 weeks, because she had reached the end of her 1 year visa, but after that time apart she flew back to Seattle on a new visa and we were hoping to figure out how to start our life together. We had no idea what to expect and had no plan yet, just an idea and a desire to be together.
This post will cover the time from when my (now) wife returned to America, the lead up to the wedding and the actual wedding ceremony, I hope you enjoy it.
It was a Tuesday afternoon when I met Marijke outside baggage claim at SeaTac Airport, with the van full of lumber, both inside and on the roof rack. I can't recall what we said to each other at that moment, but it was wonderful to hold her and be together again, and the nearly two months apart melted away into irrelevance.
We grabbed lunch and coffee in Seattle and then headed out of the city, straight to my family cabin at Snoqualmie Pass. We wanted some quiet time together without the stress and distraction of other people. Marijke was really stepping into the unknown on this return to America, not knowing what would happen next (nor did I), when or where we would get married or when she may actually return to her home country again. There was a lot to process at that moment, and most of it was currently unknown. But the cabin is a great place to process and to reflect, and we were both grateful to have the opportunity to do that.
We exchanged a few small gifts, drank some delicious Belgian beer and spent the next three days sitting on the couch and walking throughout the valley wondering what would happen next.
Once we had our alone time, we returned to Seattle where our first stop was to meet my dad at Kubota Gardens, where he is the head gardener. I hadn't taken Marijke there yet, so I wanted to show her the place.
That evening we went to my parents house, where we picked greens from the garden and had a lovely dinner together. Having a few days to spend in town before returning to Shaw we visited with family members and even took a tour of the Boeing airplane factory in Everett which is a pretty amazing thing to see.
So while Marijke and I knew we wanted to be together, we had no real idea what that meant in terms of how to make it happen, being from different countries and all that. She was here on a tourist visa and had a flight home booked for the end of that period already. Would we get married in America or the Netherlands? When? How? How would those decisions affect where either of us could live? How do we apply for residency in the others country? Should we apply for a fiancé visa? Do we need to live together somewhere in Europe first? What about both of us moving to a totally different country? We had a ton of questions and no answers. Googling these things is a place to start, but taking legal advice from strangers on the internet is not a solid plan. So we had a consultation with an immigration lawyer in Seattle and considered our options.
Our return to the island was exciting. Marijke was heading back to the monastery where she would resume her volunteer work and where we had met (not far from this main entrance) and while a lot of things were uncertain it felt like life was full of possibilities and we were thrilled to be back together.
It was almost June now, so things on the farm were in full swing. The tomatoes were only knee high so far, but were growing fast.
The chicks are starting to look more like mature birds, only in miniature.
David, Marijke's friend and the other intern at the monastery was getting into bee keeping and wanted to show off his hive.
Meanwhile, Marijke was happy to be reunited with her four legged friends.
Back on Shaw together and armed with some actual facts about marriage and immigration, we decided we would marry that summer and begin the immigration process for Marijke to live in America. Along with David, we kayaked out to a tiny island to watch the sunset and take some photos together as a way to announce our decision, this is the photo we choose.
Back home, the bard owls that had been born earlier were constant companions, and were great fun to hear and observe in the trees.
Marijke was still living in the intern housing at the monastery and I of course was still working on the cabin. Although we began searching for our own place, I continued working on the cabin and improving it for us to live in together until something else came along. This is the bed frame part way through the build.
Working with Jack. The top log on this entry way needed replacing and using a large tractor and 6x6 beam chained to the loader, were able to place it on the uprights and screw it in place. I'd never seen the technique before and thought it was very ingenious.
The veggies are looking awesome.
The completed bed platform (storage underneath) and on the right the start of a closet to hang clothes.
Visiting with the sheep at the monastery.
Fire drill, here we are practicing hooking the tanker truck to the engines and spraying water into Blind Bay with the deluge guns.
Planting basil (I think?).
My sister and her husband happened to be passing through the Seattle area and came up to Shaw for a quick visit. Marijke gave them a tour, and while we were walking around we ran into Father Vincent who was busy building a coffin for one of the not yet dead nuns. A rather strange sight, haha.
Over on Orcas, Austen had some cedar to take to a friends saw mill so I tagged along to see the setup and watch it work.
With the wedding on our mind, Marijke and I headed off to Friday Harbor via the ferry boat to apply for our marriage license. It is an hour long ride from Shaw, but it is always scenic.
Which one were we here for again? After a little bit of thought, we decided we would get married in early July, a date that was coming up FAST.
Translucent flowers popping out of moist soil. One of the things I love so much about my outdoor lifestyle is the constant change happening around you at all times. Keep your eyes open and there is always something new and interesting to find and observe.
Back at the cabin having Michael over for dinner. Shortly after, I think I finally ordered a larger table…
Farm day again, prepping new beds and getting ready for planting.
Sunset from Ben Nevis, the highest part of the island.
One thing I really need in life is diversity and the opportunity to be creative. Luckily my jobs provide that. No two days are alike and this day was even better than usual; I was told to grab a chainsaw, go into the woods, cut whatever I wanted and make a 'Lord of the Rings style entry gate.' I had a lot of fun walking through the forest, finding and cutting down just the right cedar trees, and building it.
With the wedding just about two weeks away at this point, we still need rings and something to wear. Lacking any real options in the islands of course we returned to Seattle and found just what we needed. For rings we decided on extremely simple gold bands (and I'm extremely pleased with how comfortable mine is) and Marijke found a beautiful blue/white summery dress after much searching. Once she had picked that dress, I simply walked downstairs in the same shop in the mall and bought a blue shirt. Men's clothes are so easy.
Seattle in the evening, from dinner on the water in West Seattle with my aunt and uncle who helped us with rings and clothes. Thanks!
But enough time in the city, it was time to get back to work, that ground wasn't going to till itself!
Sometimes it's amazing how still Blind Bay is…
And other times that stillness is shattered by the roar of a large chainsaw and the crash of a massive fir. This particular tree had a huge lean, was rotten on the inside and had to be removed to make way for new building construction.
That particular job was on Obstruction Island, a tiny spot with something like 12 year around residents. To work there, we carried all of our gear onto the water taxi that drops you off right on the beach itself, cut trees for a few hours and then met the boat again to take us back to Orcas where our truck was parked. A pretty cool commute!
Every afternoon, this is the scene out my window.
By now the busiest time of year on the island was here, the annual Independence Day celebration! Along with it came tons of our friends, and hundreds of other folks to the island. For this one weekend, the population probably quadruples at least! As always, the festivities began with the BBQ at the community center.
Inside the fund raising auction was taking place. I actually donated a half days of tree work to the event, and it became one of the highest priced items of the event!
Once we all had our fill of hot dogs and beans it was back to the property where a 100 foot long slip-and-slide had been constructed.
Another view of what was an excellent party.
To wind down in the evening, a projector was brought out and everyone watched the only approprite movie for the 4th of July weekend, Independence Day!
The next day was the parade, and as usual the fire department took part. We are no longer using the ancient Chevy tanker truck I'd driven in the last two parades, so I drove one of our new engines instead, with Marijke as my passenger.
The parade going from the community center to the county park. A short but fun route.
Marijke and my biggest fans were out in force watching us drive by in our shiny fire truck.
The annual softball game.
And games back on the farm.
With all the friends up, might as well put them to work! It was time to harvest the garlic and once it was pulled from the ground, it was carried inside the hoop house to begin curing.
The end to a wonderful weekend of celebration, fireworks from Friday Harbor. As always, we went to the preserve where you can watch the Friday Harbor show, then turn your head and watch Lopez right after.
Harvesting colorful carrots.
We were a day away from our wedding and to both of our surprise, Marijke's mother and father were able to fly to America for the event! So we drove all the way to Seattle to pick them up and turned right around, bringing them to Shaw. Marijke's mom had been to the island before, visiting before she and I had met, but Marijke's dad had never been to America. It was wonderful they were able to make it on such short notice, and it meant a lot to Marijke to have them at the ceremony.
On the day of the wedding my parents arrived from Seattle, my sisters from Alaska and Montana and my brother and his wife from California. We all met up at the monastery guest house where Marijke had been living as an intern and then headed out to the preserve to have the ceremony.
For the site of our wedding ceremony (with prior permission from the property caretakers) we chose the Cedar Rock Preserve, a place that is important to both of us. The preserve is the largest piece of publicly accessible land on the island at 370 acres, is a place Marijke spent a lot of time walking, sitting and thinking when she first came to America, and is the place we first kissed, just 8 months earlier. Now here we were, getting married on that exact same spot.
My beautiful wife.
Our tiny wedding ceremony, standing under the trees, on mossy rock and overlooking the water and surrounding islands.
This was the entire wedding party: my parents and siblings with one spouse, Cathy, the mother of one of my best friends who preformed the ceremony, Marijkes parents, two nuns from the monastery, and two of Marijke's friends, one of whom was taking the photos.
It was small, short and simple, but we thought it was perfect.
I'm trying not to bore people with too many wedding photos, but this one is pretty great…
After the ceremony on the beach we returned to the monastery for the reception, a larger event with a wider group of Shaw Islanders. We had a ton of help putting the event on, the nuns did a wonderful job of setting up and hosting the reception, and Andy, one of the islanders, made our delicious carrot wedding cake.
Speech, speech, speech!
Friends and family sharing in a toast.
Me and my siblings, after today we are all married. (Sorry your eyes were closed Brian!)
After the reception, the immediate families walked on the ferry to Orcas, where we had a nice dinner at the Orcas Hotel and that night Marijke and I got a lovely room in the hotel overlooking the ferry landing..
The next morning, we had breakfast , talked about how weird (in a good way!) it was that we got married and walked back on the ferry to Shaw as newlyweds.
As usual, there was a lot of stress leading up to the wedding for various reasons, but it all went off without a hitch and we agreed it was a perfect day.
During the next few days we spent time with Marijke's parents who were on the island a little longer, went to Seattle yet again on a day trip to sign papers with our immigration lawyer and simply spent time together as husband and wife.
Once all that was taken care of, it was time for the step that most people usually do long before marriage: move in together! Because she was still interning at the monastery farm she had been living there, it was a practical decision rather than a 'traditional' one to not live together until marriage, but once we were married it was silly to be apart. So Marijke packed up her few possessions and moved in with me, to the one-room-with-a-loft 270 square foot cabin I built, to begin our life together!
I'm so far behind on my blog it's been about 7 months since all of this happened. Looking back, it is very amusing, because it's so clear to me just how little we actually knew each other! And I don't mean that in a bad way, we knew we wanted to be together, we had all the same life goals, we felt a rock solid connection, but we hadn't built the connections that come from the little things in a relationship, the things that only come with time and experience together. Today I'd say we have succeeded in every way and then some, we are more right for each other than I'd even realized back then and our life together is even better than I thought was possible. It isn't always the case, but sometimes risks pay off big. Life with Marijke is great.
Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it. The next post will cover the rest of the summer: fun things like the start of our life living together, getting a little boat, more cool tree stuff and actually moving into a real house!