It was five years ago today when Donna von Hoesslin and I, along with an incredible throng of our friends, met at Refugio beach on the Gaviota Coast. People came from all over. Our purpose had been clear from the start, to stand with our friends and combine lives and families under the presence of God, in the place where I grew up, and became a child of the sea. Pretty simple, now that I look back on it. Tom and Anne Stone along with their son Kawika and brother Pake Ah Mow came over from Oahu, to do the ceremony.
To me heritage is everything. So we would do a Hawaiian themed ceremony. But there was more heritage to add. My friend Blue Wolf had talked to us about doing a blessing-consecration for the ceremony, since it was on Chumash land. That seemed to make sense to me, and I agreed.
For those that may not know me well, I will explain some of my spiritual background. I went to Parochial school for a large segment of my education. A Jesuit run school which involved that sort of discipline. In process, I came into an intimate Christian conversion. You can be a Catholic and not have one of those. I did. God simply spoke one day and talked to me a bit about what He had in mind for us. And I said: “Okay, sounds good to me. I am yours”
Decades later I would study Scripture, Spirituality and Ministry at both RHEMA and LESEA. There is quite a bit to my background as a Christian, but I am not writing on that here today. I only mention it to help explain the filter which was applied in our apparently non Christian wedding, so that people might understand a bit about how God can work.
On Oct 16, Blue Wolf had Pake, Tom and I meet him at Shalawa, the burial ground at Hammonds, which Blue keeps watch over. As Tom and Blue walked ahead of Pake and I down the trail, we both hung back. Upon reaching the stone marker which is the lone memorial artifact marking the burial ground, without a word about it, both Blue Wolf and Tom took a handful of dirt, tossed it into the air over the marker, and said two chants simultaneously. One in Chumash. One in Hawaiian. And something happened which left Pake and I sort of wide eyed, when the dirt streams crossed each other. We could feel it.
This was the start of our wedding.
Oct 17th dawned a bright blue Fall day, and all of our friends, many who heard we would be having a ceremony of sorts and just showed up, some of whom traveled from very far away, all arrived! It is difficult to explain our family and friends. They are incredible. Loving and serving them is really what matters to Donna and I. Each one adds so much to this world. It was our prayer that the day would bless them, and renew each in a personal, and significant manner. So as Blue and his brothers did the consecration of the site, and next to a board Tom had brought over from Hawaii and while Refugio Point spun off glassy azure shoulder high peelers, Donna and I stood facing our friends.
I never stand with my back to the Ocean. I did this day. And as our friend Peter, performed a Chumash song, we watched as a strange, tangible peace ebbed through the crowd. I have done a lot of church time, and know what it means when the Spirit of God wafts into a room. This was like that. A palpable presence which touched us all.
I spend a fair amount of time in the water. So I am with dolphins a lot. I always know when they are around. As Peter played, I felt that familiar tap on the shoulder and looked back on the sea thinking, “okay where are they”? Nothing but placid blue. Our attention back to the ceremony, Tom took over, and we each said our vows under the gaze of the people we love so much, with that deep comfort of the presence of God, who we had asked to come and bless each person attending, covering that special place.
It was a week later, when looking at a photo of us standing there under the palms, that I saw what that tap on the shoulder had been about: two dolphins, right behind Donna and I. As it turns out, the song Peter had been performing is a call to them. There are things in this physical world and moments that occur, when the spiritual and physical intersect. I learned long ago that the reason they happen is so that we can actually see, not only that God is real, but that he loves us each as individuals, and also as His Church, and to illustrate how we could be.
I wish more people understood that. “We” is far greater than “me”, but it all must start with the individual selecting what will really matter in the course of a life. Today on Oct 17, five years ago, Donna and I committed to each other and to all of you, who we know have taken the blessing of that day out into the far corners of this world. That is what mattered then. It matters today. It will matter tomorrow.
The following is a small gallery of some of you all.Thank you for letting me photograph and film you and for being our Ohana. You can click on an image if you want to see a larger version.