The sea turtle nesting season is nearly over and most of the nests located in the northern section of Guana have already hatched. The babies who are going to survive have probably already made their treacherous trip from nest to water, past the challenge of the breaking surf and into the arms of the ocean. This little guy was perfectly still, and had flowing green algae like a mermaid's hair growing from his shell. Rod and I, celebrating our wedding anniversary with a visit to one of our most beloved places, were thinking in unison as the long-married do and said over each other, "He's not dead!" when his tiny eyes opened. I called the Guana folks: Best thing is probably to put him back in the water, the nice woman said, and that she would call the turtle guy to let him know. I walked back to the breakers to stand watch with Rod, for of course we'd already put him in the water. The small turtle paddled frantically, every now and then raising his nose for a breath, and resuming the paddling. But the incoming tide was fueled by the power of the waxing moon, nearly full: an astronomical tide. He would not make his way past the breaking waves. We did all we could to help, knowing the odds weren't in his favor. I can't remember the ratio but I think it's something like one baby sea turtle in a thousand survives. Helping one in a small way was in keeping with the occasion for us.
So: the occasion. We were married* 22 years ago, standing alongside the St. Johns River, and the moon was full then, too, and perfectly gorgeous. Sometime I'll tell you the story of our wedding, my loves, for it was made magic by the people who loved us and were kindest to us. We had lived together for three years before we married and had only one active birth parent between us so there was no talk of the groom's family paying for this, or the bride's for that; we did things ourselves and had them done for us at the price of simple love, no more. I will tell you the story, but until then it'll tide you over to know that David Hackney played and Miss Jo sang, "Tis a gift to be simple, 'tis a gift to be free, 'tis a gift to come 'round where we ought to be, and when we find ourselves in that place just right we will be in the valley of love and delight", and that is the heart of that story.
This year we honored the memories, walking and talking about our blessings, our children, our families, our friends. And we talked about the people we know who've been married as long as we have. Among our closest friends are several who've been married longer; Pablo, who shot the video at our wedding, is among them. Funny thing: on that ancient (giant!) VHS tape are captured many details of sight and sound, laughter and singing, stories and gifts and blessings, including an alligator gently swimming upriver past the wedding guests, virtually unnoticed by anyone but Pablo, and a shot of the moon reflecting on the wide sparkle of the St. Johns that may be a treatise on videographic terminal punctuation.
If we widen the circle by a generation, we find a couple who have been married longer than I've been alive. Gracious, simple, lovely people, they have spent more than 60 years seeing after one another, and in some way or another, seeing after every life they touch. They are older now, and things get harder but it seems to me their reward comes to them every day. They are together, their children and extended family love them, and they are (though I'm not sure they know this) venerated elders of the tribe. They have lived through the good and the bad, and if you've been married for a time, you know what I mean. Or if you don't, this is what I mean: When you are married to a person, no matter how much you love them, there are days when you want to shove them off the planet into deep space and I mean DEEP space. Where there is NO OXYGEN. Or something like that. If your marriage survives those times, you are likely brave, strong, devoted, tempered with humor and you are absolutely purely lucky. Sometimes it doesn't survive; it can't survive: the odds are surely not in its favor. But if it does, what a gift it is.
I was gossiping once with a friend over some rumored or true infidelity on the part of a mutual acquaintance. The details of the gossip are fuzzy but her commentary is as vivid a memory as any I have. She shook her head, genuinely puzzled. "I don't know," she said, "I don't get it. I guess I'm just a very married person." She was. She still is. She has in play all those pieces I mentioned as well as tenacity and patience, and undeniably, that good luck. But the blessing of a long marriage has been passed down to her from the likes of the 60-year-married couple I mentioned. I do hope those blessings pass from them to me to you, whatever your road, however long- or short-married you are, or were or will be. Perhaps the secret ingredient, the most magical thing I've not been able to put into words, is in the words of the Dalai Lama, who said, "This is my simple Religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart, is the temple; the philosophy is kindness."
*I use the term "marriage" for the convenience of a commonly-understood concept, but without intent to exclude anyone. I assume each and every definition of marriage to be valid according to the beliefs and customs by which you abide. And I believe that when two people love each other they should be able to marry if they choose. Period.
P.S. Dylan, it is very difficult for me to proof my work without you. I miss you and love you very much. The good news? You are too far away to prevent me writing about you. MuWAhahahah! Stay tuned.