She was married beneath a cliff on the edge of the sea standing barefoot on the rocky beach. Barking seals sunning on rocks and crashing waves nearly drowned out the simple ceremony.
Hunchbacked boulders rose from the sea behind her like giant guardian sentinels. A single guitarist played flamenco music to match the red rose in her hair while the late afternoon sun glimmered across the waves.
Sea. Sky. Earth. Fire. All four essential elements holding the world together blended beautifully together that day.
It’s not surprising she would choose such a setting for her wedding day, with all the things that she loves, that helped shape her into the strong, fearless, independent and beautiful woman she is today, in full display. Sea, sky, earth, fire.
She grew up on a cruising sailboat, after all. The rhythm of the sea and sky moves through her body. She was rocked to sleep in her bunk with the sound of the wind and waves rushing all around her, and a sky full of stars for a nightlight.
The world was literally her playground. In every new port or cove we entered she and her brother would row ashore to explore on their own–us trusting they would return safely to us.
Even when her bother stayed behind in Australia she continued to explore on her own.
In Cyprus, Turkey, Malta, Spain—this woman child of fourteen slipped through the streets with her canvas backpack and torn jeans scrawled with the names of the heavy metal rock bands she’d come to love.
With her long dark hair and sun-browned skin, her dangling earrings and silver bracelets, she looked like the Gypsy she may have been, her Spanish heritage in full flaunt.
Her first guitar was purchased in a tiny shop in Toledo. I can still see her bending tenderly over the strings, strumming softly, her face half-hidden by her long bangs and curling strands of hair.
When we returned home after seven years of living on our boat, I worried about this woman-child who had barely seen the inside of a classroom, who had been home-schooled nearly all her life, whose lab work was diving for scallops, gutting fish for frying, drying sea-horses, and identifying shells she’d found beach-combing.
Whose knowledge of history was gathered from the villages she roamed, the cathedrals and castles and museums she visited, the Pyramids of Egypt, the Parthenon in Athens, the Alhambra in Spain.
Political science was gleaned first hand when we were caught in a coup in Fiji, aided by navy sailors flying the cycle and hammer in Port Aden, accused of selling arms to enemy rebels in Sudan, and sailing into Panama on the day it was invaded by US warships in the overthrow of Noriega. How would she survive High School in the United States?
I needn’t have worried. She was as solid as a rock. She had such a strong sense of herself that none of the juvenile drama and gang warfare and cliquish snobbery fazed her.
Nor was it surprising that she chose archeology as a career, or took up skydiving and surfing as her hobbies, or fell in love with someone who loved the sea and sky as much as she did, a fellow skydiver and surfer.
My daughter is as earthy as she is sea and wind washed. As down-to-earth as they come. She digs in the earth for a living. She hikes across hills and mountains surveying the land and mapping archeological formations. She uncovers and catalogues chards of earthen pottery and stone tools from ancient middens.
She hammers copper and strings stones to make her own earrings. She grows her own herbs. She designed her own wedding gown, baked and decorated her own wedding cake. She runs marathons, works out in boot camps, and eats mostly vegan, mostly organic. She takes charge of any calamity with the iron resolve and don’t-mess-with-me attitude of a Marine staff sergeant. If she hasn’t had her morning coffee—well, watch out.
For there’s fire in her soul too. You can see it in her dark snapping eyes, her loud belly laugh, and the way she salsas across the dance floor. In the way she tumbles from planes and rhumbas across the sky, nearly 2000 jumps now.
The thorny rose tattoo that circles her ankle, the diamond stud in her nose, and the chipotle pepper in her dark chocolate wedding cake all attest to her fiery, feisty nature.
You can see that fire in the flamenco inspired wedding dress she designed with the tea-dyed Italian silk, layers of French Chantilly lace and funky high-low hemline, a red flower in her hair to match her red heels. You can see it in the flowers she chose for her bouquet, the scarlets and purples and oranges. You can see it in the way she looks at her new husband and basks in the love-light of his eyes.
Sea. Sky. Earth. Fire. All are perfectly balanced in this beautiful daughter of mine, and blended in perfection on her wedding day.
Did I mention how much I love her? How proud I am of her?
For you baby girl, from your mama–the speech I never gave but composed in my heart as I watched you on your wedding day. January 12, 2013. Twelve days after the world was supposed to end your new life begins.