Saturday, June 26, 2010

o canada, o humanity

Some months ago, AK and I hatched a plan. Seeing as how we liked each other and planned to spend as long as possible together, we wanted some of those legal rights we kept hearing so much about. But California was still denying them. Sort of. But if we got married out of state, we could bring everything except the word "marriage" back with us. And since we were both kind of meh about weddings, why not fly up to Washington, see our friends and drive up to Vancouver, land of legal pot, free health care and marriage for all?

By the time our trip rolled around, I'd been snagged by a blue mood for a couple of weeks and AK was thinking that some kind of celebration--not a wedding, but something a little more festive than a paper-signing ceremony at a marriage commissioner's office--might not be such a bad idea. That's the thing about doing things the non-traditional way--you discover that all those restrictive guidelines can also be lifelines.

But life is bumpy and messy, and so we foraged ahead and had a great time. The week was nothing short of miraculous in terms of reacquainting me with my happier self. And now I'm Canadian-married to a thoroughly amazing lady, and some sort of party (sans gift registry, but with family, friends and cake) may be in the offing.

Some trip highlights:

Our first stop was Holiday Beach, a "suburb" of Hoodsport, itself a block-long town on the Hood River populated largely by retirees. That's where Daisye and her girlfriend Laura have curated a beautiful, funky house and opened a beautiful, funky antique-and-crafts shop, and just sort of generally opted out of the life people in our generation might be expected to lead. They're role models on the do-it-your-own-way front.

For example, Daisye isn't content with a regular old Home Depot garden trellis, so she decided to build one out of driftwood...

...which we gathered from the private beach across the street from their house.

We visited Owly's, their antique-and-crafts shop. It deserves its own post, so I'm going to give it one shortly.

Next we drove...and drove...and drove...up to Stanwood, where AK's college friend Dara was living her own kind of rural DIY life with her husband TJ, stepson Tyler, cat Figaro (who was feeling introverted the first night due to a garage door vs. tail mishap earlier in the day) and dog Bambino.

I should have taken more pictures of their house. At first glance it looks like an attractive new home you might find in any American suburb. But here's the thing: TJ built it. I was still reeling from Daisye's ability to nail together pieces of driftwood, so the fact that someone could make a 3,000 square foot home with level floors and running water was beyond comprehension. I mean, I don't know how I thought houses came to be. Did the stork bring them? Rural life reminds you that nothing comes from nothing.

The builder himself and his lovely wife, on a ferry to Orcas Island, one of a cluster of San Juan islands off the coast of Washington.

Our first stop was an alpaca farm populated by recently sheared llama-cousins. We learned that they have no upper front teeth and, instead of hooves, they have soft little paws. They're like shy, extra cute, cuddly camels. I think this one was named Chanel.

The alpaca farmer gave Autumn a hug.

Orcas Island was full of arty shops that had me thinking things like, "I'll just expand my suitcase and check my bag on the flight back." Luckily the prices in some of the more elegant stores prevented this.

Every year the island residents sponsor local pets and farm animals in a race for (honorary?) mayor, as a fundraiser for a children's charity. Unlike traditional elections, there's no pretense of one-person-one-vote. Here it was blatantly one-dollar-one-vote. April, "the only really independent candidate," according to one shop owner, got three of mine.

Dara is as handy as her husband; a femivore before there was such a word. Here she is with Scrappy the chicken, who I think has political potential, should they ever move to Orcas Island.

Noble, don't you think?

Dara's gorgeous garden. We ate a ton of these strawberries, and they were good, taking a backseat only to the brownies Dara baked. But that's not really a fair competition.

In Vancouver at last! We spent our wedding-day morning at the aquarium in Stanley Park, where I related to the local amphibians.

Canadian dolphins swim like race cars and leap like Cirque du Soleil performers. They are Dolphin 2.0 compared to your average bottle nose.

Then it was time! I was nervous. AK, not so much. Driving into town, I said, "I'm sort of excited. Actually, I'm really excited." She said, "Look, there's a Tim Hortons!" When I laughed and shook my head, she said, "What? I've heard a lot about them."

The Canadian civil ceremony basically says, "Are you already married? Living under a fake name? No? Okay, then, you're married." A really nice woman named Lynn Katey read an Apache prayer and made things as romantic as they could be in a CPA office.

Some traditions we kept.

Afterward we had cocktails and seafood and avocado-and-strawberry salad at a great Gastown restaurant called Chill Winston. I showed off my new ring, a quartet of dolphins with mood-reading stones on their backs, courtesy of the aquarium. (It's a stand-in till we find a perfect one. But of course I love it already. The dolphins' verdict: I'm in a good mood.)

To us!

We stopped at the VanDusen Botanical Gardens on our way out of town, a perfect place to imitate a statue.

I think there's a turtle somewhere in this picture.

AK got caught up in an art installation about how clothes connect us, or something.

Our last stop was Des Moines, conveniently near the Sea-Tac Airport and home of Yoshiko. She and her girlfriend Sile took us to an amazing sustainable sushi restaurant, where I discovered that many of my favorites (like eel) are not sustainable, but that their substitutes are damn delicious.

Kenji the wonder dog showed us a few tricks and wished us well (or maybe he wished we would give him a dehydrated potato treat; it was a little ambiguous). Then we headed home, back to our cats, our comfy bed, and all the little joys and challenges that are what really make us married.


Claire said...

YAY!!!! Again, Congratulations to you both!

Huzzah for good moods, friendly alpacas, capable DIY buds, tasty food, and getting hitched!

Claire said...

p.s. Instead of a gift registry, how about a donation registry? Doesn't even have to be as formal as a registry, just no thanks on gifts but if you wanted to, you could donate to ...

Just a thought.

Cheryl said...

Thanks, Claire! We've thought about copying our friends Heather and Timothy, who registered with the Trevor Project.

Sizzle said...

So excited and happy for you both. What a wonderful trip! And you're are married! YIPPEE!

Erica said...

Congratulations! Sounds like an amazing trip all around.

(Been reading for a while now & it seemed like a good time to comment.)

Also Kenji is totally an awesome wonder dog. (I've dog-sat for him before, and incidentally, Yoshiko was the one who recommend your blog to me.)

Cheryl said...

Thanks for introducing yourself--I'm always happy to have new blog friends! I totally envy your Kenji-sitting gig.

Peter Varvel said...

Wow! Many happy and hearty congratulations to you and AK. What a memorable, wonderful way to celebrate your union.
I love seeing the documented photos of this milestone in your lives - thanks for sharing!

Cheryl said...

Thanks, Peter!

El Changuito said...


Sweeeeet! So happy for you two. I feel a need to celebrate you because I was out of town when everyone got together. You must let me know when you are back in town.


jenny said...

Dang! Where have I been? So much has changed in this crazy internets world...

Congratulations to you and AK - how very awesome! And that's one snazzy dolphin ring you've got there!

Cheryl said...

Thanks, Jenny! The silvery coating on the dolphin ring has already turned an interesting shade of pink. I think it makes it that much more magical.

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