Thursday, February 16, 2012

The New Wonders of 2012

I am officially a married man, and have been for more than a month. That is pretty strange to think about! These last six weeks have been filled with changes and new developments, which is why it has taken me this long to successfully set down some of my thoughts to share with you. Marrying Alison is unquestionably the highlight of 2012, but much else that has happened also deserves mention.  

Saturday, January 14 dawned as brilliant and clear a day as one could wish for. While we didn't have the added touch of snow in the valley, its natural majesty was all the more impressive due to the clarity of the day. It was marvelous. Despite some setbacks we had successfully completed all the details for the wedding and resolved a few hiccups along the way. A few minutes after 2:30 in the afternoon I found myself standing next to four of my dearest friends looking down the aisle at a vision of such spectacular magnificence that it not only took my breath away, but nearly instantaneously brought tears to my eyes and overwhelmed me with the force of the emotions.

The wedding was beautiful. Each of the elements came together and created a tapestry of love and celebration. There were only two "hitches" that I am aware of, and both were successfully resolved. About half an hour before the ceremony began one of the bridesmaid's dates realized his pants were not with the rest of his suit and went down to the concierge to ask for assistance. The concierge went to his own home in the valley and returned a few minutes later with a pair of his pants which he loaned out for the duration of the wedding. A few minutes after successfully reaching her place on stage this same bridesmaid and the maid of honor realized they had forgotten to bring my ring with them, but during a prayer she successfully retrieved it and got it where it needed to be so that neither Alison and I were even aware anything had gone wrong!

The day after the wedding we enjoyed brunch at the Ahwahnee and a hike to Yosemite Falls before heading to San Francisco from whence we departed the next morning for Hawaii. We spent ten days in the islands, four on Maui, and six on Kauai. The beautiful weather continued and we enjoyed a wealth of beauty and wonder in the time we were there. Highlights include watching the sun set from the top of Haleakala, driving along the coast of Maui all the way around the East side of the island (including a five mile section of treacherous dirt road along the cliffs we weren't exactly supposed to be traveling on), and lots and lots of snorkeling alongside a plethora of brilliantly colored marine life and sea turtles. On one occasion we heard Humpback Whales singing underwater.

We also saw humpbacks on several occasions, most notably from a boat of the Napali Coast in Kauai. While traveling alongside one of the most impressive stretches of coastline in America (the opening sequence of flying into Jurassic Park in a helicopter [amongst other things] was filmed here) a whole pod of 40+ spinner dolphins swam up alongside the boat and entranced us with their spins and jumps. In the midst of watching the dolphins off the port side someone spotted a whale on the starboard, and we turned just in time to see a whale jump completely out of the water about 150 yards away from the boat.

We did a great deal else as well including several short hikes in the mountains and on the Napali Coast and kayaking two different rivers in Kauai and generally just enjoyed the chance to spend that time together. We returned to San Francisco late Thursday night, only to turn around Friday morning and drive to Phoenix where we enjoyed a reception for Arizona friends and family the following day. It was a great chance to include all the people that were unable to attend the actual wedding and an excellent excuse for us to dress up again!

From Arizona we proceeded to drive across the southern United States in order to return to Virginia in time for me to attend my first class of graduate school on Wednesday night. I am now in my third week of classes and continuing to enjoy the chance to return to the classroom while trying to develop good strategies to successfully complete all of the reading!

We have nearly finished finding a place for everything in our new home, complete with many new additions to the walls and all sorts of fun new kitchen items. We have used nearly all of our new dishes, pots, pans, and glasses, as well as many of the other items in the past two weeks since we returned and feel blessed indeed by the gifts that so many people have lavished upon us.

Alison has returned to Starbucks, but this time at one in McLean, a mile from where we live. That will be a huge help while she continues to look for other employment opportunities in the DC area.

The final big piece of news in our lives concerns my employment. After more than 130 applications to Park Service positions around the country, I have secured one that I did not apply for. One of my former co-workers from the Mall is now in charge of  developing, implementing, and maintaining interpretive media for the sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) of the Civil War. Because I am now officially a student of history in the classroom once again, he was able to bring me on to work with him.

Starting March 12 I will be working out of Manassas National Battlefield (about 30 minutes away) on interpreting the Civil War. I will be involved in magazine, newspaper, and pamphlet creation and publishing, website development, social media maintenance and usage (particularly facebook pages for several of the different battlefields), and any number of other things. I will actually be at many of the anniversary celebrations at the different battlefields in order to document the events through pictures and writing. So in essence I will be getting paid to help people to gain a better understanding of the meaning behind the Civil War while also attending nearly every major battle anniversary for the next two years.

This position is a huge blessing, and answer to prayer, and an opportunity I could not pass up. I get to be a part of creating something new, do something few people in the Park Service get to do, help to interpret the Civil War, and have job that is only a half hour away from where we are living for the next 2-3 years. In the world of NPS positions and federal budget cuts that is truly remarkable!

We have much to be thankful for, and the Lord has blessed us so much already in 2012. We are truly living in dangerous wonder.