I was finishing college, one of my four credit courses being Colonial Archaeology in New Jersey during which I assisted in the location of graves of black former slaves and freed slaves, who worshiped at, but were buried separately from the nearby white Presbyterian church, on a side road with no fence or sign, much less headstones. We used a device that looked and felt like a heavy hand-pulled lawnmower and put up simple white wooden crosses where human remains were indicated. Another set of students obtained church records which listed names of those buried, including some Civil War veterans. (Last year I took photos and added them to the Wikipedia article that needs more written information.)
At the same time, I signed up for a public archaeology dig with my daughter who was then 11 years old. We were taught the proper techniques and under the strict but humorous supervision of Dr. Alan Cooper, we painstakingly unearthed pottery fragments, coins, glass bottles, buttons, forks, even a stone axe head, arrowheads, remains of former glory days. For my final project in the class I wrote a paper on William Alexander, also known as Lord Stirling, whose mansion once stood on the grounds. At one point, someone suggested contacting a man working at the Environmental Education Center, who was the liaison for the dig, regarding some geology questions I had. That man turned out to be the husband I'm still married to.
We met once for him to answer my research questions and to view his geology slide show, once for lunch at an old tavern to look at a painting purported to be Lord Stirling where my husband still insists I wore sunglasses the entire time, and one date where I'd gotten student-price-tickets to see Paul Winter's Consort at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Harlem. He drove my unreliable Audi, me not knowing at the time he hated NYC; it was mid-December and snow started falling as we got the last safe parking space at the edge of a bad neighborhood. Having misjudged the travel time, it was two hours before the concert so we went to the closest restaurant, where every time the door opened, my skirt lifted and winter blasted us but we didn't care. Instead of dinner, we had wine, dessert, and Hungarian coffee because I was a vegetarian then, he couldn't eat spicy food and no one seemed to speak anything but Hungarian, it being a Hungarian restaurant.
We were already practically married by the time we crossed the snowy street, heading toward the Cathedral and one of the strangest concerts I've ever attended. The only heat provided was on the stage for the performers; all seating was general and just as we arrived it was announced there was limited seating on stage/altar. Whether we were shaking from the cold, the excitement of love, or both, I dragged him up. We sat on old wooden choir thrones, elaborately carved and looming over us ten feet tall or higher. Recordings of whale songs interspersed the crazy percussion, instruments and songs and howling like wolves in the dark at the end. I figured this was not just our first date, but our last as well. I was wrong; perhaps two months later, he asked me to marry him and I said yes.
As for the geology of our marriage, we have been up on mountain tops and slogging through swamps, together and alone, weathered rain forest monsoons and tsunamis in all colors of the rainbow. We have laughed and cried through global cooling and global warming. We have marveled at stars, seashells, and walked alone together at the ocean's edge. We have almost drowned separately and together more than once in unforeseen riptides, but we survived. For all our differences, we have raised our combined five children with a reverence and curiosity of earth, oceans, and beyond. I like to think the lines and hollows, the scars, the rifts and valleys of our bodies reflect the science and the poetry of the topographical map of our marriage.
And to the pastor who refused to marry "a believer and a non-believer", I hold no grudge---we are both believers and always were, just not necessarily in the Biblical sense.