Short version –
Taylor and I are engaged.
Long version –
On Labor Day weekend, Taylor and I went camping in a national park. The landscape was magnificent in all of the proper Oregon ways, with deep, soundless forests, craggy cliffs looming over the roads, and the smell of dry, splintering trees in the last throes of the high summer. Rivers ranged from crashing spectacles to quiet trickles. Birds commented from low-hanging branches. Everything existed against an endless backdrop of blue mountains, like paper cutouts pasted on the sky.
I complained that it wasn’t real camping because the bathrooms were too nice.
We arrived on a Saturday afternoon and happily went about setting up the tent. We built a roaring fire and tried to wait for it to reduce to cook-ready coals, as my father had warned us to do, but eventually lost patience and set Taylor’s new cast-iron pan over the licking flames. Taylor made the Best Steaks Ever and we spent the evening playing with the campfire and sitting next to each other in the comfortable stillness of the woods. We slept fitfully on rock-solid ground, with overenthusiastic crickets squealing inches away from our heads.
We were still happy, though, and the next morning Taylor cooked eggs in a basket while I groggily stared at the pan, willing it to produce buttered toast for me, which it eventually did. We pored over the complimentary park maps and planned four ambitious hikes. We figured we would start off slow with the easiest one, a relatively flat path called ‘Lady In The Woods’, named after a sculpture carved into a giant, immovable rock. I had picked it out specifically because the description of the hike had the word ‘creek’ in it, and I have a special fondness for creeks. Streams, too. I also like ravines, tributaries, and narrow rivers.
But yeah, I’m stalling. I’ll go ahead and get to the point of all this.
The trail we had picked followed a little creek, only a foot wide, and it wasn’t long before we came across a tiny waterfall. It wasn’t so much a waterfall as it was a stumble in the natural rhythm of the current. The water just tripped a bit, and spilled over the edge of a few piled branches and then carried on, hoping nobody noticed. Taylor set up his camera tripod and started snapping photos. I watched him work and offered ‘helpful’ suggestions.
After a few minutes, he cleared his throat.
“I have a treat for you in my camera bag,” he said. “But you have to close your eyes.”
He lifted my hands and pressed them against my eyelids. I suspect he waggled his hands a few times in front of my face to be sure I couldn’t see. I heard him rustling.
“Okay, Jessica,” I said to myself. “You are going to open your eyes, and it is either going to be an engagement ring, or a granola bar. If it is a granola bar, you better be sure to act super grateful that he was nice enough to bring a granola bar into the woods for you, even if you aren’t even that hungry right now, and have no place to put the wrappers.”
“Okay,” Taylor said. “You can open them.”
Taylor was kneeling in the traditional pose, a little white box sitting in his palm. He grinned at me.
“Um,” he said. “So…”
I immediately burst into tears.
Taylor blinked at me somewhat nervously. He had a short little speech prepared, and he went through it, valiantly ignoring my honking sobs. I don’t actually remember if he ended with ‘will you marry me’, but I nodded anyway and threw my arms around his neck and kissed him on the cheek. He patted my back.
“You should, um, probably actually say ‘yes’,” Taylor reminded me.
“Yes,” I told him. “Oh, yeah, of course. Definitely.”
He opened the little white box and pulled out my grandmother’s diamond wedding ring, which he had gotten from my father. He slipped it onto my finger. It fit.
And then we were officially engaged.
We went back to our campsite and ate sandwiches and drank wine out of plastic cups. We napped and went for another hike, this one bordering a broader, more impressive creek than before. We paused on a sandy bank, listening to the crash and thunder of a real, legit waterfall and watched the pebbles sparkle below the surface.
“Dammit,” Taylor growled. “I should’ve proposed here.”
“No, no,” I said. “It was perfect where we were before. This is all perfect.”
And I meant it, with every part of my dusty, mosquito-bitten being.