Justine's Side of the Story
March 29, 2003

This is a story filled with love and suspense. Life threatening situations and moments that saved lives. It is a tale as old as the world itself, but new and refreshing in its details.

It all started (for me, anyways) when I realized that our one year anniversary would be coming around. Since I am not good with dates, and even worse with remembering them, I brought it up early. I wanted to clear any ideas of grand expectations. And if we were going to be getting some kind of a gift, then I still had time to get out there and shop like crazy until I found it.

So, we spent an especially pleasant drive back from Killington, Vermont talking about our one year anniversary and all the wonderful things that have already occurred. Remembering our first days together was a glorious reminder of all the wonderful things still surrounding us on a daily basis. We discussed the scheduling of scuba diving training for me, and Dan's instructor training. The traffic, the driving, the madness of it all now seemed a distant memory. We were both still loving it. We were both, still in fact, quite busy for the next week and wouldn't be able to set time apart to really, celebrate our anniversary.

Great! We decided we would go climbing for the first time this season, since we were both eager to do so, Though Dan did threaten to go postal if we didn't climb this weekend, I paid little attention to the threats. We would celebrate our anniversary with a dinner and a beer at the Gilded Otter, a favorite spot for more pricey grub in New Paltz.

As the next couple of weeks wore on, I had forgotten our conversation and awaited our climbing weekend. To tell the truth, I completely forgot that it would even be an anniversary. Now, I was just thinking about climbing. Its been a whole long, cold and snowy winter since my rock shoes and harness have seen daylight and I heard them screaming for attention.

We invited my sister to join us, since Dan would lead an easy climb and she needed practice for her beginners class she was taking in four weeks. Dan had been checking the weather the last few days. I regrettably admit I hadn't paid much attention to the tight lipped reaction as he turned away from the laptop each night. The forecast was for rain, rain and then some more rain. On the day we were to climb, gunks.com forecasted ninety percent chance of rain. Our high spirits persisted.

Hindsight being twenty-twenty, it was I who was completely nuts, and not Dan and Monika. They at least had a mission, though hidden from me, a purpose for getting out in the ninety percent chance of rain forecast. I didn't. I just was happy that we would all be together and climb. Dan would lead, sis would follow. I'd clean. How much more perfect can it get?

A lot more.

The Gunks in March. Skytop in the distance.

So, we get there. Its gray, but not ominous, yet. We search our the area where we are to climb. Due to my own persistence I am left alone with the guide book. I am going to find our starting place. I have complained that I need to get to know the specifics of map reading and route finding, and so I was given the chance to do so. With some deliberation among us, we decided on the starting point and geared up. The start looked stark though the higher ground did appear more promising. We were wrong. Upon starting, Dan realized that the route was way more difficult and so we had to find the real route. With some rope-spaghetti to follow, we did find the real route and my super-sexy man got his rear up the rock in a jiffy.

As I watched him and Monika disappear up to the first ledge, I enjoyed the musk of the ground and earth. The colors were vibrant and rich. Almost fall like. Early spring can appear quite moody, with a promise of something beautiful around the corner.

Getting to the first ledge was no problem. We all enjoyed the climb and made some friends along the way. Our neighbors were talkative and we exchanged a few words. Dan continued on, and then I noticed a funny look on my sisters face. I asked what was going on, and if she wanted to tell me something. She said nothing. As I looked up, to see DantheMan climbing I realized he was leaving a trace of giant price-tag like, laminated papers attached to each piece of protection. I once again asked lil'M if she knew what was going on, and she tried (really hard) to conceal a smile. That's when I knew.

It was our anniversary. I had blown it. He did go do something special and I totally forgot about it all. I tried to think of excuses, lies. I was busy, I forgot, I was planning something next week. Was it today? None of it seemed to make sense. My curiosity peaked, and I wanted to know what the cards said.

So did our neighbors. Below us, they saw the oversized tags on each pro. They talked amongst themselves, hushed at first, and then to me loudly. Are those price tags? They asked. No. Just the directions, I replied. They didn't say anything else after that.

As my sis made her way up the second pitch I waited for my turn. I was curious about the cards. Finally, I got the command to start climbing, and I was off. The climbing was easy, though it did require some concentration. I fell into the rhythm of the steps and the combinations of movements. I felt weightless and free. As I got to the first card, I read it aloud, almost wanting our neighbors to hear it.

The first card recounted our first date together. The next card mentioned another gloriously funny incident. The following card, was about some of the great accomplishments we were able to reach being together, the following card told me how much he loved me and my sense of humor. I realized that this was the conversation we had only a couple of weeks before. After the first card, I wondered if he had any BIG ideas.

I was more than giddy. I was ecstatic. I was smiling the whole way up. I decided to give up the idea that he might have any BIG ideas, I had forgotten it was the big day, and so maybe he too was only having this wonderfully romantic gesture materialize simply in notes. Anyway, I didn't want to be disappointed once I got to the top and he didn't try any BIG maneuvers. So, I climbed loving each note more and more. The final note echoed my own thoughts and said: "And I always want to be a part of it".

I hugged him as soon as I could see him. He laminated the damn cards and he knew it would rain. I was loving every little fiber of this man. Then, from the corner of my eye, I noticed that my sister, my own flesh and blood, was reaching to the corner for a camera. She was taking pictures. As soon as I turned my eyes back to Dan I realized that he too was reaching for something, a little box.

As he took out the ring, his face grew serious and with his eyes, lips, body and soul I could hear him ask the big question. Will you marry me? I laughed nervously, and cried at the same time. My head was spinning. The logistics of this whole thing were way beyond me, and I needed to figure this out, being the control freak that I am.

I did say yes, and I did figure out that in the natural progression of things I was the last person to know the full details of this plan. But it is possible that I was one of the last people to find out about it all. You really should read Dan's side of it all. I am sure his makes for the racier story.