What a difference a Day makes
I was a nomad. My cousin put me up for a couple months and now I was slated to live in a tent in Brooklyn, in some friends' backyard. All this by choice. I gave up my apartment voluntarily. At the time, it was to prepare for a trip to Southern Asia. I had bought my ticket on September 4, 2001. When that didn't happen, I couldn't/didn't want to change gears.
I was driving north for my last night at my cousin's. I was sad. Even though I was living my life the way I wanted, I was lonely. A bittersweet triumph.
I had a "date" the next day. Justine, a friend, had invited me to spend the weekend at her place. I got a lot of those offers when people heard about the tent.
I was late for my date, but it went quite well. There was a connection that was more than simply saving someone from sleeping outside. We had fun. We held hands.
She showed me her photos. She has a real flair for shooting the angles and lines of man-made objects. Power lines, smokestacks, buildings.
I met her parents the next day at their weekend home in Pennsylvania. I earned points by enthusiastically peeling potatoes. We took long drives on tree-lined backroads.
Sunday I took her to a waste transfer station. Not intentionally. I wanted to show off the scuba training facility I used. Dutch Springs was closed, of course. It was too early in the year. And Easter, to boot.
Next door to Dutch is a huge factory/industrial facility in semi-retirement. Part of the grounds are used to stage garbage on its way somewhere else. The rest lies fallow. She had a field day with her camera.
I can't identify precisely when everything changed, but I realized it had.
What a difference a Month makes I
I was going diving in Cape Hatteras. Justine and I had spent all our time together for the first month. She jokes that I arrived with my toothbrush and have never left. She was worried about me doing deco diving deep in the Atlantic, but understood that it was what I wanted to do.
She had me read the Alchemist by Paul Coelho. I enjoyed it immensely. Before I left I found the last hardcover edition left in Manhattan. I left it by the bed on the morning I departed. In it I had inscribed the following passage:
"You must understand that love never keeps a man from pursuing his Personal Legend. If he abandons that pursuit, it's because it wasn't true love . . . the love that speaks the Language of the World."She is the heart to which I return.
What a difference a Month makes II
I got laid off at the end of November. That was convenient b/c I wanted to take the week-long Snowboard Instructor class at Killington, VT. I was due to go to New Orleans for 3 weeks immediately thereafter. A month away from Justine.
One I was happy about. I had to make the decision. I wanted to marry her, but I wanted to be as sure as I could be. Life with her is great. I needed some time apart to see if I was just fooling myself.
It was a rough 4 weeks. I wrestled with the ramifications and one night as I struggled (uncharacteristically) to fall asleep I knew it was right. I thought about how good we were together. We loved, respected and worked well with each other. If that wasn't worth marriage, what was?
I wanted to ask her when she arrived for New Year's Eve, but I couldn't find the right ring. Our reunion was bliss. I felt very sure of my decision. I just needed to find the right time.
What a difference a Year makes
I got the ring by FedEx. My coworkers threw me a party. This was Friday, March 28. The next day was one year since I arrived with toothbrush. We were going climbing, and damn the 90% chance of rain! I had a plan. Her sister Monika was coming along. She would climb in the middle and play photographer.
As I led the second pitch, I left laminated notes for Justine. They started out as simple anecdotes about our first year together. They got more romantic. Here are some of the 9:
4. I love how I could sneak you onto the largest mountain in the northeast without you knowing.
5. I love your kindness; how you feel the world as you move through it.
8. I love the universe that is you . . .
9. And I want to always be a part of it . . .Justine is a great person to surprise. She cares about the surprise and tries to figure it out. It's not much fun to surprise folks who don't play along. She was intrigued about the notes and couldn't wait to get climbing to read them.
She was touched at each note. She negotiated the last bit and got to me at the belay. She hugged me close. I reached behind and got the ring. I asked "will you marry me?"