Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023 @ 2:33 pm
“Russell proposed to me on the West Coast Trail,” I tell Shawn as we ride through the forest together.
He’s quiet for a moment and then responds, “I saw the ring when we were at the lake, and I was going to ask about it but decided to wait for you to bring it up. I had a feeling that he would.”
We went for a long ride together, starting from downtown and winding our way through the city, across the harbour, and up the side of the mountain. We went beyond the limit of cell service and up a narrow road to a quiet, secluded mountain lake.
I swam in the cool water while he waded at the shore, then we sat together on a log allowing the sun to warm our skin.
I started wearing a ring, not an engagement ring, but a small silver ring that I already had that happens to fit the correct finger. Russell asks for it and measures it. Size 6, he tells me.
I try out the feeling of being engaged. I look around the table at a work meeting and now feel included among the other married adults. I liked feeling independent, but I also like the feeling of visibly expressing my commitment to a relationship.
The proposal? I should document this.
We had stopped for lunch on a sandy beach beside a fresh water spring. The others continue to hike, leaving us alone to enjoy the scenery and our food. Humpback whales were feeding offshore, intermittent whooshes of air and water vapour when the whales surface to breathe. The occasional fin or tail, carving a delicate arc in the surface of the ocean.
I was sitting on the sand using my pocket knife to slice cheese when he stood up and moved to kneel in front of me. He was on both knees and had a funny look on his face, and I thought that he was suggesting a mid-day rendezvous. I shook my head side to side with a disapproving look, “Russell, the beach is too busy for that. We know there are hikers behind us.”
He shakes his head back at me. “No, that’s not what I’m asking.”
My stomach drops. He takes my hands.
“Shannon, will you marry me?”
My immediate reaction is confusion. This isn’t a romantic moment. This is lunchtime and a fresh layer of sunscreen and day three without a shower. I don’t see a ring, and there doesn’t seem to be a speech.
He’s waiting for my answer, and I know he’s nervous, but I’m also incredibly upset. This isn’t how I’d imagined being proposed to.
“Yes, I’ll marry you,” I tell him. “But is that it?”
“What do you mean?” he says.
“No speech? No ring?” I can’t believe that I’m being critical of him in this moment, but there it is. I can’t let this go. I’m confused and upset.
His face falls a bit. I feel like a horrible person.
“Yes. No. I mean, in terms of a ring I figured we would go shopping for one together to make sure that you like it…. And I didn’t know that I needed to do a speech, but I will tell you that I never wanted to get married until I met you. I just want to be with you forever, that’s all.”
I lean over to kiss him.
“Okay,” I say. “I love you.”
We finished our lunch and carried on to hike towards the campsite. As the hours passed, I became more and more upset. I wanted there to be a ring. And then I get mad at myself for wanting there to have been a ring, because I’m not a materialistic person and didn’t think that I’d care about a ring.
I can’t let it go.
Just before sunset, we are sitting beside each other on the beach reading books.
“I think that you need to propose again with a ring,” I tell him without looking up. As I’m saying it, I can’t believe that the words are coming out of my mouth.
He puts his book down. “Let’s go for a walk,” he says.
We walk down the beach away from camp. The light is beautiful, and the whales are still rising and breathing offshore. A wind blows through the dry grasses. I tuck my hair behind my ears then break down into tears.
“I’m sorry,” I tell him between sobs. “I don’t need a ring. You don’t need to re-propose. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”
“No, no,” he says, “I understand. I should have found out whether you wanted a ring, that’s my fault. I’m sorry that it wasn’t how you wanted it to be.”
We talk for a long time.
The trip ends, and we come home and talk more.
I try to dissect out my true feelings from the shell shock of a proposal that I wasn’t expecting.
I have a hard time knowing what I want in all of this.
“I have a ring already,” he told me yesterday. “Now I get to plan how to re-propose to you,” he says with a cheeky grin.
I think that we’re going to be okay.